Saturday, January 21, 2006

Baby Shower

I just saw my friend's Baby shower pictures. Her baby is due in January. Seeing stick-insect not looking like a stick-insect was funny. She has a HUGE belly. Really, really huge. For the first time, the hormones did not kick in. Was it because of my encounter with the strange brat who insisted on kicking me in the shins in the lift? Or was it because of my bratty nephew's general brattiness? Or was it because of that weird kid in the mobile phone shop? The more I interact with kids the more thankful I am they are not mine.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What Molasses Remind Me Of - All Of You Who Remember This One, Clap Your Hands

A lot of my family, sister, brother, mother and cousins read my blog. This story could be remembered in different ways by different people. To me, it always brings to mind hot summer nights, starry night skies, charpoys and the often tuneless sound of my uncle trying to pick up his latest raaga on the flavor-of-the-month instrument. The peals of laughter this story evoked would sometimes bring on the curiosity of my uncle (when he became hard of hearing, I often wondered, did he miss butting in?) who would always try to spice up the story which resulted in my grandmother and him almost coming to blows. Anyway...

I was reading Here about Raab (molasses but thickened) and I knew I had to put this story down.

My grandfather was married twice. The first time he married without the consent of his father, who was supposedly quite the tyrant, and his first wife and he were not allowed in my great-grandfather's house since. When his first wife died prematurely of a deadly asthma attack, he was married to my grandmother, the reteller of stories and regained entry into his paternal home. The first wife was from a rural, agricultural family and this was always used by my great-grandfather (the tyrant) to torment and plague my grandfather.

The story goes that Grandfather's first wife had two strapping brothers who doted on their sister. Once, after a particularly good sugarcane harvest, the two of them decided to send pots of raab (molasses) to their sister. So, they got two giant earthenware jars, filled them to brim with Raab and instructed two servants to deliver it to my great-grandfather's house. When the two fellows bearing Raab on their heads, arrived at his house, he summoned the two fellows at the entrance and asked them what the jars contained and where they had come from. When he heard that the jars contained Raab and they were sent by his much detested daughter-in-law's brothers, he was infuriated. He shouted, "Imbeciles! Do you think we use dirty, fly-infested raab to sweeten our kheer? (This part of the dialogue is imagined. If anyone remembers the correct one, please refresh my memory) Do you want me and my son to meet an early death because of your dirty, fly-infested, unhygienic Raab?" Saying that he thwacked and broke the jars with his walking stick, drenched the poor fellows with sticky, smelly Raab, and coolly turned away and walked inside the house.

When my grandmother came to this part of the story she would tell us with much glee just how awful it must have been to be drenched with Raab and for some strange reason, we could just not stop laughing at that.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Prawn Head Rasam

I salivate over Her recipes and photographs and keep planning a rasam or a sambhar every few days but end up junking the idea in favor of my 2 minute recipes.

Yesterday, as I mentioned, I got prawns for dinner. While my fishmonger was deveining the prawns, he asked me if he should leave the heads on. Now, that is a dilemma for me. I love eating seafood messily and gnawing and sucking on the prawn heads for the tasty custard (brains?? heeehee) that in my opinion is the best part of the prawn. So I asked the fishmonger to take off the heads and keep them separately. When I got back home, I rang up my sister for recipes and she suggested I make a stock out of them. I wasn't entirely satisfied with that and decided to make a spicy rasam out of them, in order to satisfying my soup and spice craving.


Prawn heads (or whole prawns)
Tomato 2 large diced
Onion 2 large diced
Garlic 2 cloves (Has anyone noticed how garlic heavy my food tends to be?)
Ginger 1/2 inch julienned
Green chillies 3 chopped
Red chilli powder 1 teaspoon
Tamarind 1 medium sized ball
Sugar 1 teaspoon (may be eliminated, but I like a faint sweet undercurrent to my rasams)
Salt to taste
Water about 2 glasses


Mustard seeds
Curry leaves
Dried red chillies


In a pan, heat oil. Put mustard seeds in and when they start crackling add onion, curry leaves, garlic, ginger and dried red chillies. When the onion turns translucent, add tomato, green chillies, salt, sugar, tamarind and red chilli powder. When the tomatoes turn tender, add water and boil until the mixture looks sauce-like. Add prawn heads and boil for another 4 minutes. Serve hot.

