Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review } – Eating Wasps by Anita Nair!

Eating WaspsEating Wasps by Anita Nair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If books chose a word to represent themselves, Eating Wasp would choose Poignant. Because it leaves you restless and sad, akin to a traumatic experience where you feel a little shaken, gasping while you still try to make sense of what elapsed. Like the protagonist, who actually eats a wasp as a kid, it leaves you a little stung and tainted with the venom. You only try to scratch the itch thereby making it worse, but it is not until much later that anything makes sense. I did feel that the book and its stories were exceptionally sad and brought out emotions even as I was reading it. At first, I thought it contributes to literary merit of the book that every woman who reads this will relate to it. But now that some more time has elapsed, the fact it is so relatable horrifies me. What does it say about us as a society if the intersection of our individual sets of horrific experiences is so wide, let alone that ideally it should’ve been a null set.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Biryanis, Pilafs and Rice based Dishes, One Pot Meals, Recipes

Tehri – a potful of simplicity, comfort, winter produce and deliciousness!

So, I had heard about Tehri on and off from friends for about a decade, Tehri being a very popular weekend meal consisting of a rice and vegetables cooked in a pot with minimal spices for a lot of families in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Or so I have been told by friends. And due to my unfamiliarity, those conversations always ended in ‘Yes, it is kind of like Pulao but not the same.” sort of ending. But over the years, I have realised hardly any Indian recipe is standardized across homes. Each of them have their own special touch and if nothing else, they are most certainly modified to accommodate the whims of a fussy family member. However, one thread of commonality did rise to the top – Tehri is mostly not about opulence or grandeur. Tehri is mundane, it is a respite from the routine, both for the tummy and for the person who usually handles the workings of the household and the kitchen. So, vegetables may vary, spices may vary – some add turmeric, some do not. Some add whole spices to the tempering, some do not even add the standard cumin and mustard seeds. And so on. But no one adds richness to it, like nuts or so. And most commonly, mustard oil is the medium of tempering, although Ghee is fairly common now, may be because a lot of folks find the mustard oil strong and pungent. I respectfully disagree. I think, the rest of us, have never learnt to handle it correctly. The process of heating it until it starts to smoke and turns paler yellow really takes away that pungency in m observation. But, to each their own and I never tire of repeating it. So here is my version of Tehri without further ado.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Indian Curries, Recipes

Baghare Tamatar | Tamatar ka Salan – juicy, ripe tomatoes cooked in a thin, flavourful broth of sesame seeds, peanuts and spices!

If you are even vaguely familiar with the cuisine from the Deccan Plateau, often called the cuisine of the Nizams and their princely legacy, I am pretty sure you would have heard of the brinjals cooked in a nutty, slightly sour and aromatic base, where the final dish is called Baghare Baigan. Baghare Tamatar are cooked in a very similar way in the same flavourful base. Some people even drop hard boiled and lightly fried eggs into this same base after cutting into half. In fact, the curry called Ande ka Salan is again pretty similar to this version. So, call it what you like best and if you do eat eggs, add some! Or else skip them like I did. It tastes awesome the either way.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review } – A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi!

A House Without Windows

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read A House Without Windows for The Reading Women Podcast challenge in 2019. A House Without Windows is all that you can conjure up when you close your eyes. It is dark and desolate. It is bleak and cold, somewhere the warmth of the sunshine cannot reach you. It is where nobody can take a peek in and ask you how your are doing. It’s walls are tall and insular, it’s fenced covered by barbed wire to make it impossible to escape. It is not like a prison, in A House Without Windows, it is a prison, a women’s prison called Chil Mahtab. A place where women can be sent for a variety of crimes. But mostly they are sent their because they are deemed to be guilty of anything unacceptable to the men in their family and he men who wrote these laws. Even the framework of this laws is so vague, one has a hard time comprehending the intricacies. However, here is a thing about repression – just like a course of reckless self medication, after a period of time, it doesn’t work. After a time, this House Without Windows becomes an oasis in the middle of a stretch of desert. The absence of Windows is in fact reassuring, even comforting. Maybe only of a fleeting moment, but these women here feel safe in here. They are finally in a place where the worst has already happened and they mercifully cannot be accused of anything more heinous than what they have been sent her for. So, when you do pickled up this book, I would recommend you wait for the last chapter to make up your mind about what does the title really stand for – a repressive prison or a protective fortress?

