The King of Vegetables

Brinjal, baingan.. or begun is called the king of the vegetables.

When I was revealed this information, I was gob smacked. How can a vegetable called Begun – Be which for me means “NO” and Gun which means “QUALITIES”. So a vegetable with no qualities is called the king of vegetables? Just because it has a beautiful green crown! Well what can I say?

I never like brinjal as a child and I often wondered why my parents got so excited and fussed over the thought of having bharli vangi (stuffed brinjal) with bhakri (bread). And after having it, they would feel nostalgic and remember my maushi (moms sister) who would make it the best and call her up talk about the meal. I could never understand all the fuss over this vegetable until ……..

One day, we were traveling from Mumbai to Tuljapur. Our visit to our deity with little Yug was pending so the whole family decided to take the trip and we left by road in the evening heading to Pune where we were planning to break our journey and the next morning leave for Solapur. The journey was very long, but amazingly picturesque with the sugarcane fields, and one could see bullock carts filled with sugarcane lined up, with their produce traveling to the nearby sugar factories to sell it.  

On our way we passed through many villages, and one could only imagine how simple a life they would be leading. The women folk bundling up their little ones in their arms and balancing the basket of food on their head, heading to the farm to work, children, some shabbily dressed walking to school, made me crave for this simplicity they dwelled in. 

But one thing that caught my attention every time was some of the men wearing a simple cotton dhoti and bandi which looked quiet worn out and beige in colour which must have been super white at some point when it was bought. They had bright colored turbans on their head. The magenta pink ones caught my attention the most. A strong wooden stick in one of their hands which had a bunch of bells attached to it, maybe used to drive the cattle and sheep back home after grazing them and a bidi (Tobacco leaf cigarette) in the other. And the extra bidi simply tucked away behind the ear. What I observed was mostly the older men would do the job of grazing the animals, probably because they didn’t have anything else to do as farming is difficult at that age. Though we were traveling in air – conditioned cars I’m sure it must have been scorching hot outside. It was truly an amazing drive and I didn’t even realize it was lunch time. 

We stopped by a small khanaval (eatery), which said in Marathi home style, meals available here. The place looked rustic but clean. On seeing us the owner came forward introduced himself and guided us to a table in one of the coolest part of his eatery. 

He ordered the waiter to take away the shining steel water jugs and replace that with bottled water almost assuming that we city people cant digest well water. 

He didn’t have a printed menu for us to go through but in a superfast speed he muttered the five dishes he offered which were mostly with mutton and chicken. At the end of his speech my mom in law asked him if he served any vegetarian food as well. He looked quiet lost and blank at this question and scuttled off to the kitchen to see if there was anything vegetarian. 

He had gone off for more than 10 minutes and then came back with a smile saying he didn’t have anything veg to serve that day but his wife has cooked some bharli vangi (stuffed brinjal) at home and he was happy to serve that to us. Since his house was right behind the khanaval, in fact they shared a common wall, I’m sure it was easy for him to get that. On hearing vangi I was a bit disappointed but I didn’t have any choice. The rest of the family was eagerly waiting for their order of sukha mutton, rassa and bhakri. After waiting for almost 45 minutes, we were getting slightly impatient. And after asking why the food is taking so long, clean steel thalis and vatis were placed on the table, followed by trays of food, which was ordered. 

The mutton curries looked amazing and when the bharli vangi arrived it looked perfectly spicy and delicious too. But to be on the safer side not to waste food I took a small helping of it and half a bhakri. Just then one of the waiters came in with a plate of onions and took each one of them and smashed them with his fist and table sprinkled some chilli powder and drizzled lemon juice on it and served us a whole onion each. On asking why did he not slice the onions rather than smashing them the owner enlightened me by saying if you punch the onion it breaks up the internal membranes and releases a lot of oil in the onion, making the flavor more intense. Which is why most farmers who have a simple meal of bhakri and chutney punch a fresh onion from the field and make their meals flavorful. 

On that note I broke the bhakri and dunked it in the bharli vangi and ate it…. And oh my god.. it was divine. I ate my meal like a glutton that afternoon and the bhakri not being enough, I polished off a small portion of the local rice he had served which was naturally sweetish to taste. 

