Not so gingerly


This morning, as we began making tea, Atul placed a piece of ginger on the kitchen counter and made an interesting observation. “This looks like a rockstar!”

And why not?

The humble ginger has been rocking my life ever since I can remember.

When we were kids, every year, on Diwali (that’s Naraka Chadurdashi or choti Diwali for folks in the north), my mother would heat up sesame oil and crackle black pepper and chopped ginger. Once the oil cooled down a little, and while it was still warm, she would tell us to eat the spices and then apply the oil directly on our scalp.

Diwali signifies the onset of winter, and this little ritual was performed to avoid catching a cold in the changing season. It wasn’t the most pleasant thing to do, and we reluctantly gave in. Over time, though, we began appreciating it for its health benefits, and now, I willingly follow this practice.

Today, as the nip in the winter air pierces my skin, the comfort of ginger makes me feel warm. So I wrote a small ode to the versatile spice, that doesn’t discriminate.

The versatile ginger,
Some love to hate.
But that doesn’t affect her
She doesn’t discriminate.

She blends in well
In my tea as a spice.
And with garlic too,
She plays super nice.

She lifts me up
In bread and cookies
She’s the kick and tang
In my hot curries.

She’s the antidote
To my cold and sores
As well as a soothing balm
To my burning throat.

Ginger, there are some
Who can’t stand your sight,
But ginger, to me
You’re a rock star alright!

Here’s a picture of her, rocking her usual self.

I'm a #rockstar #ginger

A post shared by Kasturika (@kasturika.r) on

With this week’s daily post challenge asking bloggers to experiment, we decided to play around with the picture. I wanted to add fancy stickers and hashtags, and I assumed Instagram would let me do that. So I signed up – today. Turns out, it’s Facebook app that really fulfilled the requirements. (Yes, I’m terribly ill informed about social media apps!)

Here’s what Atul dished up:

She’s so happy I made it past the half way mark!

Psst. Since I’m celebrating my first day on Instagram, can I request you all to follow me? 😉


This is post #16 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Advertisements

Temporary


Yes, I am guilty. Guilty of taking photographs of beautiful looking food. A lot of people find that irritating. I have been on that side of the fence too. I have often found myself judging others Oh, just stop this! Shut the camera and enjoy the food in front of you!

But now, show me beautiful looking food, and my fingers just can’t help themselves. Food is as much an art form, as it is a necessity for survival. And when a chef puts in her heart and soul into presenting her work, it shouldn’t be recklessly devoured without admiring it first.

Savoury Snacks
An assorted selection of savoury snacks at the India Habitat Centre. Needless to say, it didn’t last long

There was this one other time I took a picture of something I liked. I’d posted it for a similar photo challenge some time back. That one disappeared even before I took the picture.


In response to this week’s Photo Challenge: Temporary


Photo taken with Moto G3. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream.


This is post #9 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Sweet and sour


Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the word: Jalebi

If you’ve grown up in India, sometime in the 90’s, then let me describe this for you.

A sulking boy, his head sunk low, marches into a railway station. He throws his bag on to the bench and perches himself, continuing to frown. He tells an ‘uncle’ that he has decided to run away from home because everyone scolds him. But then, when he finds out that there are hot jalebis being made at home, his eyes light up, and he decides to abandon his plans of running away (just for another 20 years, that is!)

Come on, you know what I’m talking about. Let’s say that together now,
Jalebi!

Here’s the iconic ad (in Hindi) for a not-so-healthy cooking oil, to refresh some old memories.

Jalebis are sweet orange bundles of pure sin—zero nutrition, and complete addiction. So I can understand why it is simple for people to fall in love with them. What I don’t understand though, is why they are almost universally prepared by the neighbourhood halwais (confectioners) only during the evenings. As I would find out, years later, this wasn’t as universal a truth, as I thought it to be.

* * *

We reached Allahabad in the morning, and my stomach was grumbling a little. “You want to get some breakfast? Let me treat you to the local speciality here.” It was our second trip to my in-laws’ house, about a month after our wedding—a new family, a new town, a completely new culture. I was expecting a very special something that would blow my mind. And blow my mind, it did!

“You know how jalebis are made only in the evenings in Delhi? Well, in these parts of the world, you won’t find jalebis in the evening. They’re made exclusively in the mornings. And they’re had for breakfast, with dahi (curd/yogurt).”

Say what?

