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Showing posts from January, 2005

The Scourge

Last week's Outlook carried a cover story about Indians who are choosing to shun marriage and live life single. I've always maintained that marriage should be a choice. But for many Indian women, we do not have that choice. For us, marriage is never an 'if' only a 'when'. People featured in the Outlook article live in metros, have successful careers and are reasonably sure of what they want out of life. Good for them. Unfortunately, they represent a tiny, tiny miniscule of the population.

For a large percentage of everyday Indian women, we are told that we MUST get married. Some of us (self included), resist this notion and go on to pursue careers and live our dreams at least for a short period of time. But at every turn, the question looms -'when are you going to get married?'. So eventually, we succumb. Because often we are so tired from the questioning that we just want to put an end to it. If truth be told, we are not brave enough to remain unmarri…

Salt, flour and something special*

In the movie 'Azhagan', the hero Mammooty desribes himself as 'being like upma'- quick, unfussy and comes to the aid in an emergency. No truer words have been said about the this classic dish. It's fast to cook and fantastic to eat. There's no planning needed and you can add just any veggie (save brinjal and ladies finger) in your fridge and you won't go wrong.

p.s. I've used vermicelli in this recipe. You can use rava instead.
*Upma in tamil literally means salt and flour Upma (About 10 minutes to cook) You'll need Vermicelli - 250 gms, broken into small pieces Potato - 1 small, diced Onion - 1 small, finely chopped Carrot - 1 small - diced Cauliflower- a handful of florets Peas - 50 gms, shelled Green chilli - 1 small chopped Mustard seeds - 1 tsp Urad dal - 1 tsp Channa dal - 1 tsp Cashew nuts - 5-6, halved Cooking oil - 1.5 tbsp Salt to taste Here's how to 1. Heat a pan with 2 tsp oil and drop the vermicelli in it. Toss it around till all of it is coated in o…

The Obsession

I recently read transcripts of an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow where she goes into detail about her eating habits. Specifically, about her macrobiotic diet. The diet, apparently, can be broken up like this -
50 % whole grains,
25 % seasonal vegetables
10 % protein foods
5 % sea vegetables
5 % soups and
5 % fruits, seeds, nuts and drinks

I've got two words for you, Gwyneth - Orthorexia Nervosa - Obsession with healthful eating.
Cake, anyone?

Coffee, tea or Horlicks?

'It is an acquired taste'. I know they say this of delicacies and exotic food. But I would say the same of Horlicks. Yes, good old, friend-of-the-feverish Horlicks. Appparently, it is one of the most popular drinks in the UK! It's hard to imagine big, boozing British blokes drinking a warm mug of malted drink before hitting the sack. It seems they do. I suspect that the renewed interest in the age-old drink has much to do with its latest advertising campaign. Here's how it goes.

Ad 1- Woman comes running into a bus stop to catch a bus which is already waiting there. But just as she is about to board, the bus moves away leaving the woman stranded in the bus stop. Shot of the bus driver and a voice over that says 'How does he sleep at night?'. Bus driver is now in his pyjamas, ready for bed, blissfully downing a steaming mug of Horlicks. Voice over whispers 'Horlicks. For a good night's sleep'.

Ad 2 - Parking attendant checks watch, checks the parking…

The way we speak

Speak this line out as you read it. Now stop. Do you know why you were saying the words the way you did? Why you paused when you paused and stressed when you did? Accents are such big part of who we are and yet we rarely think about them. I saw an interview on TV this morning with an expert on accents. He is in the process of recording and documenting different accents heard across the UK. These documents will then help actors getting their speech right especially when playing a regional character. The expert mentioned that in his studies, he found that people in the UK trust the Edinburgh accent. Which is why we hear it more in advertisements selling mortgages. How interesting! Apparently, the 'Liverpudlian' and the 'Geordie' (sic) accents, the latter as spoken by Ant and Dec and as heard on Big Brother voice over, were much loved.

Wouldn't it be interesting to carry out such an exercise in India? In Tamilnadu alone we could get a bouquet of accents. Apart from th…

Look, there goes a vegetarian!

I am a vegetarian. By birth. As opposed to someone who has chosen to become one for political or health reasons or simply because it is fashionable. Let me explain, I was born in a family that has always eaten vegetarian food and it was natural for me to follow suit. I have lived in places where vegetarian food is available a great deal and the choices are aplenty. I have been fortunate enough not to have gone to some places in Romania where, rumour has it that, the only food available during winter months is sausage.
Anyway, these days that fact that I've never (knowingly) tasted meat has become my USP. My party trick. My sex appeal. People always want to know what on earth I eat! So imagine my delight when I recently came across this poem by Benjamin Zephaniah - a rasta British poet who famously turned down an OBE, eats only organic vegan food and writes some deliciously wonderfully poems that are pleasure on the ear. Pass it on, if you please.

Vegan Delight Ackees, chapatties

Milagu Kuzhambu

Describing this dish as 'pepper sauce' in English is such as travesty. For one, 'sauce' always conjures up an image of something bottled and ready-to-eat. Whereas milagu kuzhambu is fresh, tangy and fires up the insides like no readymade sauce can. Ever.
My grandmother used to make milagu kuzhambu in an 'uruli' (a traditional cooking pot) and let it soak in the flavours for hours before serving it. This is a calorie-rich and nutrionally-dubious recipe. So if you're cholestrol conscious, go away and nibble on some celery sticks. But for the intrepid, milagu kuzhambu can open up parts you never dreamt of.

Milagu Kuzhambu
(About 30 minutes to cook)
You'll need
Tamarind - the size of a small lemon Urad dal - 1 tbsp Toor dal - 1 tbsp Dried red chillies - 3 Pepper corns - 1.5 tsp Shallot onions - 2 Jaggery - 1 tsp (optional) Turmeric - 1 tsp Oil - 2 tbsp Mustard seeds - 1 tsp Asafoetida - 1 tsp Curry leaves - 2 tsp Salt to taste
Here's how to - 1. Soak tamarind in warm…

Wizards of the wardrobe

I have never been a keen follower of fashion, preferring to stick to bland, familiar, tired but safe choices. Which is why you’ll never find high heels or leather pants or halter necks in my wardrobe. You’ll find me in salwar kameezes that would look good on a pillow, jeans two sizes too big, baggy tee shirts and basically anything that would make me blend with the background. In what I call, ‘wall paper clothes’. In fact, I even have a couple of shirts that match what’s on the wall. Anyway, one day my cosy world of sartorial dysfunction was rudely shaken awake by two women. Two straight-talking, no-nonsense and downright rude women.

Trinny and Susannah (of ’no last name’ fame), stars of the show ‘What Not To Wear’ on BBC1, pull any poor old, haggard lady off the street and give her a makeover that would put most plastic surgeons out of work. And this they would go about doing in the most outrageous manner. The twosome would strip their hapless victim to her underpants, shove inside a…

Don't call me THAT!

There's a new show on Channel 4 called 'Desperate Housewives'. It's an American show (what else could it be?) about saucy, glamourous housewives with a sex-life that would be the envy of a rockstar.

Now, as anyone who has ever been a housewife (btw, whatever happened to stay-at-home mother and all that politically correct jazz?), there's barely enough time in the day to cook, clean, wash, iron, feed, mop, vaccuum, dust and dry. Let alone, have steamy sex with plumbers! The women on the show are pure American fantasy. They all have fantastic figures, gorgeous wardrobes, fabulous husbands who pay for their indulgences and children who conveneiently disappear when their moms want to have a fling with the postman.

You know how I feel about being called a housewife. So I wince each time I watch a promo for this show with its ghastly title which sounds like the subject of something I'd get in my junkmail. Still, I'm going to try again to sit through a whole show …

Pita Pizza

This is a great afternoon snack and it's so easy to cook. I personally prefer soft cheese (like Philadelphia) for this recipe but you could substitute it with any cheese, really. Enjoy!

Pi(ta)zza (About 20 minutes to cook) You'll need - Pita bread or dry chappati - 1 Tomatoes - 1 large, chopped fine Oil - 2 tbsp
Onion - 1 medium, chopped fine Bell pepper (capsicum) - 1 small, diced Corn kernels - 50 gms Paprika or chilli powder - 1.5 tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp Any soft cheese - 100 gms
Salt to taste
Here's how to - 1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the diced onions. Saute for a couple of minutes and then add finely chopped tomatoes 2. Keep stirring on low heat for about 3 minutes or till the tomatoes turn pulpy 3. Throw in the paprika, cumin powder and salt, give it a stir and then add the capsicum pieces 4. Cover and simmer for another 2 minutes before adding the corn kernels 5. Cover and simmer for a good 7-8 minutes or till the capsicum is cooked 6. Heat another pan and roll out the pita…

Rasam to die for

Now, this one is a crowd-favourite. Never fails to impress the guests whenever I serve it. There is a bit of frying, pureeing and grinding to be done. But don't let that put you off. The rasam can be served as a soup or as an accompaniment to rice. Do try it and let me know how it went.

Tomato Rasam a la ammani (About 20 minutes to cook) You'll need -
Tomatoes - 3 large
Ghee or butter - 3 tsp Green chillies - 3 small Shallot onions - 2 Garlic - 2 cloves (optional) Coriander seeds - 2 tsp Cumin seeds - 1 tsp Cinnamon bark - half an inch Curry & coriander leaves - to garnish Salt to taste Here's how to - 1. Drop the tomatoes in boiling water and let them stay for a couple of minutes 2. When cool enough to handle, slide off the skin and puree the tomato in a blender 3. In a separate pan, heat the ghee (or butter) and add the green chillies, shallots, garlic (if using), coriander seeds, cumin seeds and cinnamon bark. Saute till the onions become translucent (I'd say 3 minutes) 4. When…

Recipe time!

There are plenty of blogs out there dishing out serious stuff (who reads them, btw?). My head is whirring with so much cerebral activity that I've decided to take it easy. The next few blogs will be recipes. Simple, home-made and absolutely lip-smackingly gorgeous food made easy. I'm kicking off with one of my favourites.

Straw potato cake (About 25 minutes to cook) You'll need - Potato - 2 large Oil - 2 tbsp Salt & pepper - to season Here's how to- 1. Grate the potatoes (yes, grate them) with the skin 2. Quickly season it with salt and pepper before it turns brown 3. Heat the oil in a saucepan and wait till it's quite hot 4. Add the grated potatoes and pack them in quite tight with a spoon. Make sure the potatoes aren't loosely packed as the cake will fall apart when you flip it 5. Cover and let it simmer for a good 15 minutes 6. When the bottom side is nice and browned, gently loosen it from the saucepan by using a flat wooden ladle. Now slide it onto a plate and then…

Add this to your dictionary

'Muffin top' - Spillage of flesh at the waist caused by jeans worn too tight

God? What God?

I am not terribly religious. But I do turn to God in times of crisis. Such as the one we are confronted with right now. Hundreds and thousands of innocents dead in the flash of an eye. While I've been praying for the wounds to heal and the grief to wash over, I'm left with one daunting question. One that keeps coming back and forth much like the killer waves themselves. 'Where is God in all this?'
Not for me the abstract theological explanations. Nor can I reconcile myself to fate, like many Hindus would. And so each time I saw the body count rise, my mind kept asking 'Why God? Why?'.
While I haven't found a satisfactory answer, there is something I read in the papers a couple of days ago which offers some solace. The Archbishop of Canterbury says,
'God is to be found in the hands of those helping to bury the dead, to
bring clean water to the living, to administer medicine to the ill and counsel
to those in darkness.'
Om to that.