After feeling totally satiated with the meal I truly felt I was in a food coma…And since then I understand the nostalgic feeling and I too fuss about a bharli vangi and bhakri today. 

Cooking …a therapy

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A person who was bubbling with energy and having the zest for life suddenly one morning felt her heart beat fast, fatigued, low, dull and she felt something was amiss. She could not put a finger on what was really wrong but she just didn’t feel energetic like always. She assumed it was nothing but fatigue, stress due to work pressure that was making her feel that way.

As day’s passed by she became irritable and restless. Managing a daily routine became a chore for her. She would snap at people at a drop of a hat and behave unreasonable with her colleagues and then, she would feel miserable about her behavior and weep.

Things were not getting better and soon she found it difficult to go to work and meeting up with her friends, who she was always happy to be with. Getting up in the morning and getting ready for the day was feeling like a big chore to do. She would lay down in bed longer than her usual time not realizing how wet the pillow would get with her tears. She just couldn’t figure out what was going on within her. Her parents tried to talking to her, but she, would just be quiet and cry.

She thought a break from office, and pursuing a hobby would do her good. She loved cooking, painting and listening to music. She enrolled for a cooking class and went for it, but she felt so restless that she left mid way and came home. Her parents were getting worried with this sudden turn that had happened in their daughters life. They spoke to her friends to figure out if something had gone wrong at work or with her friends, or was she on any drugs, but most of them were themselves clueless of her behavior as she had become very quiet and would prefer to be by herself.

She was very fond of cooking and that was one of the things that gave her immense happiness, but in no time she lost her confidence to enter the kitchen and even boil a cup of water. She soon confined herself to her room and would refuse to even come out for meals, she just didn’t feel like eating and lost oodles of weight. She was finding it difficult to sleep as she would be sitting in bed and trembling all night with anxiety. She had become frail and pale. She refused to meet her friends who would visit her. That’s the time her parents realized it was not a very simple issue she was going through.

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Her parents took her to their physician, who recommended counseling and told them she needs to visit a psychiatrist for it. Her parents were wondering why would their daughter need counseling, and probably it was just a phase and they were sure she would get out of it. They thought so probably because they were not ready to accept that their daughter was having a psychiatric issue and also people are still averse to visiting one due to social pressures. But her situation got worse, and finally they were left with no choice. They decided to seek help from a psychiatrist.

The doctor heard all that she was feeling and going through. Many tests were conducted, some medical and some written and finally after the diagnosis was done the treatment started. The doctor had figured out the issues that were troubling her.

Slowly but steadily the counseling started and the  journey of up’s and down’s, working on stability, consistency, confidence and patience started. Certain medication was given which brought down her restlessness and she could sleep well.

The doctor gave her ideas to help her deal with her situation and to get her confidence back and would reinforce the thought that she needed to start her life afresh, which she struggled at first but religiously followed his advice. The medication also helped her sleep better, but yet she was not feeling confident enough to resume work or getting out of home.

Inspite of all that she was trying to do, it was taking sometime to get on track which was frustrating her at times, bringing back negative thoughts, anger and irritation, and at such times the doctor would tell her to hold on and not give up and also reminded her that Rome was not built in a day. He helped her to build her patience and to stay focused and be consistent and the results would be slowly seen.

During the course of treatment the doctor realized her love for cooking and how the thought of food bought an amazing twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face. She would share some amazing stories with him related to food and travel during her childhood. How she would like to try new recipes and once she would perfect the recipe she would write it down in a book.

He asked her to start cooking again and may be that would make her happy. She  told him she found it difficult to enter the kitchen leave alone cook. So now it was time to deal with her fears he realized. At the end of the session the doctor asked her who was a foodie himself to cook something for him and get at the next session.

When she reached home, a little late in the evening after the session, she smelt her favorite dal being cooked, she stepped into the kitchen and simply sat on the kitchen platform and observed her mother boiling the dal. Her mum was very surprised and happy. Her next few days went in observing what was cooking in the kitchen and seldomly telling how the recipe could be made in another way.

