Sunday, December 29, 2013

Masala Kheema

Both K and I love mutton kheema (minced goat meat) and our favourite way is to cook with potatoes, carrots and peas. This is one dish that regularly features on the Katy's Kitchen tiffin menu and is not very different from what I ate as child at my mother's very Bengali table.

A simple every day sort of dish, you can enjoy it with hot rotis, parathas or even with rice if it's made with a little gravy.

Masala Kheema 

500gms kheema marinated in -

chilli powder
jeera/cumin powder
ginger garlic paste

1 large carrot, peeled and diced into small cubes
1 large potato, peeled and diced into small cubes
1/2 cup green peas
2 onions chopped fine
1 large tomato chopped
1 tbsp garam masala powder or a meat masala powder
3 - 4 green cardamoms
3 cloves
2 medium bay leaves
1 stick of cassia bark, couple of inches
1/4 tsp shah jeera
2 tbsp tomato ketchup

Marinate the kheema for at least two hours.

Heat oil in your kadai or wok and throw in the whole spices and once they have sizzled add the diced carrots and potatoes. Fry till the potatoes begin to turn colour. Add the onions and a couple of green chillies and fry till the onions start to brown. Throw in the chopped tomato, stir well and then add the marinated kheema. You will have to stir the whole thing for four to five minutes to mix everything well and to break up any clumps of kheema.

Now add the dry spices and a splash of water so the dry powders don't burn. Blend in the spices including the garam masala powder. Add the green peas along with a quarter of a cup of water and then cover the vessel. I use frozen peas. In case you're using fresh peas add them in earlier along with the onions and tomatoes.

Reduce the heat and let it simmer. It will be cooked through in another five minutes or so. Taste and adjust salt if required. Add the tomato ketchup and stir to blend in nicely.

Serve hot with rotis, parathas, pav or even rice.

29 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers

Schezwan Mushrooms - A Cheater's Dinner

I had originally planned to make Garlic Mushrooms, one of the easiest recipes in my repertoire - except for the part where you have to peel and chop about an entire pod of garlic. As I stared at the mushrooms and tried to get enthusiastic about peeling garlic I suddenly remembered the container of Schezwan sauce that Chef Raunak of Soy Street. Vashi, had given me a few days back. It was the absolute answer to my prayers!

The Cheater's Schezwan Mushrooms

Button mushrooms
1 large onion, roughly chopped
Schezwan Sauce from your favourite Chinese restaurant or ready made from a jar
cooking oil

Wash the mushrooms thoroughly and get off all the mud and grit that's on them. Chop into quarters.

Heat a tablespoon or so of any neutral oil in your wok. Once it's hot chuck in the chopped onions and fry for a couple of minutes till they turn translucent. Now add the mushrooms and fry for a while. Reduce the heat and let the mushrooms cook for a bit. They will release a decent bit of water so you won't need to add any. Once the mushrooms are nearly done and the water has dried up put in at least 2 - 3 tablespoons of the Schezwan sauce. Add some of the oil too.  Turn up the heat and mix the sauce and the mushrooms really well.

Serve with hakka noodles or a simple fried rice.

29 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers

Aloo, Motorshunti diye Phulkopi - Cauliflower with Potatoes and Peas

Cauliflower is my favourite vegetable and this dry spicy version is one I make really often. It is perfect for a Sunday brunch paired with parathas and works equally well as a side dish in an elaborate lunch. I have also used this same recipe as a stuffing for samosas with spectacular results.

I don't claim this to be a traditional Bengali recipe or that it is authentic, but it is more or less, what I have been eating since my childhood with minor variations. This is my version.

Aloo, Motorshunti diye Phulkopi

1 medium cauliflower, broken into florets
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1 handful green peas
1 large tomato, chopped
a green chilli or two
5 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh ginger

chilli powder
cumin/jeera powder
garam masala powder (I use Everest)
2-3 cardamoms
2-3 cloves
2 small bay leaves
mustard oil or your oil of choice

Heat the mustard oil in your kadai or wok and chuck in the whole spices - bay leaves, cloves and cardamom. Add the cauliflower florets and fry well. Throw in the cubed potatoes when the florets start to turn slightly brown. Turn the heat down to medium and cover the wok. Stir every 3 -4 minutes so the veggies fry evenly.

Once the potatoes look half cooked move the veggies to make a well in the centre. Let the oil trickle into the middle and drop the split green chillies in. I do this in an attempt to use less oil. It hasn't affected the taste adversely at all!

Make a paste with the garlic and ginger. Or use a tablespoon of ready made paste.

Now add the tomatoes and the ginger garlic paste along with the dry powdered spices and salt. Mix well and throw in the peas too. Add about a quarter of a cup of water, cover the wok and let it cook.

You can add more water to have a wetter gravy version or leave it absolutely dry - it's up to you. Both taste great. Serve with rotis, parathas or even puris or luchis.

29 December 2013

Marathon Bloggers 

Tales of Kansha and Dhyarosh Bhaja

The last time I went to Kolkata I came back with a few treasures. Nothing fancy, just stuff that my mother and her mother before her used in their kitchens. An assortment of bowls, glasses and little platters, all in bell metal or kansha.