The photo is again crap, but it was v. comforting to chew on the prawn heads and drink the hot tangy rasam on the cold winter evening.

Prawns and Garlic

I can't resist prawns, lobsters, crayfish, basically anything belonging to the crustacean family. So, my weekend shopping (when I get to do it) always contains prawns or lobsters and very occassionally crabs.

I mentioned earlier that I am a very, very lazy cook. So I usually cook fish and seafood with the bare minimum of fuss and often ingredients because fresh seafood does not really require excessive flavouring. More often than not, I hurl prawns in hot olive oil with garlic, squeeze some lemon over it, salt and one chopped herb, either parsley or coriander.

I was shopping for fish yesterday and I just had to buy some prawns that my fishmonger recommended. I'm sorry the pictures are crap, I am a lousy photographer, but this recipe rocks and it is easy to prepare and cook.


500 gms prawns shelled and de-viened
2 cloves garlic sliced
Salt to taste
Lime/ Lemon
Chopped coriander/ cilantro (1 talespoon)
Olive oil


In a wok, griddle, kadhai heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add garlic, cook until they start turning light golden, add prawns, cook for 3-4 minutes until done, sprinkle salt to taste, take off heat. Squeeze some lime juice, sprinkle chopped coriander and enjoy with Bread (like I did).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Palak Paneer and Conversations With The Mamma

I have a one hour long conversation with my mother almost everyday after work, mostly when I am cooking dinner. It serves two purposes, (1) speaking with Mom while cooking reminds me of home except that I'm cooking here (thats how I learnt to cook, I would chat with Mom while she cooked for us) and (2) Whenever I forget a recipe, I have help at hand.

Today's dinner featured palak paneer and me teasing Mom about her pretending to be large-hearted and Mom trying to convince me while laughing helplessly, "No, I'm seriously so large-hearted." Anyway, its a sort of inside joke (For the sister and brother - this refers to my surprise at Mom's Social work and the famous "You are SO not the social work kinds" to which Papa said, "Thats absolutely true" and then meekly saying, "I'm just saying..." when Mamma turned to glare at him.) and pretty boring for anyone who's not my sister and brother, so sorry.

Anyway, the way Mom and I make Palak paneer is super simple. It takes us 20 minutes in all. I shall post the pictures later.


Spinach - 1 bunch (about 350 gms)- Cleaned, washed and shredded
Tomato - 2 diced
Garlic - 2 cloves
Ginger - 1 inch - peeled and sliced
Green Chillies - 4 (ok, ok, I cheated and used 7 because I LOVE chillies but for the love of your intestinal linings, this is not recommended)
Salt - To taste
Water - 1/2 glass
Paneer - 200 gms - diced and sauteed until golden (sauteeing is optional, if the paneer is v fresh, I don't saute it)


Ghee - 2 Teaspoons
Cummin (jeera) - 1 Teaspoon


Put spinach, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chillies, water and salt in a pressure cooker. Cook until 3 whistles. Take off heat, cool and wait for the pressure to go down. When it has cooled, with an immersion blender, blend the spinach until it forms a puree.

Heat ghee in a pan, add cummin. When cummin starts crackling, add the spinach puree, the paneer and cook until the puree starts bubbling. Serve with rice or rotis.

Monday, January 09, 2006

If I Could

If I could reach the stars
Pull one down for you
Shine it on my heart
So you could see the truth
That this love I have inside
Is everything it seems
But for now I find
It's only in my dreams

I don't know how to wipe tears. I don't know how to comfort. All I can say is that I am here and I will stand uncomfortably, mutely because I really don't know what to say but my heart is tearing right now.

Mother told me of one of my favourite aunt's brother's death, horribly, tragically, horrifically premature. I didn't have salves or anodynes because I don't know the right one. So, I shall just be there to talk to and shall listen to whatever you say. I hate to see you now powerless and old, but I am proud of you and I shall never forget your affection and love.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Grouchy Old Bag

I'm feeling very grouchy today.