One evening, the father returned home from work a little earlier than usual, not aware his wife was out shopping grocery. He needed a cup of hot tea to beat the fatigue, he asked his daughter with hope in his eyes, if she could oblige him with a cup of hot tea. That evening, she somehow, didn’t have the heart to refuse her father as she saw how tired he looked and slowly she walked up to the hob and after a bit of a struggle she managed made a cup of tea for him. I think Daddy’s girl just wanted to see her Daddy smile. That cup of tea she made, brought a sense of achievement in her and a big smile on her Dad’s face, not just because the tea was nice but it was all about the fact that she had managed to make it. It became a routine for a few days after that, where she would make tea for her father

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Her friend after a long time, came over home to see her after work and was quite famished with hunger and demand something to eat. She made a simple bread, butter and jam sandwich, which progressed to sometimes making corn on toast, or a chutney sandwich later. Some of her friends started frequenting her home again and they were really happy to see her getting a grip on herself and her life.

New year was around the corner and most of the friends were keen on her coming over to  a friends farm house and bring in the new year. She refused the invitation as she was  just was not ready to leave her comfort zone. The thought of doing something different was building in anxiety. Her friends tried talking to her but it didn’t help. Her parents convinced her that it would be all good and a change away from home would help. The doctor too said the same.

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On 31st December morning, she along with her friends left for Karjat. Unsure, slightly uncomfortable as she was out with her friends after a long time. It was very sensitive of her friends to not give her unnecessary attention and make her feel different. In fact they were all having fun and she also became a bit comfortable in sometime. That evening was fun, they sat by the poolside and bar – be – qued and chatting and generally having a great time. She was feeling low at certain moments as she missed home but being with so many friends helped her over come that feeling.

It had become a routine for her to go straight to her room when she would be back from the doctor’s, but this time when she came back home from the trip, she sat with her parents who were keenly waiting for her and to hear all she had to say. While she was narrating all that happened, she realized that it was not so bad after all, in fact she enjoyed it.

Soon enough she felt she needed to snap out of what she was emotionally going through and that, this was no way of leading a life and that she was not a looser. She slowly but steadily started to lead a life like the way she did before. Would wake up and get ready and tried to dress up well. She made it a point to sit in the living room more often and read, go to the market with her mom. Though there were some up’s and down’s in her moods, but along with her psychiatrist and parents she was managing to get a hold on herself.

On one of the appointments with the psychiatrist she surprised him. She gave him a small box of a carrot cake that she would bake well. The doctor was not just surprised but most happy to see the change in his patient, that feeling was more sweeter than the cake itself. The praise she received after he had the first bite, made her think even more strongly that the road ahead was beautiful !

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NOTE: Picture source GOOGLE

 

Being in the moment

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We hear a lot about mental stress, depression, anxiety, suicide now a days and many of us also keep promoting blogs, videos, small write ups for a better mental health.

I happen to meet a friend a few days back. She suffers from anxiety for many years and I have seen her struggle through it and come out of it gloriously. I have seen how she copes with it and I am totally, impressed by her.

I happen to meet her a few day back as we make it a point to meet up once a week and she seemed really low and a bit unhappy. I usually avoid talking about anything unhappy with her as it can reinforce negative thoughts in a person who is emotionally low.

So as usual I tired talking about different fun things to change her state of mind and she just didn’t seem to be involved in my talks. I realized the graveness of her situation and finally with a heavy heart asked her why was going on with her?

The question just got her eyes moist and I saw she was gathering courage to hold her tears back and speak her heart and mind to me. The first sentence she said was “even if I want to move on in life, my family keeps reminding me of how I was unwell and incapable of looking after them.” And this got me angry but I had to get a grip on my emotions.

Her husband, a busy man was traveling a lot for work and was mostly out of the country. Her children were at an age where they just would not listen to her if she tried correcting them. Even though now she is better and capable of not just taking care of herself but also her home, her children just would say “you haven’t been around when we needed you and now we can manage on our own!” even if it was true the way it was said would hurt her.

If for some reason she shouted at the kids the in- laws would wonder if she is was anxious and depressed again. She was having a tough time at home to make her family understand that she is fine and can deal with every situation.