 Kansha is widely used in Bengal and one of the highlights of our summer vacations in Kolkata was eating out of the shiny golden plates and drinking out of the heavy curved kansha glasses.

I would often demand an elaborate meal just to eat out of the whole set - the plate in the centre piled high with hot rice with a blob of ghee or butter, a ball of aloo bhate or mashed potato mixed with mustard oil on one side, a couple of slices of begun bhaja and even a little pile of crisp fried uchhe or karela. There would be a line of gleaming kansha bowls arranged around the plate - daal, sukto, machher jhol, aloo/potol/jhinge posto, mangsho'r jhol, chatni... a full fledged Bong feast for the thoroughly spoiled grand daughter!

I couldn't bring back more than a few as these vessels are quite heavy. However, Mom arrived with as many as she could carry and now I have quite a collection. On my next trip to Kolkata we plan to go through my Didin's (grandmom's) camphor chest and I will have pick of the treasures within.

Among the pieces Mom has brought is a wide open mouthed bowl called a kanshi. I remember this, and many more like it,  being used every day. Didin would collect the sliced or chopped vegetables in these (sometimes all the requirements would be piled up in one) and the kanshi would also make an appearance on the dining table with a jhol or torkari in it. Since it has a flat base and a wide open mouth the kanshi was often used to serve machher jhol or fish curry - the shape was convenient as the delicate fish pieces would be easier to lift out and serve without breaking.

The kanshi that has come to me has become a part of my daily cooking utensils. Every time I use it I feel connected to Didin, my Mom, and to the many women before them who have handled the very same kanshi.

Today I made a typical Dhyarosh Bhaja or fried ladyfinger/bhindi among other things for lunch. Of course I used the kanshi to pile up my prepped veggies and then brought out one of the kansha batis or bowls to serve the finished dish.

This preparation is one I saw very often at Didin's house. Incredibly simple with just a few ingredients, this is a fine example of Bengali vegetarian cuisine where simplicity and flavour go hand in hand. Usually served with daal, dhyarosh bhaja is just one of the many varieties of bhaja (fries) that accompany daal in a traditional Bengali meal.

Dhyarosh Bhaja 

25 Bhindi cut into small roundels
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 green chilli
4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
mustard oil
turmeric powder

Once you have prepped your veggies heat mustard oil in a kadai or wok. Add the mustard seeds and let them crackle and pop. Then chuck in the chopped garlic and reduce the heat so the garlic doesn't burn. Add the green chilli. After a minute increase the heat and then add the onions and the bhindi to the hot oil. Stir around nicely and let it all fry. Sprinkle turmeric and salt and mix. reduce heat to medium and cover the wok and let it cook for 2 -3 minutes. Open lid and stir. Cover again and leave it to cook. Check after a few minutes and ensure that it doesn't burn. Give it a stir every time you have a look. Once the bhindi is cooked your Dhyarosh Bhaja is ready.

Serve with hot rice and daal.

29 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Of Navjotes and New Beginnings

Parsis, like many other religious groups. have an initiation ceremony where the child is accepted into the religious fold and can formally practice the religion thereafter. This ceremony, the Navjote, is one that is much anticipated by all Parsi parents. It is a very important sacrament and preparations begin up to a year in advance.

It was the same in our family as the the oldest child among the nieces and nephews approached the requisite age and we started gearing up for the big event. The Baug (traditional community spaces used by the Parsis for weddings, Navjotes and other celebrations) was booked, guest lists were made, menus were discussed and the child was taught her prayers for the big event.

Friyana is the darling of the Dalals. She is the first grand child and holds a special place for all of us. Not that the ones who came later are adored any less but the first one is always a little more special, a little more adored :)

Earlier this month on 16th December 2013 we gathered at the Albless Baug grounds at Charni Road for Friyana's Navjote.

Here are a few photographs from the evening -

25 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers 

Of Christmas Puddings and Apple Pie

Making Christmas Pudding is my project every year. As much as I am part of Katy's Kitchen and help the business in many ways, the making of the Christmas Pudding is one aspect of the business that is absolutely mine.

I wrote about it last year and here I am again, talking about Christmas Pudding.

This time it was a melancholy experience and I didn't enjoy it one bit. We lost K's dad just a couple of weeks ago, in fact it is exactly two weeks today.

He was one of my biggest fans as far as my cooking went. He's the Dad I didn't have and he filled up many holes in my heart. He was so proud of me and whatever I churned out of my kitchen - always looking forward to what I would make next, happily asking me to make this or that again, and steadfastly refusing to eat chocolate mousse anywhere else because "no one makes it like Rhea".

My mom in law had many cook books and once in a way I would borrow one and try out something new. One day I made an apple pie - something that's very mundane to people in the west but for us it is something exotic and different - or at least it was when I tried it roughly 10 years ago. I don't know how good it really was but Daddy said it was the best he'd ever had - even better than the ones he'd had on his innumerable travels abroad.

Once I took over the making of the yearly Christmas puddings he would eagerly wait for his pudding. We'd wait till New Year's Day and the whole family would gather to celebrate Katy's birthday and the New Year with the pudding. It would be duly steamed for an hour and then brought to the table with the flambéed Brandy burning on it steadily, making it look spectacular. He always maintained that the pudding tasted just as good as when Katy was in charge. This time I didn't make one for the family.