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Indian Curries, Recipes

Al Yakhni , Bottle gourd cooked in a mustard oil flavoured, yogurt based broth with fragrant spices!

My relationship with bottle gourd, aka Lauki/Gheeya/Doodhi, is pretty complicated. I have got nothing against its taste which is, to be honest, pretty neutral. But I did not grow up eating several versions of curries made with Lauki. We Gujaratis love our Doodhi Na Muthiya and Doodhi Na Theplas/Dhebras but Lauki doesn’t really shine in those preparations. It definitely adds a lovely moist texture to them and helps make soft Muthiyas and Theplas without adding too much oil ( moisture from grated bottlegourd does the trick ) but I suppose most moms employ the vegetable here in order to feed fussy kids not the budding vegetable connoisseurs. So the only curries I prepare with bittlegourd is the standard Gujarati Doodhi Chana ni Daal nu Shaak and the slightly more interesting Doodhi ma Gaanthiya nu Shaak . And occasionally the one with potatoes. So you would understand why I need to expand my bottle gourd repertoire. And Al Yakhni is exactly and endeavour to do that. Internet tells me that while typically Yakhni is a meat broth and yogurt based preparation in Kashmiri cuisine, here it is nothing but Al ( bottle gourd ) cooked in a thin yogurt ( curd ) broth redolent with fragrant spices. It is also redolent of the three spices that are iconic to Kashmiri Pandit cuisine: fennel | Saunf, dried ginger | Saunth and asafoetida | Hing. While these three spices are used here and there in Gujarati cuisine, it is nothing like how Kashmiri Pandits do it, its magic! Without further ado I will jump to the recipe.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Daals/Lentils/Sides for Rice, Indian Curries, Recipes

Takatli Paalak Bhaji / Palakachi Patal Bhaji!

Palakachi Patal Bhaji a.k.a Takatli Palak Bhaji since the spinach/Palak cooked in a mixture of buttermilk with a little amount of Besan, is a Maharastrian style curry usually eaten with steamed rice or rotis. It is made with a variety of green colocasia ( aloochi bhaji ), sorrel leaves ( gongura / ambat chuka ), red amaranth ( laal math ) and so on. Along with it, the curry also also has peanuts and chana daal for some nice texture. Patalbhajis are typically kept thin and hence I used about 1 tbsp of besan in 1 cup of curd + 1 cup of water mixture. Patalbhaji had been on my mind since I first tasted it in Vadodara on one of our visits. Vadodara has a sizeable Marathi population and therefore the food at Maharashtra Restaurant ( previously called Maharashtra Lodge ) is pretty close if not exactly the same as that cooked in Marathi homes. It was a part of the regular meal that they serve there on one of the days of the week ( they rotate the curries on the menu ). The place has an absolute old world vibe. Formica tables arranged to absolute optimisation in a small enclosed place, basic decor that is nothing more than a Kalnirnay Almanac hanging from the wall along with garlanded portraits of fondly remembered ancestors and gods & goddesses, a staff that moves deftly without any incidents even when the premises are jam-packed, and a crowd that is doing one of the following three things – eating while trying to keep up with the rapid pace of the servers, coming out with a satisfied expression and a laziness brought on only by good food or waiting for their tiffin carriers to be filled with takeaway (environment-friendly and efficiently!) Their Patalbaji has more besan than mine but it was still really delicious. Kamalbai Ogole’s Ruchira and Kaumudi Marathé’s Essential Marathi Cookbook both have excellent recipes you should try. I will type down my recipe below and edit the caption when it is done ! 🙂

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Appetisers, Recipes

Kandhari Paneer Tikka!

I have a confession to make that I begin with: I have trust issues with oven for inexplicable reason. Have I used it for more than reheating ( it is a microwave + convection oven ) ? Yes sure, plenty of times! But can I find courage to do new things from a recipe when I stumble across one? No, a trembling in my voice no. So, while I have baked bread and occasionally cooked stuff in my oven, I have tried to make the popular Indian starter named Paneer Tikka only once before and it didn’t work out for reasons unknown to me. I still don’t know why but this time around it worked. So I thought this merits a blog post. So, without any further small talk, here it is.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in italian, Recipes

Barley Mushroom Risotto!