She was sounding very tired when she said, it was not easy to over come anxiety and depression and when she finally has managed to do that, she has a new battle to fight with her family to make them understand that she is better. And I felt that do we ever stop handling situations and issues ever in our life. All we need is to take each day as it comes and be in the moment.

I held her had and told her that she need not be anxious about it but rather she needs to be patient and let everybody see the change. At the same time I also understand her feeling of coping up with all the time she has lost in looking after her children and her marriage. But all I could tell her was its never too late to set things right. We can’t turn back the clock but we can certainly make a better future.

 

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THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS… MEMORIES

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As a child, till I was a young adult, dad would take me to Sasson docks at Colaba every Sunday morning and mind you for me it was a very unearthly hour then 5:30 am: I would literally drag my feet and with a frown sit in the car and leave. Somehow I have never managed to sleep in a car, have never figured out the reason till today.

Well, with the windows down, the cool early morning breeze would be refreshing. All the way from Bandra to Colaba early in the morning, the drive would be peaceful. Back then the traffic was not that bad as its today. As we would be close to the dock the stench of the fish would just get into my head. We had a Fiat car and in the back seat of the car there would be two huge ice boxes kept.

The smell of the fish came in stronger as we went closer and I would gear myself for the mehem. Dad had a usual spot to park his car and then we would walk into the docks by 6:45 am and it would a crazy scene there. Loads and unimaginable loads of fish with the fishermen yelling on top of their voices while the auction was going on at every 10 feet was a crazy sight.

Dad would make me stand in one corner and then he would set out to buy the fish. After every ten to fifteen minutes he would be back with 10 huge pomfrets, 10 kgs of prawns, 6-7 surmai, mackerel and on the days he got lucky crabs, clams.

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So I was taken for these adventure trips every Sunday just to guard all the fish he would buy and then help him to arrange them in the ice box and in the boot which was well covered with plastic incase the water leaked!

After all this we would head back home and mum would be all ready with the breakfast of idli, sambar and chutney laid on the table. Every Sunday breakfast was the same. Those days microwave was a luxury so since we didn’t want to trouble her reheating the food again and again we all made it a point to eat our Sunday breakfast together and hear dad bragging about how cheap he got the fish and by the all these talks would on the phone with his younger brother who would lived in Goa and the next few minutes would go in who bought how much and for how much!! They still have the same conversation even today.

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After relishing the soft idlis and the robust sambar I would head for a shower and then off to play. While mum along with her house help Meera would clean all the fish and store it in a big deep freezer we had.

And the afternoon lunch would be a feast. Can you imagine the fish would last only for the week as my parents had a large social circle and their friends would come over very often and my mum was a superb host.

Today I went to the Malad wholesale market and saw the same craziness and chaos that I would experience as a child and missed my parents.Well I bought some clams, surmai and prawns and came home happy and proud of myself with the money I paid and called my dad and told him all what all I bought and for how much? On the other end of the phone I could sense my dad feeling happy

 

And so on this happy note, here is a recipe of the fish that I have fried for my son today.

5-6 slices surmai (you could use pomfret, ravas even prawns)

2 cups of fresh coriander chopped

5 kokums

6 cloves of garlic

1 ½ tbsp chilli powder

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp turmeric powder

Grind all the above to a fine paste using very little water.

Coat both sides with a thin layer of this above masala and marinate the fish for 15-20 minutes

Coat the fish with rava or semolina

Heat a pan with oil for shallow frying and once the oil is hot place the coated fish and fry till evenly crisp on both sides for 3 minutes each on a medium to a high flame and serve it hot.

Yug loves to have fried fish with sol kadi and steamed rice

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Moringa! ……not a film character but a tree!

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Yesterday I went to the local market gadding about looking out for some unique vegetable that I could buy and cook.

After walking for a bit I reached my regular vegetable vendor Ram Prasad who usually sells leafy vegetables and I found a small cane basket full of tiny white flowers tucked away slyly in a corner. The basket was not clearly visible

Curiously I looked deeper in the corner and I realized they were the moringa flowers and suddenly there was a big smile on my face.