Is it any wonder that I have a new hole in my heart? Now I have two Dads to miss...

25 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers

Oye Kake! A Very Good Reason to Balle Balle!

The hubby has been wanting to take me to this Punjabi restaurant for more than a year, and hold your breath, it's a vegetarian place! Now everyone knows that K strongly believes that eating vegetarian and then having to pay for it is like a crime against humanity, so this place must have SERIOUSLY impressed him with the food.

Now there were two hurdles in the way of getting me over to Oye Kake. 1- getting me out of Kharghar and into South Bombay. 2 - Me being in South Bombay and willing to forgo a meal at Ling's. Somehow on that evening both hurdles were successfully passed and I was duly brought over to Oye Kake, which is a couple of shops down the lane from Yazdani Bakery.

The restaurant is replete with kitschy Punjabi decor - parandis hanging from the windows, painted matka pots stuck to the walls, bhangra dolls on the soft drink chiller, phulkari embroidered table cloths, and bright colours every where. Steel plates and glasses that you see at a dhaba on the tables and a lot of Punjabi themed murals and photographs on the walls. The ambience is bright and cheerful.

The owners used to import water from Amritsar for use in the cooking originally. I don't know if that is still true but it sounded like an interesting and quirky tidbit of information.

The menu card is huge in size and offers quite a wide range of options including mini meals that are aimed a the day time office crowd.

K started of with a simple chhaas which came, predictably, in a steel glass :)

To put it simply the dinner was an absolute treat.

I chose the aloo pyaaz parathas with daal makhani. I also ordered a portion of aloo gobhi - cauliflower and potatoes. K said the paneer palak here is really amazing and he chose kulchas to go with it. We shared a portion of gulab jamuns for dessert.

The meal was faultless. I would go back in a heartbeat. Flavourful but not chilli-hot, and surprisingly light on the stomach, the food at Oye Kake totally impressed me.  I'm sure I would eat the same kind of food if I were to be in someone's house in Amritsar. What I really liked was that there was no thick heavy oily gravy, no layers of oil floating on top of the dishes. Even the parathas and kulchas didn't leave an oily residue on the plates.

That paneer palak was truly outstanding. There were tiny bits of ginger adding a nice bite to the palak - everything was not pureed to a paste, the gravy had texture.

Here are the gulab jamuns.. soft and sweet!

Our meal cost us roughly 700 bucks and it was worth every last paise spent here.

If you haven't been to Oye Kake as yet, do go. If hard core carnivores like K and I approve, you can believe it is worth a try :)

Oye Kake
13C Cawasji Patel Street
Fort Mumbai

25 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers

Flury's comes to Navi Mumbai

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Flury's, that Kolkata institution, was coming to Mumbai. Actually, not Mumbai but to Navi Mumbai. That wasn't all - they were launching two outlets, one at Seawoods and another at the Inorbit Mall at Vashi.

K and I dropped by at the Seawoods outlet and picked up some savouries and a dessert each for a quick lunch on the go recently.

The shop is a cheerful pink and there were two very friendly young boys behind the counter. It is a take-away an though they do have a high bar counter like table near the entrance if you want eat at the shop, there was not a single stool or chair in sight. I think a couple of chairs or bar stools would be nice.

On offer are a variety of savouries - muffins, puffs, mini quiches, etc., and a good selection of the sweet stuff (chocolate seems to rule the roost here). I didn't see their famous lemon tarts.

They also have coffee.

And bread, tea cakes, cheese straws, and gift boxes

We picked up a couple of the chicken puffs, a spinach and corn mini quiche each, a rum ball and a fudge brownie.

The puffs were really good. Bring it home, warm it nicely and you can have just a puff if you're in the mood for a light lunch. It's quite large and is packed with filling - chicken and white sauce with really generous amounts of chicken. I liked the fact that chicken was chopped and not shredded so you got juicy morsels of meat instead of stringy threads.  Personally I think the filling could be livened up with some herbs for added flavour. The puff is quite large and I got a bit bored trying to finish it. I would definitely buy it again, though.

The mini quiche was also generously filled and nice and flavourful. Another thing definitely worth going back for.

K enjoyed the rum ball very much. He said it was just like a rum ball should be - squishy mashed up chocolatey cake covered in a soft chocolate icing. Very Old School, very classic.

I has picked up a Fudge Brownie for myself. It was horrible beyond belief. Unfortunately I had left it for last and there was nothing to salvage the end of my otherwise very nice meal. The brownie was dry, hard and dehydrated. There was a layer of fudge frosting on top which K spat out saying it had a strong off putting kerosene like smell. Brownies are the easiest thing in the world to make and I don't understand how so many bakeries get it so wrong. We threw this one out.

Will I go back to Flury's? Yes, I definitely will. But I will avoid their desserts. I was disappointed at the Kolkata outlet and I found the same disappointment here too. The savouries however, saved the day.

25 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ladies' Lunch at Soy Street, Vashi

A phone call is all it takes sometimes and suddenly you are on your way off to lunch with the girls! It's been a stressful few weeks and I blindly welcomed this chance to get out and spend time with my gal pals. We tend to land up at the Inorbit Mall more often than not because it has restaurants, cafes, the supermarket and the beauty salons - it's easy to spend four to five hours there and wonder where the time went.