In my world, curd was meant to be had as is, as a cool refreshing dish; as a dip with savoury paranthas; as a main course with rice (thayir sadam, yum!); or as a dessert in mishti doi or lassi. But sour curd with jalebi? It just didn’t sound right. The mental picture of the two together, ruined both dishes for me. Sitting at a table at a local halwai, though, I saw several customers enjoying their jalebi dipped in curd.

Eventually, I tried it too. The point is, apparently, to lessen the sweetness of jalebis with dahi. So that you increase your capacity to eat more jalebis (yay, for cholesterol and sugar!) I get the logic. But the taste, I suppose, is an acquired one. Even after several attempts, I always end up relishing them separately.

Dahi Jalebi

I had often wondered how people could eat jalebis with rabri (sweet condensed milk). Oh, how the mere thought of that much sweet hurt! But try as I might, dahi with jalebi will be more of a mystery to me.

So which foods do you find difficult to understand?


Photo taken with Moto G3. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream.


This is post #8 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Unusual


Growing up, I hated the idea of cooking. But living with someone who loves to cook, in a house that has a beautiful kitchen, I’ve softened up to the idea of cooking – and sometimes, enjoy it too!

Our everyday cooking is quite monotonous, so when we make special dishes, it is an event in itself. Going through all the food pictures we have taken, I have to go all the way back to last October, to find a memory of the last time we made a sweet dish – an unusually long time ago, given that we both love sweets :).

To celebrate our first Diwali after marriage, we decided to make rava kesari (link to the recipe here).

Here’s a picture of the ingredients we were using. Any guesses for what is missing?

Prepping for Rava Kesari

The food channel comes home!


Having spent two nights in a hospital room with a poor WiFi signal, needles piercing my arms and eating some rather bland food, coming home was a heavenly feeling.

The hospital wasn’t all that bad. For starters, atleast we didn’t have to cook, or worry about household chores. Then there was a large TV – a device we have chosen not to include in our house. After all, who needs another screen and another monthly subscription for something we neither have time nor inclination to watch. So there we were in that homely room switching between food and science channels for pretty much all our waking hours. I have to say it had a little bit of an impact on me.

I’m not really a foodie. I know lots of people who are – they know which is the best place to eat in pretty much any part of town; what is the speciality of those food joints; and are even willing to travel a fair distance just to taste that one flavour which has the perfect contrast of textures and smells. For me, all that is Greek and Latin. But after a prolonged exposure to the micro waves of the TV shows, I decided to turn into a chef for a while.

The recipe – a tower of biscuits layered with creamy chocolate and dunked in coffee – was one my mother had been wanting to try out for long.

I took pictures along the way and noted down all the steps – detailing everything a TV chef would likely mention. Taking pictures meant that it took us four times the time it would normally take to make this sweet.

This week, Jen Hooks asked bloggers where their heart is. Right now, it is set on devouring this delicious piece of home-made tower of biscuits!

The tower of biscuits

To see how other bloggers interpreted this week’s photo challenge, head over to the Daily Post.


For those who are interested, here’s the recipe:

  1. Whip some milk cream with chocolate sauce.
  2. Add cornflour and heat the mixture over low flame, stirring constantly, till it thickens into a smooth paste.
  3. Spread the mixture over 6 Marie biscuits and place them one on top of the other.
  4. Cover the tower with an extra biscuit and press lightly.
  5. Pour coffee decoction over the tower, ensuring that the biscuits are fully soaked. Drain the excess coffee and place it in the freezer.
  6. Remove it after about half an hour, or till it becomes stable. It should be soft and have the consistency of cake. Make sure it does not freeze completely, or it will be nearly impossible to eat it!
  7. Serve as is, or sliced.
  8. Consume immediately – we did not keep it to test its shelf life 😉

Homecoming


The shrines at every street turning.
The fifty square feet kolams.
It looks beautiful.

The yelai sappaadu and the million varieties of everything.
The nongu and manga inji.
It tastes exotic.

The aroma of freshly ground coffee.
The incense and malligai.
It smells heavenly.

The taalams of the kutcheri audience.
The rustling of the Palm trees.
It sounds familiar.

The waves rushing towards me.
The sea breeze and the sand.
It feels like home.


coconut-eyes

“Do you like Delhi or Chennai?” My cousin’s grandfather asked me in a soft childlike voice.

“Both!” I replied.

“No, no, no. I won’t accept that. You have to choose!”

“That’s like asking a child to pick a parent!” I protested.