I gave Ram Prasad a look which made him feel guilty of hiding those flowers from me and he quickly tried to cover up his blunder saying that the produce was too less to be sold and so he had kept it away.

Well after all the convincing he tried I bought the small basket of the moringa flowers and walked back home like I had won the war.

My staff at home, were very excited to see these flowers and were not sure what I would make of it. I told them a story of my childhood, which I will share with you all as well.

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In my hometown Aversa we have our ancestral home which we would visit every summer vacation. My Grandma would eagerly wait for all of us to come and relish the different varieties of mangoes, guava, chickoo and jackfruit. It would be a feast for us to gorge on the amazingly tasting fruits.

So in the front garden she had planted some mango trees, a guava tree, a chickoo tree, a jackfruit tree and right in the corner of the garden there was this delicate Moringa or drumstick tree.

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The leaves, flowers and the drumsticks of this tree are used in our cuisine. With the leaves Amma (grandma) would make a simple vegetable, which would be sautéed in coconut oil, onions and green chillies and garnished with fresh grated coconut.

The drumstick would be used in sambar and many a times coated with chilli powder and rava and pan fried crisp to perfection.

 

Back then food would be cooked on wood fire. Every morning Amma would offer a small prayer to the Agni deva before she would lit the fire. Then she would scrape fresh coconut for the meal and grind it along with some spices on a stone grinder to make curries. My favorite part would be to grind on the stone, pluck the fresh vegetables for the curry.

 

One morning while we were all seated on the floor for breakfast with banana leaves placed in front of us and garma garam soft idli and sambar served she asked me to help her pluck the morninga flowers after I had finished, but my excitement and impatience took over my hunger and I simple left the breakfast and dragged her to pluck them.

While we were picking the flowers I asked her what was she going to cook with these pretty looking flowers and she smiled and said Vade (cutlets) I was quiet surprised and had a puzzled look on my face. She looked at me and said wait until you taste it. After picking the flowers I trailed behind her to the kitchen. She placed them on platform and asked me to clean them and wash them genteelly.

She put some freshly scraped coconut and spices to grind on the stone and I offered to help and to her surprise I managed to make a paste just the way she wanted and the cutlets with the moringa flowers were made

img_8405The feeling of helping Amma cook a dish even today boosts my morals when I am cooking something difficult

The ‘Sequel’ to unconditional love

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Sequel the 4thmember of our family came to our home on the 2ndof October 2016.

Oh but wait first let me introduce you to Sequel …….and how she came into our life

In 2015, I was very busy with the publication of my cook book Karwar to Kolhapur Via Mumbai and in 2016 April 17ththe book was released. This book took good 3 years to be completed and it was a full time job as thoughts would come anytime in the day and then one thought would link up to the other and I just would not realize how time would fly.

But after the book released and I basked in its glory for sometime I was happy and content and relaxing. In no time I started getting anxious as time just would not pass and as usual the kid and husband both are busy. I thought I’m done writing with the book that I had wanted to and I could not figure out what should be the next step. Good 5 months passed away and then I started getting restless. Sitting idle at home was seeming impossible. I would meet up with friends, have lunches and go out for dinner with them, but how much can you do that.

The day started seeming never ending and restlessness was at its peak.

One evening I was at a very close friend Shilpa’s home along with another dear buddy KD and I was talking to both of them as to how I seem to be feeling lost without work and everyone around at home so busy that I felt “kutra pun nahi ahe vicharalya” (there is no dog around also who can give you attention) basically in Marathi when a person is at his lowest and people don’t care about him / her they usually say “Tyala Kurt pun vicharat nahi” (even a dog does not bother about him) and that’s exactly how I felt. To this thought KD immediately suggested why don’t you get a dog home!

I have always ben petrified of dogs be it small or large and now imagine KD feels getting a dog should do me good! I was not so sure of this suggestion, but the thought was ticking constantly in my head.

Yug has always been a dog lover and for many years had been coaxing me to get one, so I thought “ek teer main do nishane” I started toying with the idea, weighing the pros and cons as getting a dog home is a huge responsibility, just like raising another child who cannot even speak your language. So after a lot of discussions it was decided that we should get a dog home…. But my only condition was that lets get a smaller breed now and once I’m used to it then lets get a bigger breed later.