Inorbit, Vashi, has many dining options ranging from the hugely popular Pot Pourrie on the ground floor to the equally rocking Panchavati Gaurav on the first floor. There's the usual mix of Food Court favourites on the top floor including the newly opened Kolkata icon, Flury's. Though Pot Pourrie is one of my favourite places it does tend to be noisy and crowded and isn't quite the place for a relaxed afternoon catching up with the girls.  We went to Soy Street on the first floor which is run by the same management.

Soy Street offers a variety of SE Asian cuisines - mainly Chinese and Thai along with a few other choices like a Burmese Khow Suey ( which is actually quite nice). They have a daily lunch buffet which is quite impressive in its variety, especially at less than Rs.400 per person on weekdays. I like to opt for the buffet because I don't have to think about what I want to eat. There's enough choice so I know I will definitely find enough food that suits my mood and taste.

The good thing about the food here is that the vegetarian food is as delicious as the non vegetarian fare. As much as I love my meats I do pile my plate with a lot of the veg dishes. Today we gorged on the starters, soup and salads, to a point that I was too stuffed to even look at the main course options!

The buffet usually has a veg soup, sushi, dim sum, a couple each of veg and non veg hot starters, live stir fry and salad stations, and rice, noodles, two veg and two non veg gravy based main courses, and three desserts. There's also iced tea.

I didn't take a single photograph today because I wanted to be 'off duty'. In retrospect I feel I should have taken a few at least on my phone.

We gorged on crisp cauliflower fritters, and crisp corn chilli which were better than the honey coriander chicken and the other grilled chicken starter (I don't remember the name!). There was a beautiful vegetable and noodle soup that was perfect for a nippy day like today. Soy Street makes a very tasty chicken dim sum which tastes even better paired with the amazing array of condiments and sauces that always have at hand. There's no pork or beef on the menu and buffet is usually limited to chicken and fish

The salad bar has two veg salads and two non veg salads plus a range of sauces, condiments and garnishes. Today I tucked into the grilled chicken with assorted greens and sprouts, and I also tried out the egg and lettuce salad which had slivers of herbed  omelettes tossed with fresh crisp lettuce. For me, one of the biggest attractions at Soy Street (and at Pot Pourrie) is the salad bar. The greens are crisp and the produce is fresh to a fault. I ALWAYS have a plate of salad whenever I eat at either restaurant.

The desserts are pretty standard, nothing to write home about. Since I'm diabetic I'm happy to ignore them anyway :)

Chef Raunak who manages Soy Street and Pot Pourrie happened to be there today and I shamelessly asked him for a bottle of his incredibly addictive Schezwan dipping sauce. I have come home with a half litre box of sauce!

They do have an a la carte menu too, and they also have a bar in the open air verandah section. The restaurant is bright and well lit, the staff is friendly though sometimes they can be a little clueless, and out of 10 I'd give Soy Street an easy 7. It's not a fine dine sort of place but a place where you can take your kids for a treat after school, or catch a quick lunch after your trip to the supermarket, or even chill with your friends like I did. It's also really easy on the pocket.

18 December
Marathon Bloggers

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

“They said he died because they wouldn't accept him for who he was...”

“They said he died because they wouldn't accept him for who he was...”

They said that and many other things when he died. He got a lot of sympathy. But I was just angry with him. I think I still am. 

He left behind a wife and a child. He was unhappy, they had problems, they were fighting - it was just the same like so many other couples. 

His career was not going anywhere. He struggled for a while and then got caught up in his own lies, his own fantasies, his own versions of the truths that he couldn't handle.

One day he hanged himself. 

I hate him for what he did. I cannot forgive him for not giving us a chance. For not believing in us. For not facing his troubles. For not trusting in our friendship.  For not loving us enough. 

I miss you, you bloody ass. 

This post is written to a dear friend who I thought of the moment I read the prompt for this Tuesday on the Marathon Bloggers group. 

17 December

Marathon Bloggers

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Second Archaeologists' Dinner Soiree - An East Indian Feast

Over the years K has collected many students. He started teaching at the K.C. College at Churchgate and, after a few stints here and there as visiting faculty, has been teaching various aspects of Archaeology at the CEMS, Mumbai University. He's an excellent teacher and is not your usual sombre fuddy duddy teacher - quite the opposite actually! One of the best things that have resulted from his teaching career is the Archaeologists' Dinner Soiree that one of his ex-students, Andre, organises every year.

Andre's beautiful home in Khotachi Wadi is the venue and this year we opted for an East Indian feast complete with meat, pork and chicken with nary a vegetable in sight!

As usual there was a beautifully set table - this time with rustic leaf plates and a centrepiece of a grinding stone, spices and a stone tool - an ode to the archaeologists gathered at the table!

We started off with Kimad - a warm potion of country liquor and tea, spiced up and served hot in little glasses called chavnis.

Once we'd all warmed up with a shot or two of Kimad it was time for the food to arrive.

First up was the pork - there was Vindaloo and there was Sorpotel. The vindaloo was classic bright red, spicy and sour and downright delicious.

Andre's family makes a fabulous sorpotel. I'm not much of a fan of sorpotel but this version totally won me over. Lightly spiced and not the usual fiery red in colour, it was the dish of the day for me. They make this toned down version so you don't get tortured by acid reflux after indulging in more sorpotel than you should!