1. My first major grouch is on sanctimonious donors. Why can't you just do what you have to and then shut up about it? Going on reminding others about your noble deeds and your pain and suffering (fake?) for the underprivileged ad nauseum is very annoying. Why do people have to publicize their good deeds again and again? Why can't they just remain silent about them?

2. My secound grouch is about parents. Why do they have to spoil their kids so much? Indian parents have this annoying attitude about keeping their kids on a pedestal. I'm so annoyed by fawning parents who bring up their kids to be royal pain-in-the-ass cutesy sorts. Yesterday, I was trying to buy a cellphone for my driver/ chauffeur and a father walked in with his 5-6 year old cutesy daughter. The kid tried to sit on my lap. Arggghhh! I have this aversion to touchy-feely kids. The only kid I can bear to touch and cuddle is my nephew and that too after I wash his hands with soap, antibacterial disinfectant and I comb his hair down, all other kids, I want to keep at a distance. Kids are fetid heaps of bacteria and fungus and can pee and poop at any given point of time. And I absolutely dislike the prima donna kiddie varieties (except my nephew) who want the entire world to rotate around them. Anyhow, then, The kid tried to talk with me. I was checking that string thing because my driver had asked me for it and while I was talking with the sales person interjected with a annoying cutesy piping comment, "I like butterflies, take the butterfly one." What the fuck! I don't know this kid from adam or her progenitor, why should I pay attention? I ignored the kid and she again shouted that. I ignored it again and then the kid says, "I like butterflies, what do you like?" I couldn't help saying, "Nothing, I like nothing." That shut the kid up. I know it was nasty but I really dislike kids who try to clamber into my lap when I don't know them and especially if their parents don't move a muscle when their kids are annoying the royal shit out of someone they don't even know. Kids, stay away. I may look like an overgrown baby at times, and even though I love pink, I don't like you. Eww, argh, growl.

Tasty Memories of Days Gone By

When my parents stayed just 4 hours away, they would get me a huge hamper of food whenever they would visit, full of my favourite foods and a lot of produce from their gardens that partly they thought I should eat and partly that they wanted to get rid of and partly what I had demanded. It's been a year exactly since they moved and I've missed them terribly and also the lovely food that Mom would start making a day ahead.

My father is visiting again and I have a huge list of food that I want. This is my list:

1. Mathris - My Mom makes the loveliest mathris that despite the crispness, just melt in the mouth. I eat them with spicy pickle and since they have moved, I have craved mathris something awful.
2. Gazak and Rewadi - These are crisp white and black sesame cakes made with either molasses or jaggery or sugar. These were a fixture in our pantry during the winters and we did not get them in Bengal, so my parents would beg and plead our relatives and friends to send some from U.P. I hated them when I was young, and now I have asked for some.
3. Gazar ka halwa - Carrot Halwa. My mom makes the best. Seriously. Not over sweet but deliciously creamy and with loads of dry fruits.
4. Salted Makhane - Makhane are lotus seeds and are curiously bland to taste. One normally has to roast them and if you toast them a little and salt them, they are yum. When I get these, I shall post pictures. One normally uses makhanas as a dry fruit garnish (along with other dry fruits) in kheers, but I like them best toasted and salted.
5. Garam Masala - My mother makes her own. She sources the best quality spices, toasts each individually, cools it and then grinds it in her specific proportions. The aroma is unlike any you will find in the market and the flavor it gives to food is magic.
6. Dal or Green Peas Puris - Puris stuffed with lightly spiced ground dal or green peas. Yummm!
7. Nimona - Another seasonal favourite. It is ground green pea curry and as far as I know only made in U.P. (Uttar Pradesh - a northern state that my family belongs to originally. Now, we are almost half bengali)
8. Dry spicy Chole - Simply because Mom made the best ones.

This is my List so far. I may add stuff to it. I want to add the following stuff, and probably will.