And that’s how a teeny weeny Shih Tzu puppy came home….. I did feel like a absolute first time mother who is unsure of what to do, also a name had to be thought of… we had a dog many years back called Junior who was a Shih Tzu but for some reason he was not with us for too long and so Sequel came in as a respite to Junior who we missed very dearly and in no time got very attached and also realized it was not all that difficult. In fact it was fun and Yug would be excited with her around to teach her to fetch.

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Trust me, ever since she has come home, the house seems bustling with energy and seeing lil Sequel running all around the house feels amazing and the best part is, when your back home from work or an outing the welcome you get is indescribable.

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Chaitanya by The Walke’s

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Sometime back my friend KD mentioned about an eatery at Dadar, which serves the most amazing Malvani cuisine. A foodie that I am, I decided to visit this place called Chaitanya, which was highly recommended.

And so a drive from Andheri to Dadar was planned to enjoy dinner at this simple quaint eatery along with my friend Sheetal. At first it was a bit difficult to spot this place but after a few turns and returns and reverses I found it. Honestly it was not very difficult but I think “I” could not find it.

We walked into Chaitanya not expecting anything more than good food and service. It was a small place, done up very simply, where 7-8 simple tables with chairs were place in a row. The owner Surekha Walke sitting right at the entrance managing the counter. She seemed busy and as I walked in she just looked up through her spectacles and looked towards a boy wearing a white shirt and khakhi shorts with a napkin on his shoulder, suggesting him to seat us. We were seated on a table of 6 while we were just 2 of us while the eatery was almost empty. Sheetal and I took our seats and said hope KD is right about this place. Sometimes looks can be deceptive. The boy again came upto our table with a wet cloth and wiped it clean and in a hurry placed 2 steel galsses of water. From the way he was operating I realized this place must be usually busy.

So, after scrolling down through the menu, we decided to order our thalis without wasting any time. Sheetal ordered a fish thali while I the vegetarian option. We also ordered some extra dishes like fried crabs and Kaap (rava coated fried potatoes). The wait was not too long and what came on our table was simply outstanding.

So the fish thali had a fried pomfret, a surmai curry, sol kadi (kokum kadi) and rice bhakri (roti)

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My vegetarian thali was like a feast fit for the king. There was a kalya vatanyachi usal (black peas curry with the traditional malvani garam masala) bharli vangi (stuffed brinjal) methichi bhaji (fenugreek subzi), gavar (cluster beans), dal, chapatti and a very unusual dessert called the fruit khand (fruits mixed with homemade shrikhand).

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The food was truly wonderful. After such an amazing dinner the chef had to be complimented and so we walked to the counter and gave our compliments to Surekha tai (sister). She also had showcased a few masalas which she had kept on a rack to sell. I bought the fish fry masala which when I tried at home was indeed loved by all.

At the end of the day Sheetal and I both left like two happy souls. A) because the food was really delicious and B) it suited the pocket.

 

Is simplicity so difficult? …

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This maximum city has got us a lot of opportunities to grow and become successful. Even an uneducated person who comes from a village can make a living for himself here, which is amazing! But in the quest of growth some how I realized the simplicity of life has been lost.

I very vividly remember as a child every weekend my dad would make it a point to spend time with us, either go out for a weekend or Friday night would be a movie and Saturday night would be dinner at some restaurants close by, be it Chinese at Nanking or Flora, the Great Punjab for my simple dinner of alu matter and roti.

Our weekend trips would be so much fun…. Dad would pick me up after school on a Friday evening with mum and my brother already in the car with our suitcases packed and then we would decided where to head… no hotel reservations, no itenary planned and yet those weekends would be adventurous… Mhateran, Pune, Nasik, Bellary, Kolhapur, Alibaug were a few places we visited… and the list continues. So my childhood has been memorable.

As I grew up and went to college I still remember I would be given Rs 25/- everyday as pocket money, which was sufficient and a railway pass to reach college. I would take a bus from my home to the train station and then a train from Bandra to reach college.