Along with them came fugias - little balls of fermented spongy bread that are deep fried.

The chicken made its grand entrance I had to stop myself from taking just a little more sorpotel again. A seemingly simple roast chicken with potatoes, this was another fabulous dish. Oh those potatoes...!

Somewhere in the middle of all this a colourful salad was passed around. I don't know if anyone actually ate any of it. No, I didn't take a photograph.

Then the mutton made its appearance accompanied by the rice. Glasses of solkadhi were passed around along with some of the sweet home made East Indian currant wine.

Here's the green mutton curry followed by the wedding rice garnished with boiled eggs and caramelised onions.

There was no way I could eat any more... but we still had dessert to look forward to.

Dessert was our contribution to the evening. A classic caramel custard that the Parsis and East Indians have adopted as their own quite happily.

Andre and his family went all out to give us a fabulous dinner. His mom, Maria Baptista, and his aunts, Ms. Teresa Viegas and Ms. M. Saldanha helped Andre to put this fabulous feast together along with Ms Fatima D'souza.

You will have noticed the earthenware vessels and the wooden spoons that were used. These are all traditional vessels and utensils and have been in Andre's family for a couple of generations at least. What a treat it was to see them all still in use.

What can be better than an evening filled with fun, laughter, good food and good friends? I can think of nothing right now :-)

Disclaimer: Some of the photographs have a golden hue because I forgot to change some settings on the camera. With so much good food around you can easily understand how that must have happened!

15 December
Marathon Bloggers 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Truth about Dhansakh

More often than not the first dish that comes to most peoples' minds when Parsi food is discussed, is Dhansakh. This delicious medley of lentils, vegetables and mutton served with a lightly caramelised rice and spicy mutton kebabs is very well known and it is no surprise that most non Parsis think of Dhansakh first when they want to sample Parsi food.

It is quite natural that they are taken aback when they learn that Dhansakh is NEVER served at festive or auspicious occasions. Dhansakh is associated with funerals and death and therefore never stars on festive menus. No matter how delicious this dish is, it is not for celebrations.

The Parsi funereal rituals are spread over a short four day period and during this time food is restricted to mainly vegetarian fare that can include eggs and fish. No red meat or chicken is permitted. At the end of the rituals and ceremonies the mourning family makes its transition back to normal daily life with a fortifying and hearty meal that is rich in proteins and other nutrients - namely Dhansakh. Dhansakh is served with caramelised browned rice topped with birista (golden crisp fried onions), Parsi style deep fried largeish kababs, and kachubar making it a full meal, nutritious from the vegetables, lentils, and meat cooked together, accompanied by carbs, fresh kachubar and limes (vitamin C), and additional fat and protein in the kababs. The mourning period is full of grief and one tends to neglect one's basic physical need for proper nutrition. Dhansakh makes for an all round filling and nutritious meal, and it's delicious, thus soothing the grieving mind too, and gently nudging one back to regular life and responsibilities. 

Today the funeral rituals for my father in law ended and the family and close friends gathered for lunch. We had the traditional Mutton Dhansakh with brown rice, mutton kheema kebabs, and kachubar.

You can make Dhansakh at home and enjoy it as a hearty Sunday lunch at home with your family, as many Parsis do. Here's the recipe.

No, it's not just a funeral food - too delicious and comforting to be restricted to funerals, Dhansakh is the star of many Sunday meals accompanied by beer or shandy (beer with Duke's Lemonade)

14 December
Marathon Bloggers 

Monday, December 9, 2013

28 Years and Counting

I cast about all day today trying to think of something to write. The Marathon Bloggers month long blog a day challenge is something I'm taking seriously because I failed miserably at the one blog a week challenge we took up for this year.

I had a very busy day packing my painted ceramics to send off for the two day Archaeology Day exhibition. I had my regular writing work to finish. There was cooking to deal with and the guest room had to be prepared for my mother who arrives in a couple of days. 

But in and out of these busy moments all I could think about was the fact that 28 years have passed since you died. And that you were just a couple of years older than I am today when you died. I couldn't get that out of my head.

I thought of all the things you wanted to achieve but didn't get a chance. I thought of the dreams you must have dreamed but couldn't fulfil. I thought of the plans you must have had for us that you never even got a chance to tell us about. I thought of the person you were that I never got to know. I wondered what you would look like today, flirting with the eighties, not cut short in your forties. I wondered if you would be happy see how I turned out. I know you would have loved K and I wish that you had met him. 

I cling on to the memories but the pictures blur. I know the face but I don't know the man. I wish I had had the chance to know you. I like to think we would have got along. 

I miss you. I know I always will.

9 December
Marathon Bloggers

Sunday, December 8, 2013

EuphoRHEA features on a Top 5 Food Blogs list

I was out at dinner yesterday and as I sneaked in a look at Facebook while the others were chatting I saw a link posted on my wall by a blogger friend.. She had posted the same link on another page too and I was wondering what it was about. Of course I followed the link only to find out that this blog that I write so intermittently had been picked as one of the Top 5 Food Blogs by The Afternoon Despatch & Courier.