I do not claim the bragging rights to making a mean Risotto. I have been only on one trip to Italy and have eaten at Italian restaurants a few times, neither of which give me the rights to call it authentic. But never mind them, if something catches my fancy, I certainly try to make it for my own self once. I had been looking for barley based salads when I accidentally discovered this Risotto. Finally got around to making this. The again, while going through blogs I chanced upon an interesting comment. Someone pointed out that before rice took over other grains to be the principal grain across the world, barley was a very popular choice in grains. So then logically, does this make the barley Risotto more authentic than its rice counterpart. I am honestly on the fence when it comes to authenticity. There are things that I don’t enjoy when tampered with. But then again, if people don’t experiment or try out new things, is it right good for us and for evolution? I will jump to the recipe because of late there has been lot of unfair criticism about long descriptions or narratives accompanying recipe blog posts. I really find it unfair when you expect someone to share something you and aren’t even ready to speed read through it IMO. No one is quizzing you about the post at the end before revealing the recipe, the least you can do is be nice and scroll down without grumbling. This sort of policing more often than not comes from people who barely contribute to anything. Because, I might not agree with everything someone types or shares on such platforms, but I most certainly believe that it is perfectly valid to share as much as one wants and would certainly champion for long posts and not just step by step pictures of the cooking. There should be no policing, other than that, its all good around here! 🙂 Anyway, here is the recipe.

The image is from my own instagram account and can be found here

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Posted in Uncategorized

Doodhpak – a dessert for all days!

Ingredients

• 1.5 litres of full fat milk,

• A little ghee, to smear inside the pan used for cooking,

• 3tbsp of short-grained rice, ( I used Gobindobhog, you can use any fragrant short grained rice of your choice ),

• 3/4th to 1 cup of sugar ( or to taste ),

• 1/2tsp or to taste, cardamom powder, (freshly pound, for best results ),

• Some Charoli / Chironji / Cuddapah Almonds to garnish ( or use nuts of your choice )

• Few strands of saffron soaked in warm water ( optional, we rarely use it though )

Method:

1. Apply a little Ghee to the bottom and the sides of a wide pan. Use a pan that can hold atleast twice the volume of milk you are starting with. The Ghee will help a little with preventing the milk getting stuck/scorched at the bottom but it is not a must. If you use the vessel to reduce all the time, feel free to skip.

2.Take all the milk in the pan and bring it to a boil. Add the rice, when the milk comes to a boil, after turning the heat to simmer. You can soak the rice for 15-20 minutes, but again it is not mandatory, especially if you are not using unpolished rice. If using the unpolished variety, I will highly recommend this step.

3. Keep stirring the mix frequently, scraping the sides and bringing all the cream back into the pan. Cook this, patiently, until the rice is cooked and the milk reduces to less tha half. The milk and rice mix will not bubble but gurgle instead because it is thick and creamy.

4. Once that stage is achieved and you can sense the milk to have faintly caramelised by the change in its colour and smell, add the sugar. Turn the heat to absolutely low if you haven’t because after adding the sugar, the milk is highly susceptible to sticking. The milk with thin out a lit and continue to cook till the sugar has melted and cooked, and the colour has further deepened.

5. Take if off the heat once you are satisfied with the thickness and the faint caramelisation of sugar. Add the cardamom powder and Charoli. Add saffron milk, if using, after taking off the heat.

6. Serve warm of cold, as you prefer.

Posted in Indian Curries, Recipes, Traditional Gujarati Recipes

Vatana Muthiya nu Shaak!

Hello you lovely, lovely folks! Hope you are doing well. If it is summer in your part of the world, I hope you are staying in shade as much as you can and staying adequately hydrated. Bengaluru weather is behaving like a petulant teenager who has been denied parental permission to attend a likely-to-get-wild party. There have been sporadic showers when it is feeling particularly rebellious, but it still hasn’t completely overthrown the cruel yoke of summer and the restrictions that this heat puts on opportunities of outdoor activities. It is a lovely mid-week holiday that we are enjoying today as I type this. I wanted to cook something nice today, but just nice enough to not make me feel like it is a crazy weekday. So, instead of making Sheer Khurma, which is what I had thought I will make, a few days ago, I settled for Vatana Muthiya nu Shaak with the usual Fulkas and Kachumbar which means less effort and enough fun to make me feel like I didn’t throw away an opportunity to cook something new. Okay, as usual this is spiralling into a monologue and I know you came here for the real food and not food for thought, but please don’t mind the girl while she says a bit more, will you? This is the reason I don’t hop onto WordPress to share everything I cook.

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