Now with the 25 rupees that I had, I had to figure out how to save some from it, for a snack with friends, just an outing or maybe a movie and trust me it was a fun challenge  to managing to save quit a bit of it and then go gadding about with my friends. For that, sometimes I would walk from the station instead of taking a bus or an auto rickshaw ride  back home and use that money to treat myself to a nice mango dolly after the long tiring sweaty walk.

So you can imagine how simple life was for me. A simple dinner of alu matter and a crisp roti, movies, long drives, a mango dolly …. Life was beautiful

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Today things have changed…. I live in an amazing house, own luxurious cars and eat in the most fancy restaurants, have loads of friends and yet life seemed empty. According to everyone round me I seemed to have “the perfect” life and felt what the hell am I cribbing about! And yes I did believe them and felt everything is good then why this hollow feeling of emptiness

After much thought I understood that “for me” life is about togetherness, simplicity and doing things that I love and feel happy doing, like I love to walk on Worli sea face while the sun is setting, or at night I love to sit at the far end of Marine drive over looking the city blinging with lights and tall buildings making the place look glamorous, while the sea in front of me talks of its vastness and consistency. As much as I enjoy eating in a fancy restaurant I also love to go to a small khanaval (eatery) and relish a simple meal. I prefer spending my time in buzzed up markets with cramped shops selling masalas, vegetables, utencils and not to forget flowers, I love going for long drives and stopping for an ice cream abruptly some place. Cooking, listening to music and painting are very therapeutic for me. It’s not the number of friends that I have but who are the ones who will stand by me was important.

After a bit of a struggle and a lot of thought put in, I did manage to get some simplicity in my life finally ….feeling blissful

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And the party is over …..

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Today was a very close friends birthday….  Age should not be discussed …. She is yet young at heart…. So an impromptu lunch was decided to celebrate Rakhee’s birthday. At 7:00 am my mobile was beeping with messages on the Crazy girls chat which has Sheetal, Rakhee and me on it and lunch at a fancy café was fixed.

After my walk a little late in the morning, dragging my feet to satisfy my soul feeling good that I didn’t ditch my walk, I went straight to the nursery to pick a plant for Rakhee as her birthday gift, with a profound thought that flowers will wilt away soon but if she nurtures the plant it will live forever……and so I chose a nice ceramic white pot and planted the jade in it and went straight to her home all sweaty and exhausted.

Rakhee relaxing in her PJ’s was shocked to see me …. She anyways says I have a shocking personality! I wished her, gave her, her gift and ran home promising to meet her at 12:30 pm at the decided venue.

As usual a sucker for time that I am I was the fist to reach and managed to get a table and trying to get comfortable in an uncomfortable corner. Well just as I was going through the menu in walked Rakhee and in a few moments came Sheetal.

When the three of us are together our mind and the tongue seem to loose their connection and then we are a rage. So it was no exception for today. Sheetal who has been the quiet types rather observant for a long time has started giving unbelievable funny one lines and then trying to compose herself as the behaved one has now started becoming a regular feature.

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The girl who was waiting on us was not really trained well and the three of us were wondering a five star hotel should at least train their staff well. Even after repeatedly telling her the table needs to be cleaned she just came and kept the cutlery on the not so clean table. We were dumb struck and then I did sweetly give her a piece of my mind, which was invain…. We ordered our salads and sandwiches and got back to our much fun conversation.

Food arrived which we relished and then it was time to cut the cake. A simple tiramisu pastry was ordered with the message Happy birthday Mataji (Rakhee). One needs to meet Rakhee to know why so. After cutting the pastry and the three of us relishing it….. ummmmm imagine one pastry and three of us sweet tooth people, so now one can imagine how we must have relished it paid for the lunch and left

I went on further to finish my chores, while Sheetal went to office and Rakhee home. She had dinner plans with her son and husband…so she was going to rest and look fresh for the evening

At 6:00 pm again the phone beeps and this time Rakhee’s message says “Girls I have fallen sick after lunch. Hope you both are ok?” I was feeling queezy after lunch and I was blaming the tanker water coming these days in our area where the BMC water supply has been cut down drastically as some pipe line is undergoing repairs.