I was dumbfounded. And then thrilled and then quite humbled once I saw the other blogs that were on this list. K was all set to go rushing out to buy 10 copies of the newspaper immediately but I managed to stop him - this list was published a few months ago. I don't know how we all missed it but anyway, here it is -

Blogging is something I enjoy doing and, like with most of my myriad hobbies and interests, there are phases. I might go for months without writing or I might take on a month long blogging marathon with the Marathon Bloggers and move heaven and earth to write a post every day. To be noticed and appreciated, that makes the pleasure multiply beyond belief :)

8 December
Marathon Bloggers 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Chicken with Mint, Coriander and Whole Spices

There was a big fat bag of mint glaring at me from the veg basket in the fridge. I don't know what possessed me to buy it when I did but now it was there, staring at me balefully, already ignored for three or four days.

And then Saturday arrived and I wanted to make something nice for lunch. I was in the mood for chicken, especially because it cooks fast and doesn't need a lot of pampering and prep. But that mint wouldn't leave me alone. It refused to wilt away quietly so I could chuck it a few days later with a twinge of regret. So it was going to be mint and chicken. I had no recipe and I wasn't in the mood to drag out the books and hunt. I did what most of us do these days... I shouted for help on Facebook.

Many suggestions and ideas came forth and I went with a recipe a friend sent me in private. A nice low-fuss recipe and I also had everything required for the recipe. I did tweak the recipe and this is what I did though I  mostly followed the original.

Chicken with Mint, Coriander and Whole Spices

1 chicken, cut into pieces, skin removed and discarded
1 -2 tbsp fresh curd
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp oil

2 large onions, sliced fine
a handful of garlic cloves - use as much garlic as you can handle
1 cup of fresh mint, picked and washed well
1 1/2 cup fresh coriander, picked and washed well
4 -5 green chillies - less or more depending on your heat tolerance
1 inch ginger
1/2 tsp whole cumin/jeera
2 green cardamoms
1 inch cassia bark

2 bay leaves
1 tsp pepper corns
1 inch cassia bark
1 black cardamom
1 mace/javitri

Wash and drain the chicken pieces and then marinate in curd, turmeric and oil. I also added salt.

Make a paste with the mint, coriander, garlic, ginger, green chillies, jeera, cardamom and cassia. I also added about 15 peppercorns here. I reduced the peppercorns used later. Chop the ginger so it doesn't jam the blades of your mixer. Lesson learned today!

In a wok or kadai heat oil and add the whole spices. I just loved the aroma of the javatri as it released its goodness! Once the peppercorns start sizzling and popping add the finely sliced onions. Keep the heat on medium and fry slowly letting the onions turns pink and then ultimately brown. I added a little sugar at this stage.

Once the onions have browned add the ground mint paste. You can grind it as fine as you like - I left it a little coarse because I like that texture. Fry the masala well till the oil separates. Add a little water and let it cook further. Once the oils are released again add the marinated chicken pieces. Coat all the pieces well with the masala and then cover the wok and let the chicken cook. Keep the flame lowered and just be patient, leave it to cook. Give it a stir after 5 minutes or so and add a little salt if you think it's needed.

Veda's recipe calls for two juicy tomatoes cut into chunks to be added to the pot now. I completely forgot! But you can add them. Once the chicken pieces are cooked through take off the lid and let the excess water dry off. Leave a thickish gravy if you prefer or dry it out further.

Serve with hot parathas.

This took barely half an hour to put together and it was really yum.

7 December
Marathon Bloggers 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Life Lessons - Anger Management

Every time I get angry I don't necessarily have a grand reaction. Sometimes I swat the anger off, sometimes I let it ride and vent my spleen and sometimes I raise holy hell.

There is anger and there is anger. One learns to sift and sort through the emotion while it is sweeping through oneself and lets oneself react accordingly.

There are the myriad pesky irritants like the idiots who cannot read the rules on Facebook groups and flout them without a thought, there is that ever present damp towel left behind on the bed or the dirty teaspoon perched on the coffee canister, the witless tele-caller who disturbs  people at 3.40pm on a Sunday.

Then there are those moments - you're in the middle of cooking and you reach into the basket and find there are no onions, or even worse - no potatoes. That's when I want to wring the cook's neck. I really do. Nothing sets me off like finding empty space where there should be kitchen staples.  Or finding water bottles in the refrigerator with barely half a cup of water in the bottle. What sense does it make to put back a bottle that's 80% empty?!

Then there is rage on social media. Nothing pisses me off more than empty pontificating. I'm with Aunty Acid. I rather be potty mouthed and honest than a social media hypocrite. I usually compose nasty comments in my head in response to these wannabe saints and philosophers but just once in a rare way I take them on. That usually ends with me being unfriended by the aggrieved party. That's perfectly fine with me.

Sometimes I feel pure unadulterated rage. Usually it is K and me having some stupid argument and I have worked myself up into a fine steam and am literally frothing at the mouth, blowing steam from my nostrils. Such episodes happen with my mom too, with predictable regularity.

One day, many years ago, K and I were in the middle of a massive argument and right there, right in the middle of it, when I was fully wound up, screaming with rage and frustration, he coolly turned his back on me and began to read whatever book he was currently in the middle of. No, he wasn't pretending or trying to read. He was REALLY reading.