“Of course! And you must pick one” he replied with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Well, I prefer Delhi. But Chennai comes a very very close second.”

He smiled. It was impossible to tell if he was happy with my answer or not.

No matter where you are, or where you’re headed, wishing you a year in the company of friends and family.

As for us, we spent the New Year in both cities 🙂


Glossary

yelai sappaadu/ilai sappadu: literally, food on a leaf. A traditional platter typically served on a plantain leaf. For a more humorous explanation, check out this video.

nongu: Asian palmyra palm, toddy palm, or sugar palm (in science: Borassus flabellifer)

manga inji: literally, mango ginger.  A variety of ginger that tastes like raw mango (in science: Curcuma amada)

malligai: Jasmine. Ladies adorn their hair with garlands made of Jasmine

taalam: beats of a musical composition

kutcheri: musical performance, typically used with reference to Carnatic classical music. Audiences across Tamil Nadu can often be seen tapping their hands to the rhythm of the musical piece.

When you run out of bread…


Eat Cake!

almond_butter_cake
Almond Butter Cake

Cake, anyone?


Happy Friday, the thirteenth! How about a cake to celebrate?

Taking out the pocket camera to photograph restaurant spreads to share on social media is one (annoying) thing. Capturing the colours, textures and portraying a certain taste, whilst fighting the urge to eat your subject, is something entirely different.

I can now truly appreciate the difficulties of photographing food.

Banana Walnut Cake
Banana Walnut Cake

I suppose you must take my word for it, when I say it tasted wonderful!


nanopoblano2015lightIt’s Baker’s dozen in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

An (extra)ordinary cup of tea


As it happens, I misinterpreted this week’s photo challenge. Let’s set things right. Would you like a cup of tea?


cup_of_tea

Just before our last safari in Sariska, we decided to eat lunch at a dhaba. There was a row of small houses with thatched roofs along either side of the road running along the perimeter of the Wildlife Reserve. Two or three large aluminium vessels kept along a short wall were the only indication that they were eateries. Seeing the number of safari Gypsies* parked around them, we skipped the first few.

We got off the car and walked towards an empty house. Outside the porch was an open shed with a thatched roof supported by logs. Beneath the shed were a few plastic tables and chairs and charpoy. A man appeared from behind the porch and we enquired if food was available. It wouldn’t take long to prepare, he said.

We settled around one of the cots and made ourselves at home. A little while later, our host laid out the platter on the table next to us. Hot dal and sabzi with pickle; thick rotis, freshly baked in a tandoor, served with a generous amount of ghee; and on our request, curd from his own house right behind the restaurant.

In goes the roti to get baked in the tandoor
In goes the roti to get baked in the tandoor

Though simple, the food was delicious. He asked us if we needed another serving. When we said we were full, he asked if we would like to have some tea. Of course we did! As we waited for the tea, we pulled out our cameras.

A little while later, our host announced that the tea was ready. We noticed two little girls and their mother sitting beside the porch, near the entrance of the house — our host’s family. We sat near them on a makeshift bench made with a stone slab and sipped on the cardamom-flavoured tea. The elder daughter opened up easily and seemed to enjoy our attention. She told us her name and that she had just returned from her school. The younger one remained close to her mother. We learnt that they were farmers, and that they had finished harvesting their crop of corn. They said they didn’t sell the corn. Instead, they made flour to prepare rotis. A little later, we heard a baby’s cry. Our hostess left to attend to her youngest child inside the house.

We told our host that we had got a glimpse of a tiger earlier that day. He confirmed that there indeed was one nearby last night. In a very matter-of-fact way, he said it was most likely out hunting for prey, and that he had heard the call of a deer near his house. We wondered how it would be to live there. Growing a crop with whatever little income came from feeding a few highway passersby and stray wildlife enthusiasts, to live in a secluded part of the state without a proper address and wild tigers for neighbours.

We thanked our hosts for their hospitality and paid the very modest bill. Our hostess returned as we prepared to leave, and presented us some farm fresh corn to take home. And no, she clarified, they weren’t selling it.


* Gypsy – a four-wheel-drive off-road vehicle

dhaba – a roadside food stall
charpoy – wooden cot
dal – split lentils
sabzi – a vegetable cooked in gravy
roti – Indian flat bread
tandoor – clay oven that uses fire (from wood or charcoal) for heat
ghee – clarified butter

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “(Extra)ordinary.”