Sheetal was going strong and finally after a brief conversation I just announced I think the girl waiting on us probably took her revenge!!

Well what went wrong we don’t know but poor Rakhee had to cancel her dinner at Papaya and have simple curd rice at home…. What a shame !!

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CLITTER CLATTER OF PETER’S PANS AND POTS

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You are hungry and are sitting at the dinning table and a very hot earthern pot appears. The lid is removed and the steam rushes out. The room is filled with a mouth watering aroma.

The serving spoon showcase the tender meat and vegetables sitting in the still bubbling sauce

Isn’t that satisfying……

When I was a child Aai (my mother) would very often cook in one clay pot of hers that she had inherited from her mother.

Her favorite was the stew. She would simply dunk all the ingredients in her pot and cook them on a simmering flame for a few hours and then would serve us a delicious meal of stew and appams.

Just after I got married and I was in that phase to impress my new family with my culinary skills, I thought Aai’s recipe of stew would be just the perfect thing.

I quickly got down to making the stew. Followed the recipe to the “t”.

Once it was done and I took a spoonful of it to taste the aroma was just not the same. There was something missing after I tasted it.

Well the stew was very well appreciated and I gave a huge sigh of relief. But I was not satisfied.

Discussion time with mom was a must the next morning. Where she convinced me that cooking in the clay pot would make all the difference.

Till then I had never felt the need to ask her the reason for doing so but the person that she is explanation is a must. She informed me that a clay pot is porous so cooking in it on a slow flame allows the heat and moisture to circulate evenly and the meats and veggies to cook in their own juices and so the flavors and aroma gets trapped too.

Clay is alkaline so it will interact with the acidity in the food and neutralize the pH balance. Something that is naturally very acidic like a tomato sauce will take on some natural sweetness when cooked in a clay pot

She also suggested that the clay pots could be used as serving bowls, which would be absolutely authentic and stunning.

The following weekend she planned an outing to Kumbhar Wada and she gifted me a clay pot. Greedy that I am when it comes to, food, crockery and cutlery I demanded more from her.

After a few days I surprised my family cooking the same recipe of stew again and the difference was tasted by all.

Mission accomplished!!!!

But I never stopped at the stew, tried many more recipes in my very own clay pot of which the recipes I must share with you. I’m sure you will enjoy cooking them and relish them too

IMPORTANT NOTE:

This needs to be done one time before 1stuse

Rinse the pot / pan thoroughly in water and let it sit in water for 10 minutes

Take 3 tbsp of rice or wheat flour and add I cup of water and make a paste. Add 1 tbsp cooking oil and a pinch of turmeric. Fill the pot with water and add this paste and cook for 7 minutes on a low flame. Then cook with the lid on till it thickens to a broth. Remove from fire and keep it over night. Next morning throw away the broth rinse the pot and VOILA!! Its ready to be used.

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Masali ambat (fish curry)

INGREDIENTS:

7-8 pieces of Rawas or surmai or pomfret

1 medium onion finely chopped

1” ginger finely chopped

½ fresh coconut grated

1 tbsp dry coriander seeds

10-12 dry bedgi red chillies

¾ tsp haldi powder

5-6 kokums

1 tbsp coconut oil

Salt to taste

METHOD:

  1. Wash and clean the fish
  2. Grind the coconut, coriander seeds, haldi powder and the chillies to a fine paste adding 1 cup of water.
  • Heat a deep bottom mud pot and add coconut oil. When the aroma of the coconut oil fills the air add the onion and the ginger and sauté till the onion is light pink and soft.
  1. Then add the ground coconut masala, 2 cups of water to make the gravy, add the salt and kokum and bring to a boil.
  2. After you boil the gravy check the salt, spice and the sour taste, once you adjust these flavors to your liking, add the fish and let it cook on slow flame for 10 min or till the fish is done.
  3. Always adjust the flavor of the curry before you add the fish as it becomes difficult to correct the flavor after the fish is added as the fish meat is delicate and the pieces might break.
  • This delicious reddish orange curry can be served to 4 people.

VERY IMPORTANT TIP: Please do not stir the curry once the fish has been added. The pieces of fish will break.