Who does that?! How can one even manage to do that?! I don't think I have ever been that angry again - I was already in a raging fury and his sticking his face in a book and successfully ignoring me nearly drove me insane! I had to do something. I needed to do something drastic. I was desperate. I didn't know what I wanted to do but I needed to vent my anger and fury.

Tucked under the cupboard I spied these two ceramic platters that my mother had sneakily bought and then left behind in my house. (I'd told her not to buy them, and definitely not for me, they were hideous). I yanked the platters out, told K what I was about to do and calmly smashed the platters on the floor. He didn't even flinch. (The man is abnormal. Really, he is)

Ooooh the feeling of satisfaction that swept over me! It was simply wonderful! The sharp, tight sound as the platter crashed onto the floor and sublimely shattered into a zillion pieces... well, about 20 really, but it sure felt like a zillion.

I let out a deep long breath and I was in the zone. Peace prevailed. The world was beautiful again. K and I drove off to a wonderful weekend at Murud :)

Now I always have some plate, cup, platter, jug.. anything really that I know I can reach for Every time I Get Angry. Really Angry.

This post is part of the Marathon Bloggers December Blogathon. The prompt for the day is "Every Time I Get Angry..."

6 December
Marathon Bloggers

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Close Encounters of the Parsi Kind

It will be 13 years in a few days. That's the official count of course. 13 years of official togetherness with all the due stamps of approval from parents, family, the law and the public in general. 13 years of marriage. A Bengali girl joins a Parsi family - new experiences, exposure to a whole new world of beliefs, etiquette, food, dress, everything! It's been fun and it's been exciting too - the personal and the public part of this life with the Dalals and their oldest son, Kurush.

In these 13 years I have collected a variety of really memorable experiences - some touching, some eye openers, and some were just downright hilarious.

Running a catering business ensures you meet a wide variety of people. And when most of them are Parsi things can get as befuddling as they can get entertaining.

I started working full time with the hubby at one of the gymkhanas in south Mumbai, where we ran the canteen. It was my first week handling things alone. The staff was busy prepping for the evening crowd and dinner thereafter and there were a few members sitting in the tea rooms or on the lawns.

One of the waiters, John, came to my desk looking quite perplexed. He had a white plastic container in his hand and in it, nestled in pretty pink tissue paper was one egg. He mumbled something to me and then said he'd be right back, and went off back to the table he was serving. He returned after a couple of minutes and said " madam wants an omelette and she wants you to make it using her egg (the one in the container) and she wants you to replace her egg with one of yours" What??! Yes, that was my immediate reaction. So he patiently repeated the instructions.

I think I laughed for a good few minutes before I could respond. I sent him back saying the lady could order whatever she liked from the menu but we would use our own stocks and produce. Needless to say she came rushing in to argue but I stuck to my guns and did not play musical eggs with her. The egg the lady had brought was supposedly cholesterol free and she was going to sell the unused egg from my kitchen to her grocer! Where would this end? Someone would walk in with organic rice the next day or come trotting into our kitchen with what they were sure was a free range goat. There was no way I was going to leave ourselves open to such nonsense.

Another day, at the same gymkhana, I was discussing an order with a client. She was speaking in Gujarati and I responded as best as I could in my severely handicapped Gujarati. All went smoothly and the lady was quite happy with her final menu. We were chatting in general, just small talk that one sometimes exchanges with people, and my mother called. I spoke very briefly to her in Bengali and hung up. The lady looked at me very impressed and asked "Arre, you speak such fluent Bengali!" I explained that I am Bengali. She looked quite shocked and exclaimed "you mean to say you're not Parsi?!" So I said, no I'm not and smiled at her. "But you look so much like Katy!" And then finally, in desperation she asked me "Are you sure?"  I was tempted to offer to call my mother back to confirm. Hmphh!

One year for Navroze (New Year) we used boneless Pomfret fillets in the patra ni macchi instead of the regular  slices on the bone. Our clients were very happy and we got many phone calls praising the idea. Of course there had to be one who thought otherwise! "You have cheated us! I want to see the bones or how else will I know you have really use Pomfrets and not some other cheap fish" she ranted. Well, it wasn't possible to deliver the bones of the fish to her, they had been long discarded, but we did end up with one very disgruntled client at the end of an otherwise very satisfying work day! You simply can't win them all.

As far as customs go the biggest shock to my Bengali sensibilities was the Parsi practice of pooling all the money gifted at weddings and navjotes and using it to pay for the function. K laughed loud and hard at my absolute dismay when I had to hand over his share of the loot to his parents and my share of the loot to my mother after our wedding! Yes, it is a practical and sensible way of dealing with expenses that big functions throw up but hello?! I was looking forward to that fat stash of cash!

The stories are endless and I hope I will have many more years filled with many more stories... Thank you Kurush for a life full of stories.

4 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

She had always wanted a Daughter

We're doing themed posts on Tuesdays and Fridays as part of the December month long Marathon Blogathon. I'm not very confident with writing fiction but I thought I must try. Sometimes one must explore the unknown, the un-tried, the new. So here's my post for the Themed Tuesday in Marathon Bloggers.

"She had always wanted a daughter but now..." is the prompt for the post today. 