1. Stuffed Karelas - My mother made the best stuffed karelas (bitter gourd) ever.
2. Tunde ke Kebab - A typical Lucknow Kebab. They are made of lightly spiced mutton that absolutely melts in the mouth.
3. Green Mango Pickle - The U.P. style one

I shall post pictures of everything and I can't wait to go visit my parents again.

Comfort Food - Rajma Chawal

When I was in college, and would return home for vacations, my mother would ensure that the first meal I had was Rajma Chawal (Rajma and Rice). I'm not going to write the recipe of rajma, I googled it and you have more than a thousand Rajma recipes out there. All cover the basics and are pretty easy to follow. I'm just missing home and mom's food a little bit today.

This is my comfort food, what are yours?

She Keeps Moet and Chandon In a Pretty Cabinet

I keep picking up wine when I travel. I have two refridgerators at home. One I use for vegetables, fruits, milk etc. (stuff I need everyday) and the other I use for my wines and cooking sauces. For the last 2 months, I was abstaining. No specific reason, I just was. Few days back, someone gifted me a bottle of wine and I had no place for it! So, I decided I would start using my wines. So, for dinner these days, I open a bottle of wine. I have made my way through 4 bottles of red wine - 3 spanish red wines (maybe later, I shall post the descriptions, but I find wine descriptions very tedious) and 1 chianti since December. Yesterday, nothing else but champagne would do. Today, my Moet and Chandon bottle greeted me empty. I love Moet and Chandon. For some strange reason, that seems to be the champagne of choice in Singapore because everywhere I went, the champagne being served was M & C. Yesterday, I felt like popping open a bubbly because I wanted to indulge. So, with kebabs, salad and rotis, and Ella, I drank my way through an entire bottle of Moet and Chandon.

Sorry in advance to all the people I spoke with afterwards. If I did not make sense, you now know why.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pahari Spinach

These days I am on a veggie binge. I normally eat fish, chicken or mutton for lunch so I like to eat vegetarian food for dinner. I am a huge cheater when it comes to cooking. I enjoy it, but not enough to slave for hours together, so my eternal favourites tend to be those recipes that I can rustle up in 15 minutes. When it comes to food, I seem to have inherited from both my parents equally, from my father I get my love of food and from my mother I get the restlessness with long laborious recipes. Also from my mother I get my love for the greens.

My mother for years tried to convince us that spinach was a good thing, but I developed a taste only after school. I normally hated palak paneer and all gooey variations of spinach but I loved this dish that my mother claimed was taught to her by one of her friends from the hills. This takes no longer than 10 minutes to make including the assembling and an added benefit is that you don't have to chop anything but the ginger and garlic for the tadka.


1 Large bunch or spinach washed and cleaned well


Any cooking oil, I use sunflower or saffola but using mustard oil gives it a lovely zing
1 to 5 cloves of Garlic depending on how garlicky you like your food - crushed and chopped
1 inch Ginger - chopped into thin strips
1 teaspoon Cummin
A pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
4 dry red Chillies halved


In a kadhai (I use a non-stick heavy-bottomed wok), heat 1 tablespoon of oil, add cummin, chilles, ginger, garlic, asafoetida in that order. When the garlic starts turning brown, tear spinach and add to the wok/ kadhai. Turn the heat down and let cook for 3 minutes. Turn the spinach once, cover and cook for another 3 minutes. Uncover, turn the heat to high and dry all the water that has escaped from the spinach. Add salt after water has almost dried up, stir and take off heat.

I've never been able to decide if I like it better with plain steamed rice or rotis, though I am partial to rice thanks to being brought up in Bengal.

One of The Best Nights of my Life

The Joke That Is My Life

When the shit hits the ceiling, why does it have to spray itself all over the goddamned room?
This year is promising to be a busy one and I am liking it, despite the flying shit.

And my friend P, why the hell did you have to sneer at my suggestions and make me feel like an intellectual savant just because I decided against a PhD? Intellectual snobbery has never been my scene, you know that and neither does it pay that mound of bills. So, allow me the pleasure of saying, "I told you so."