She had always wanted a daughter but now she wasn't so sure. Suppose she had a son? Would it be so bad? Would it be such a big disappointment? She didn't know.

There were the usual clichés running around in her head – how does it matter whether it’s a girl or a boy – one loves one’s child anyway. As long as the child is healthy and whole that’s all that is really important. People around her echoed these platitudes.

She still wanted a girl. She was sure. She didn't know why – it was just the way it was.

She grew up. She got pregnant. She had a scan. Things were not looking good. She was in a panic. “What is wrong?” she screamed? “The child is not going to be normal, my dear. Be strong”  they said. “You will have to terminate” they said, the words echoing loudly in her head.

Then she asked – “is it a girl?” “No” they said. “It’s a boy” they said, looking at her sympathetically.

She let the relief wash over her. Now she knew. She had always wanted a girl. 

3 December
Marathon Bloggers

Easy Baked Veggies with Chicken and Cheese

My brother bought me a beautiful amber colour ceramic Pyrex dish a couple of years ago. Till then I'd always assumed that Pyrex only made the classic transparent glass dishes. I was thrilled to have this rustic looking beauty and imagined a series of comforting bakes and puddings that this would be perfect for.

I love having beautiful things in my kitchen - dishes, serve-ware, bake-ware, spoons, anything! I also like to use my stuff. What's the point of having tons of stuff if you never use them? If something breaks I do feel terrible but I know I used it and enjoyed it to the fullest. This heavy pottery Pyrex dish had been sitting in the cupboard barely used but now I'm making up for the months of neglect!

The hubby is just recovering from a nasty bout of malaria and I've been trying to feed him up a little without piling on too many of the calories, trying to keep things yummy but not heavy. Loads of vegetables, a smattering of chicken, some cheese and a light and creamy white sauce baked to a mild brown crust has become one of his favourite dinners these days. In less than a month I think I have already made this three times. It's easy, packed with goodness and is as delicious as ever.

Baked Veggies with Chicken and Cheese

1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cubed potatoes
1/2 cup cubed coloured peppers
1 cup mushrooms, chopped into quarters
1/4 cup american corn
1/4 cup courgettes, cubed
250 gms boneless chicken from the leg, cubed
A generous pinch of dried mixed herbs Or 1 tsp mixed spice Or 1 Maggi flavour cube
1/2 cup cheese, cubed. Gouda works very well.
Olive oil
Salt, pepper

1 tbsp butter
1 cup milk
1 tbsp flour

Heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a non-stick wok. Sauté the chicken cubes lightly till they look opaque. They don't need to be completely cooked, just let them loose the raw look. Remove to a baking dish.

In the same oil put in the potatoes and let them fry nicely for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and stir around for another minute or two. Put in the corn and the courgettes, stir for another minute and then tip in the mushrooms. Let the veggies cook till most of the mushroom water has evaporated. Remember to season with salt and a generous bit of fresh pepper.

I have a selection spice blends that I use often in such dishes. Mince spice, Cajun spice, steak seasoning, Barbecue rubs, etc., that are not sauces but are dry spice mixes. I like to sprinkle a generous teaspoon of any of these into the veggies. If I'm using these then I reduce the salt that I add separately as these mixes usually have added salt too.  A generous pinch of mixed dried herbs also works very well or you can crumble in a flavour cube if you like. Just salt and a lot of fresh cracked pepper also works very well. Add a couple of cloves of chopped garlic if you like. I add the coloured peppers last and cook them just for a minute at the most.

Pile the veggies onto the sautéed chicken pieces in the baking dish.  Scatter the cheese cubes all over.

Switch on the oven and set it at around 180C.

Make a thin white sauce using the butter flour and milk. You can grate a little cheese into the sauce or even posh it up with some cream. Don't forget to add a little salt and good shake of pepper too.  Pour the white sauce over the veggies and try to cover the entire surface.

Put in the dish to bake for roughly 20 minutes in the hot oven. I don't let the surface become a very dark brown, just a few dark bits here and there are enough. Since the sauce is thin there won't be a lot of browning anyway.

Serve hot with a crusty baguette and a little butter, or just plain toast.

3 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers

Monday, December 2, 2013

Archaeology Day - Round 2

It's December already and that means I've been gearing up for Archaeology Day. A little more than a year ago I started a Facebook page to show off my hand painted ceramics. I got a near instant invitation to put up a stall at the Archaeology Day event organised by the hubby's department at the University of Mumbai, the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies. Here was a chance to take my hand painted wares to the niche audience that was closest to my heart - archaeologists! The sale last year was a sell out and EuphoRHEA hasn't looked back since.

Now once again, I'm getting ready for another sale at the same event. It's a warm feeling knowing I'm a sort of permanent feature at such a prestigious event.

Here I am  again trawling the Internet and poring over the books at home looking for interesting motifs and ideas to transfer onto mugs, plates, bowls and such objects of daily use. This is my way of not only promoting art and the culture of hand crafting, it is also my small attempt at bringing archaeology and history into the daily lives of people who are not connected to these fields. This is how I keep a part of my soul connected to archaeology and all those wonderful years that I spent studying the subject, working on some of the most amazing archaeological digs in this country, and of course, finding the love of my life.

Here's a preview of some of the designs I'll be displaying at the event this year.

Do come if you're in town. :)

2 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers