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I am a professional and a cook,rather a cook by choice and passion.Cooking is something I fantasise about.When I first thought of starting a blog,a thousand ideas coursed through my mind,albeit,none stood the sands of time.Except for the thought of a food blog accompanied by subtle nuances from daily life and from the world around me!



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Saturday, December 25, 2010

The icing on my Christmas cake!

Spent quite a lazy Christmas day this year!Pottered about the house putting all the wrong things in their right places in an initially sincere attempt to shrug off the lethargy that hung about my being.But deep inside, I longed for the welcoming coziness of my deep-set couch - the type that almost cradles you into its layered folds!Abstinence from this lure to let my already-rested body rest again has never been one of my known virtues - never mind the unknown ones!

I had not been giving myself the luxury of romping about in blogsphere for quite sometime now. Can't really cough up any veritable reason for that now but this way or the other,it was just not happening.So today,when a blissful day of practically no prior commitments and unmarked calendars lay ahead of me,I decided to do exactly that!And with the scene already set, I unabashedly lowered myself into the ohh-so-inviting couch and set out on my quest for all lovely blogs out there.

The spirit essentially being that of Christmas,I hopped from one blog to the next and was amazed at the whole gamut of delectable cookies,cakes,scones and Christmassy stuff that met my befuddled eyes!I felt like Alice in blissful Wonderland where all I could dream about were the lovely goodies and the beautiful photos almost seemed to jump out and permeate my senses with their mesmerizing aroma!

Soon enough I had managed to doze off with the warm sunshine lightly brushing my cheeks but not before I had listed down all the fantabulous creations to share with you this Holiday season.All the lovely ladies out there,whose blogs I had crept into - your lovely recipes were the 'icing on the cake' for me this Christmas season - a big 'Thank You'!!

Happy Boxing Day (and loads of luck for you to lay hands on the enticing deals this time around!) Viel Glück!

My choicest list of blogs and recipes:  

Jocelyn of KUIDAORE
Very Short Shortbread
Spiced Pear Bundt Cake

Linda of toasty biscuit

Asha of Fork Spoon Knife
Pears, Pannacotta, Wine and a Giveaway

Jeanette of Everybody Likes Sandwiches
happy christmas to you: candy cane crisp bark

lululu of lululu at home
Spiced Honey Lemon Cake
Apple Almond Coffee Cake
Chocolate Mousse Cake
Brown Sugar Walnut Shortbread
Strawberry and Cream Cake
Zebra Cake

Aqua of Served with Love
Chocolate Truffle Cake
Sacher Torte

Tara of Seven Spoons
One bowl chocolate cupcakes
Mocha Icebox Cake
Tangerine Almond Cake
Walnut Cake with Apple-Fig Compote 
Sugared Cream Scones 
Spiced pillow pancakes
Chocolate pots de crème 
Chockablock cheesecake squares
Condensed Milk Ice Cream 

A wee bit of sugar
Chocolate Cashew shortbread

...and many many more...before I dozed off!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Its Christmas once more!

This post of mine goes to the magical event on Meeta's blog titled 'Monthly Mingle'. For the month of December 2010, it is being hosted by Ria of Ria's Collections and the event theme is 'Chocolate Extravaganza'.Thanks ladies for the lovely event!:)

Its Christmas eve and I peer outside the glass windows of the store.Bells chime at the neighborhood Church and beautiful mistletoe wreaths adorn every door down the street. The snowflakes cascade down the clear blue sky,soft and white.As I walk past one of the houses, Rudolph the reindeer seems to wink at me mischievously ,hidden deep beneath a pile of snow in the garden with Santa manning the sledge - such a heart-warming sight!The nook above the keyhole on my main door has snow perched on it.It crushes at the slightest touch into a zillion shimmery splinters when I slowly prod the door ajar.The chill of the snow sears my now un-gloved palms. A thick layer of crunchy snow settles in a blanket on the fence outside my living room window.
Once inside the comfort of my home, I put the heater on and start embellishing my prized Christmas tree.I string up the lights and dangle them on the branches.A tiny stuffed bunny,boxes in cerulean blue with big yellow bows strapped across,shining stars and lovely tinkling bells strewn with silver tinsel looking like Moroccan Henna lamps adorn my coveted Christmas tree.A cake gets baked in the oven of my kitchenspace - a heady cinnamony aroma drifts through the house,peaking around the kitchenspace and then swirling about my decked up Christmas tree. It finally settles heavily in the Christmas air.
I put the television on and hear Doris Day melliflously sing 'Let it snow,let it snow,let it snow'. And what a lovely feeling it is!
I whiz back to the present and yes its Christmas time again - sans the snow,sans Doris Day!Yup I'm back to the city where I actually belong - the city of Bongs.And the city is celebrating Christmas in full glory.The lovely lights along Park Street, Harry Belafonte belting out Christmas tunes at Peter Cat, the bells toll at St.Paul's Cathedrals at the stroke of twelve,heralding the Midnight Mass.Christmas bells and carols reverberate throughout the city, drenching her in unadulterated Christmas fervor.

Christmas has always been a time for 'spic-and-span' fun.Everything feels so warm,cozy and lovey-dovey.For me,it was always a much-awaited entourage that would come with my music teacher tapping on the piano keys at school to Christmas carols and lovely feasts enjoyed with friends in the hallowed ambience of my alma mater.Not that I could make out much of the religious seriousness attached,but it would be a purely fun-filled time replete with the luxury of longers hours under the warm quilt in the morning, granted without furrowed eyebrows from my folks! An erstwhile 'study table' almost overloaded with paperbacks.Enid Blytons, Archie comics and Nancy Drews ruled the roost.The Hardy boys would not have my whole-hearted patronage at that point coz they proved to be too daring and frivolous for my standards. It was more Nancy Drew who kept me tamed and engrossed,almost subserviant for hours together.
And of course there would be Maa's piping hot Chicken Stew on Christmas day! As typical of Bongs,every delicacy for almost every celebration round the year revolved more or less around rice and curries.But for Christmas,it would be different.
Maa would cut up the potatoes into half-moons, cube up the juicy carrots.The onions would be diced up and shards of garlic,slivered ginger along with the onions and diced green chillies would be lightly sauteed in a heated wok.The chicken pieces,lightly dusted with salt and a pinch of turmeric powder,would next make way into the wok along with the potatoes and Maa would them put on the lid to let it simmer away.When almost cooked,Maa would sprinkle a pinch of black pepper on top and serve hot in large bowls.A loaf of freshly-baked bread would make way to the table and would be sliced up deftly as we looked on with gluttony eyes!And then we would dip in fat pieces on bread into the soup and gorge to our hearts' content,slurping off even the last piece of veggie dwindling at the bottom of the bowl!Ohh what heavenly peace!
The years have rolled by now,and we have crossed oceans to travel to different lands.But wherever we might be, the heart still harbors the lovely Christmassy memories from those childhood days of yore.I have managed to put together  a very simple yet slightly rich orange and whipped cream sponge cake infused with the striking bitterness of dark chocolate for Christmas this year.Would love to share the recipe with you!
Have a Merry merry Christmas and wish everyone lovely Holidays ahead!:)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Niramish Fulkopir Torkari ('Veg' Cauliflower curry)

The cauliflower or 'fulkopi' as we know it in Bengali, is a nutritious vegetable which plays a very important part in Indian cuisine.It has been widely adopted by various regional cuisines in India itself,let alone the cuisines of other cultures.

In some cuisines,the stalks and green leaves are also used,but for Bengali cooking,that is a strict no-no.Cauliflower is extremely rich in fiber,water and Vitamin C which makes it a very low-fat and nutritious vegetable.The most important aspect that deserves mention though,is that,it possesses certain anti-cancer compounds which have known to work very well in staving off tumours.

Having delved into the pedantic aspects of the 'fulkopi',we now move over to the real world where to me,the cauliflower is one vegetable which is astoundingly easy to cook.Apparently,the skill in cooking a fulkopi and making it tasty lies in cutting it up skillfully.If you have loved to have 'alu fulkopi koraishuti bhaja' or julienned and fried potato,cauliflower florets and peas,you would have realised that the skill lies in keeping the florets with stalk and keeping it from being mushly.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

There is something about Pujo!

This post of mine goes to Preeoccupied's lovely event titled 'Beyond five days of Durga Puja' and the 5th edition of 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks' hosted by PJ of 'Seduce Your Tastebuds'.Thanks PJ and Aqua for hosting this wonderful event.Wish you all a very happy Pujo!
I woke up quite early in the morning and drew the blinds aside. The wooden window panes open out to our neighbor’s garden, to the heady essence of nascent ‘Shiuli’ dripping from the early morning breeze. I stood with the window ajar as the balmy autumn breeze grazed my rested and still fresh skin. It was this time of the year again – the time when Maa Durga would travel back home to her earthly abode, kids in tow, and all hell would break loose for the quintessential Bong. 

It would be that time of the year when Bongs would come back home to be with family, do themselves up in all gorgeous finery, hang out with friends, gorge on delectables until the shirt buttons would threaten to go asunder; and the time when all memories of near and far would throng the senses and take one back in time to the times lived through.

 I was a moffusal girl long before I started calling Kolkata home. To as far as my memory reaches out, the cosmopolitan ambience that hung around the place seemed slightly removed from the ‘Sharodotshob Bangaliana’ but nevertheless, that would in no way be any less charismatic. The last day of exams would usually be on the threshold of Pujo,maybe just the day before Sasthi.Our little hearts wallowed in excitement as the exam days passed, albeit not timelessly. The post-exam animated conversations would revolve around the count of new dresses rather than the number of questions answered correctly. Who cared when ‘Pujo’ was just days away!!

With the silvery stalks of slender ‘Kashful’ swaying to the changing winds, the air would be heavy with the ‘Pujo pujo gondho’.A willowy breeze would tingle the senses towards evening and a thin blanket would inadvertently need to be curled around our sleeping selves towards morn – the beauty of autumn, the ushering in of winter.

As the weather readied itself for the Pujo, so did we. Hopping through each others places, we would marvel at the ‘Pujo collections’ from Mamas,Mashis,Pishis and Kakus. More than us, it would be a routine affair for Aunties to be at each other places, apparently to exchange pleasantries, but more so to make sure that nothing in-fashion had managed to elude their entourage!’Pujor Bajar sesh?’ would be the ubiquitous question to almost everyone we crossed paths with.

Finally on Sasthi morning, the resounding beats of the ‘Dhaak’ would make us jostle out of our slumber.Pujo finally! In our part of the world, there would just be one ‘Pujo pandal’ where everyone would gather together. It would be a community hall more or less decked up in ceremonial grandeur but very unlike the concept of ‘theme pujo’ that would be and still today is, the hallmark of Kolkata pandals. Sprinting from one pandal to another to catch an eyeful of the ‘Shilper shilpokari’ was something alien to us.For us, it would be just that one place, a piece of utopian bliss, for the four days to ensue.

While Sasthi passed on relatively unheralded,save for the beat of drums and ‘Bodhon’ to welcome the Goddess, Saptami morning would see us start getting into Puja finery.Bathed and clean, there would be a flutter in the heart as the first crinkle appeared on the new dress;the smell of starch in the folds infused with the light scent of the wardrobe mothballs.It would be the first time we saw the Mother Goddess, powerful and glorious in all Her splendour. Wide-eyed in awe, we would stand with our hands folded and marvel.It would not be much about what adorned the ‘Chalchitro’ or what color the Goddess wore her Sari or how fair was her daughter Saraswati – it was just about Her – the Mother Goddess.The sheer embodiment of woman power and the victory of Good over Evil – it felt as if ‘Maa Durga’ said it all with her expressionful eyes and Her message rang through.

Fun, frolic,laughter on Saptami night would give way to the sacred Ashtami morning.Time for Anjali!!Jostle,jostle,push,push…everyone had to make way through to the front. Who would want the sacred ‘Anjali’ flowers to miss Maa’s feet and land on someone else’s head!!I felt sorry for myself everytime - should have practiced hurling javelin maybe, just for this one special day!!’Purutmoshai’s baritone voice would ring out over the microphone as he seamlessly mouthed out the tough Sanskrit ‘Slokas’. Would feel bewildered.Ohh my,I could not get even half of the words right!I desperately hoped, with eyes tightly closed in howmuchever reverance I managed to gather within me,that the Mother Goddess understood my message,however gibberish it might have been.And I knew She would.

Anjali would be followed with the ‘
Proshad’ of ‘Luchi’ and ‘Bonde’. The ‘Luchi’ would be oily and shriveled, having being churned out eons ago, and would lose their girth, but yet the ambience would somehow infuse the same ‘Pujo pujo gondho’ in them and they would taste so good.The ‘Bonde’ would have the same pearly glisten on them and would taste lovely with the ‘Luchi’.The ‘short and sweet’ Proshad would be followed by ‘Astami bhog’ of piping hot Khichudi on skillfully woven ‘Shal patar thala’ (plates woven from the leaves of the ‘Shal’ tree). Often a crevice would peep out among the leaves of the ‘thala’ and the hot Khichudi would trickle down,searing the fingers. Some concerned Kaku nearby would dash off to bring another ‘shal patar thala’ and place it underneath to stave off the loss of Khichudi! With the Khichudi fiasco briskly tackled, the roving eye would now look around for the Beguni, very thinly cut slivers of aubergine or ‘Begun’ dipped in a viscous batter of Gramflour or ‘Besan’ and Rice flour, for the extra crispiness, and deep-fried in bubbling hot oil.All said and done, only after the Khichudi,laced with the leafy smell of the Shal pata, would be wiped clean off the ‘thala’ that we would remember to do the ‘Pronaam’.The ‘Pronaam’ would be a gesture of reverence shown to the Mother Goddess for the food at hand, and the sacrilege done would stealthily be dismissed with a humble reference to Maa Durga’s magnanimous ability to forgive and forget!What less from us opportunistic humans!

The ninth day of the Goddess’s stay on earth, or ‘
Nabami’ would turn out to be a tricky mismash of emotions. A part of the heart would bear an unsavoury heaviness – the Goddess was almost at the end of her itinerary.But then, there would be one WHOLE day that She would stay with us!Uptil Ashtami, everything would have a sacred touch to it. But come Nabami, and the fashion fairy would rule our wardrobes!Eluding admonishing glares to refrain from walking over the fence, the most ‘happening’ attire would make its way out from the ‘Pujo collection’.A mesmerized look here, a coy smile there - everything would leave a magical trail of sugar and spice! It felt like the Mother Goddess was emptying out even the smallest speck of mirth in her kitty before she bid her final adieu!

The strains of the ‘Dhaak’ would have a mellowed and mournful beat on Dashami morning.Finally time for Maa Durga to leave – another year, another autumn, another circle of life.

It would feel like the past few days had passed off in sheer euphoria, but reality now poked in its ugly head. Time to go back to books, to exams, to school with stern teachers belting out nerve-wracking Math problems.

Something would get caught up in our throats, as Maa would leave the ‘Pujor pandal’ amidst heavy hearts and strains of ‘Aschhe bochor, abar hobe’. ‘Purutmoshai’ would be on his toes,  literally hurling the sacred ‘Shanti jol’ with a three-sprigged ‘Belpata’ on everyone in sight, taking care that no mortal in his vicinity was left dry!Bijoya Dashami would ensue and so would the long wait for another long year to pass by.For Pujo to come, for ‘Kashful’ and ‘Shiuli’, for Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s ‘Mahishasur Mardini’ on Mahalaya….for ‘Dhunuchi naach’, for ‘Anjali’…for Maa Durga to come home again!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Brown rice Pilaf and the art of letting go!

I have always believed in storing up things. 

As a kid, I would habitually be gifted with little pieces of jewelry, some with colorful beads, some sparkly and shimmery from friends and from cousins who would drop by occasionally. My precious stones found refuge in an old wooden jewelry box, which had been a part of my Maa’s jewelry entourage once upon a time.

Years later, when the weevils bore umpteen holes into the sides of the wooden box, I shifted the jewelry from the box and tucked them away in a muslin-cloth bag, also a gift from a friend. I had stopped wearing them by that time, because I had gone past the age of donning colorful, mismatched plastic beads by that time, but never did it strike me that I could actually throw them away! Once or twice, when I would make up my mind to actually do away with them, something tugged at my heart strings – these were a part of my childhood memories, gifts from people I loved. I could not throw them away; such was the possessiveness that hung onto me for these old, unused trinkets. Somewhere deep inside, I always felt that these were a part of the times that I have lived.

After I left home for my studies, my folks decided to shift base and move to a new apartment that they had purchased. My Maa busied herself in the mammoth task of arranging to move over to a new place. Unfurling my possessions, she came across my muslin-cloth bag with the trinkets kept safe in them. The next time I called home, Maa was on the phone querying me what I would want her to do with them. I felt a lunge again, the same tug that I had felt years ago. But this time, it seemed less intense and less important. I had grown-up and so many other things now needed my attention. An old bag of junk jewelry that was all it was! Without much ado, I asked of them to be disposed off with the next bag of garbage. No space for things that I would probably never ever use, I thought!

Long after that, sitting alone with my cuppa, my mind would often go back to that wizened old muslin cloth bag, protecting my mesh of entangled, colored beads. I would feel guilty of letting go of such a precious thing, a thing I had kept so close to my heart all these years. Somewhere inside, I felt the guilt of betraying my own sentiments.

As the years passed, and I go entangled in the throes of life, I longed for things, for materialistic possessions and started nurturing dreams about these possessions. But as the wise men say, dreams do not always come true. I started realizing and learning that we often need to let go of things in life to have happiness and peace in return. I slowly started letting go of things - it would be difficult at first, but then time started healing it. I started feeling lighter in my head and mind. Maybe this is what peace felt like, I thought.

I managed to walk through the letting-go phase unscathed. It now feels so easy to let go! Often the things you hold on to so dearly, give you such pain and dismay, but letting go of them gives you a new breath. Maybe I started learning it the day I let go of the old bag of muslin, with all my precious jewelry inside it!

Speaking of letting-go, I could not let go of the bag of Brown Rice, however! I had written about it in one of my earlier posts. I had a whole bag of Brown Basmati Rice nestling in my kitchen cabinet and it was eons ago that I made Brown Rice pudding using the rice. One on of the recent weekends, I tried rustling up Brown Rice Pilaf with chicken. Pilaf is a mid-western version of the ‘Pulao’ or ‘Pulav’ that we so often cook in our Indian kitchens. My Pilaf was however a drier version of the ‘Pulao’ and I preferred cooking the rice and vegetables and chicken separately. Cooking the Brown Rice in water actually makes the husk split up and come in the way of it savouriness. So here goes, my version of Brown Rice Pilaf with chicken. Enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

And the brown rice steals the show!

It had been a cosy Saturday afternoon sometime in November last year.The nip had already set in and the air felt chilly when it bristled against the skin.The stairs at the porch of our deck basked in the soft sunrays as a couple of us gathered for an impromptu gossip.One thing lead to another when all of a sudden,one of us came up with the idea of having Chicken Biriyani that night.We would have ample time on our hands to get together all the ingredients and once done,we would put on our aprons and get to work with lots of chatter,a munch here and a sip there!It would be a day well-spent!

No sooner had we put our minds to work, the chicken made its way way to the kitchen and one of us busied ourselves in washing it well and soaking it into the marinade.An expert chopper snipped her knife mercilessly through a couple of big,white onions,letting them roll out into white filigreed slivers.The chillies would be next and the others would follow.
Time rolled by,and by evening we had everything at hand;the chicken nestled cosily in the refrigerator,the succulent juices of the marinade inundating the insides.The spices laid out on the counter.Everything seemed perfect,but for the rice!Ohh so we had to get the long-grained Basmati rice from the nearest Indian store before we even started.Thank heavens that someone remembered!

The zip-locked packet of India Gate Basmati Rice saw us through.The zipper flew and out came the first handful of rice.But what was this?Heaped on a palm was this long-grained rice albeit one that was brown in color,not white and had the coarse husk about it.It did even seem polished!My, my...so there was this whole packet of brown rice which sat on our counter at eight in the evening.Did someone say we were supposed to have Biriyani?A virulent mayhem ensued, a couple of long faces - and soon enough,another bag of pristine white polished long-grained rice had been fetched from the store.The brown rice was banished somewhere,no one cared to know where.The Biriyani seemed divine that night after all that trepidation!

A long time passed by after that,and then I happened to chance upon the same bag of brown rice,sulking in the deepest abyss of my kitchen counter a couple of days back.I would in no way throw away these precious grains,the wordlywise mind thought.It does not bear the quintessential fragrance of its whiter twin,the same look or even the same taste for that matter,but then it is rice after all!I went hunting down recipes,lovely ones that would make the brown rice seem worthwhile.And lucky me, find out I did!I managed to lay my hands on this lovely Brown Rice Pudding from Madhuram's blog for eggless cooking and just tweaked it a bit to prepare the pudding which I will write about in today's post.There are couple of more recipes with brown rice that I eventually tried out and will post them in later posts.Thanks so much Madhuram, for sharing your recipe and letting me borrow it.The rice pudding earned me a thousand pats-on-the-back and it was indeed contentment galore!
Linking up this post to 'Fresh Food Friday' at Roz's place 'la bella vita'...
...and 'Let's do Brunch' at April's place!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A day by the lake shore

The past weekend was a nice one!We had been having hectic schedules recently and an outing to lift our cranky moods would almost be elixir to us.So out came our thinking cups over our evening cups of coffee one day.We have been staying in this place long enough to have explored almost every nook and cranny that seemed to peek out from Google maps!But this would in no way be a visit to a place we had been before - it had to be a completely unexplored one!

After much debate and deliberations, we finally zeroed in on a place that had somehow managed to escape our attention this long!Plans of a visit to Sauble beach was immediately chalked out.Sauble beach, on the eastern shores on Lake Huron in Ontario, is a picturesque stretch of beach area and the favorite haunt of beach-goers on a hot summer weekend.Cruising along on a three hour long drive, we drove along country roads through small counties, some quaint, some queer and some upscale. We passed the town of Garafraxa, the name being more of a tongue-twister! The green fields of Chatworth passed by as I managed to capture the shingle of a lake respledent under the sun in its bluish-green hue. Driving past Hepworth and Abermarle, we finally entered Wiarton. The faintest tip of Wiarton along the town of South Bruce Peninsula is the Sauble beach. The name traces back to a French origin, when French inhabitants named the beach after the Sauble river which meets Lake Huron near the Sauble Falls.
The beach lay dotted with merry beach-goers lazing to their heart's content under the hot summer sun.The waters seemed a myriad mix of blue and brown with whitish waves lapping against the beach.A paintbrush was at work when beautiful billowy clouds adorned the otherwise azure skies.Everywhere, the colors seemed to play havoc setting aflutter every heart that was fortunate enough to be reveling here.
We intended to touch down upon Sauble Falls on our way back, and so we did!The Falls seemed to be a paupery remnant of some gushing waterfall once upon a time that had nevertheless stood the sands of time.The placid waters rippled mindlessly upon jagged rocks with a soft murmuring sound and finally nestled on a bed of rocks at the foot of the falls. 
The rays of the setting sun playfully mingled with the lime-green leaves of the trees around the lake as the heart heaved a gentle sigh!It was finally time to go back home.At that moment, it felt like I understood what Wordsworth actually meant when he penned the lines "And oft when on my couch I lie, in vacant or in pensive mood/ They flash upon thy inward eye which is the bliss of solitude." 
I unwittingly admit that this is indeed a very uncouthly put version of the happiness and peace that I happened to experience somewhere deep inside my heart, but the ripple of the gurgling stream and the surge of the lashing waves still ring in my mind and undoubtedly, the stupor still pervades!For today's post, I leave my readers with the exhilaration of my trip and memories abound.See you again shortly with another of my culinary creations!So long, happy reading!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Koraishutir Kochuri - the green peas magic and more!

This post of mine goes to the fabulous event titled 'A.W.E.D- Indian Cuisine' started by DK of 'Chef in You' and being hosted by Ayeesha in her lovely blog 'Taste of Pearl City'
Phew!It was a long day at work today.Loads of work unfolded the moment I entered my overloaded mailbox early in the morning.The hours ticked by as I shuffled about my desk,sifting through the paperwork and mincing with numbers and figures. By the time I wrapped up,the sun was still high up in the sky.When I first set foot in this part of the world, I would be in awe to see the sun gleaming down at us  even at eight in the evening.In the country of my birth, eight in the evening is almost like deep in the night!

I never remember when I had rested my head on a pillow and dozed off till the soft pitter-patter of raindrops woke me up.Big droplets of rain were somersaulting on the awning atop my neighbors doorway.We have quite a funny arrangement in the apartment that I live.The window in my bedroom overlooks the doorway that leads to the front door of my neighbor above.It sounds sort of weird,but then the arrangement is convenient in the sense that we do not come into each other's way when we go out or come in.There is the much needed space that everyone has a willful right to, I guess.

Anyway, I shook myself up and clambered out of the unkempt bed with slumber till clinging on heavily to my benumbed senses.I rolled down the blinds and there it was!Sharp shards of summer rain lashing straight onto my porch and shiny droplets of water waiting to roll off the velvety green leaves.My mind wandered to muddy roads and small puddles of water on which I would set afloat small boats fashioned hurriedly out of newspapers, as a kid!And yes,the earthy cinnamony fragrance of summer rains seeping into the parched mud.The same smell that reminds me of the rains back home.

I had a friend team up with me this Sunday to churn out Koraishutir Kochuri (a deep-fried bread made with flour and stuffed with spiced green pea mush) and Aloor Dum (a spicy potato curry prepared the Bengali way) from the larder.The combination of Kochuri and Aloor Dum, an oft-repeated delicacy in almost all Bengali homes, made us wallow in the aroma of the magical spices that wafted through hearth and home.It was a Sunday well spent and well-fed!

For today's post, I will post our Koraishutir Kochuri and Aloor Dum recipe,the way we had prepared it.It may not be the traditional rendition and that is a disclaimer I owe to all my readers.Nevertheless, it is the rendition that we managed to churn out and forgive me for gloating sheepishly but I must say,you can give it a try.So long,happy reading and happy cooking!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rotini pasta with chicken and veggies

I am sending this post to Presto Pasta Nights # 205 being hosted by Debbie at her space 'Debbie Does Dinner' , 'Hearth and Soul Blog Hop # 39' and 'These Chicks Cooked Link Party- Featuring your Best Recipes #29' at Katie's place!!

So here I am back,after a longish self-imposed exile.For those of you who might be wondering where I had been all these months (the last post I had written was in May), I was visiting home. I have been back for quite sometime now but I guess procrastination got the better of me as it has been doing always!:)

Anyway,it was so great to be back here after the hiatus.I have been doing a good amount of cooking in the meantime and had been clicking away photos of my creations in all glory.I start off my return innings by posting a pasta recipe which is extremely simple to make but astonishingly yummy,given the time and effort to cook it.All I needed was some vegetables and a few things which are almost manna for any pasta recipe.I will not say I am a regular with pasta because in reality I actually am quite scared of cooking pasta.The impish devil inside my head keeps on giving me scary premonitions about over-boiling the pasta and turning it into an inedible mush.But the rotini pasta proved to be quite tame and malleable and saved me from sacrilege whatsoever!So if I could cook pasta,with all these challenges to wrestle with,I bet anyone can.So here goes my rotini pasta recipe!Happy cooking!:)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A scathed ego and a 'fishy' balm!

The little boy was nudging me gently at my knees.That was what he could reach upto with his tiny rounded shoulder.I bent down to listen to him.He looked slightly grumpy and something was bothering him.I lent him a ear and posed to be very attentive to what he was going to say.The sparkling eyes shone like little blackish-brown marbles,the tears held tightly behind a flared up and bruised ego.I gently looked at him and he finally spoke up "Your room already looks so messy,Aunty.I know Uncle does'nt feel good with you gone."

The words stayed with me althrough my eighteen hours flight back home.The young chap had spoken up his mind,something that the Husband could not do but had been trying to do for quite sometime now.For the past few days that I had been packing up,he somehow seemed a bit distant.And the repercussion was so funny that I could not stifle a laughter,even amidst all my woes!I have always been very critical towards a largish dollop of butter or a heaped spoonful of Ghee,lest it add to the layers of adipose at the complacent midriff and turn it into a billowy sack!The husband had always given in to my fanaticism until this day,when two heapfuls of Ghee made way to his plate of hot rice.My instant admonishment met with a smirk and a curt whiplash,which when interpreted,meant that now when I was going to be away(as if deliberately!),how was I to bother,even if he turned into a veritable sack!It was childish but it was touching...a crude way of letting me know how much I would be missed. The words got caught up somewhere in my throat.

And then there was our neighbor,this little boy,who would love to hop into our apartment and have a hearty time.Somehow,the undercurrent of emotions had him caught in between and the pint-sized mind sensed our distress.And the words tumbled out.I never felt great from the moment I learnt that we would have to stay apart for sometime,owing to our respective professional engagements.Although it would only be for a month or so,it still felt so overwhemingly hurting!It seems naive to say so in a world where long-distance relationships and couples staying apart are so part of the moving world,but it takes oodles of grit just to let that happen.Leaving behind loved ones to fend for themselves is no easy choice.To the keepers of society,we are the unpardonably sinister perpetrators out to ruin the social decree of man-woman equations in the circle of life.But little do they understand the emotional cataclysm that one has to see oneself through before taking the plunge.

Be that as it may,I could not leave the Husband all on his own without having him partake a portion of my culinary know-how.When the gut starts to howl,little does it know that the chef is out for a stroll and trying to reason would have the same consequences as singing an out-of-tune lullaby to a groggy,sleepy baby!So I set up an impromptu cooking class and what else but fish was the first on my menu - 'Pabda machher jhaal.'Pabda' or Indian Butterfish is a very sophisticated fish, fit for a special spread and 'Jhaal' is Bengali for a lightly spiced gravy flavored with turmeric,cumin and coriander with fiery green chilies thrown in.After all,the Bengali and the fish have always been so blatantly inseparable!The Husband turned out to be an ardent learner(a hitherto unknown trait;)) and soon there was a plate of hot,simmering 'Macher Jhaal' right on the table.For today's post,I will share this uber-simple recipe...the one that even the accidental chef could charm me with!Happy cooking! 

Were you ever faced with a proposition similar to mine?In this fast-paced world,I'm sure many of you have.Share your experiences with me as I did.Maybe a word or two will ease your mind,just as it did for me!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yesterday once more...of crispy French Toast and crispier memories

This is the first Food Fiction entry in my blog.And thanks to Bong Mom,Sra and Aquadaze,this is also my entry to Aquadaze's event 'Of chalks and chopsticks'.Thanks to the trio for coaxing out our writing juices from their shrivelled selves...Happy reading!:)

I fell in love the first time when I was 16.The first day he came over to our place,it was an official visit.He was supposed to give me lessons in maths.Not a regular teacher but to help me out with my studies.An erudite elder cousin,whom my mother had somehow yoked in to tutor me,was finding it hard to make time and so he had brought in a close friend to do it.I passed on my textbook for him to take a look and he motioned me to sit down.Sitting close to him I felt weird.He pored into the book while I stole glances.He was not handsome but there was a simple elegance about him. He had a stoic look in his eyes but the gaze was soft and went deep inside.This way or the other,I was not interested somehow to be taught by him and the initial reaction was disappointment.I was angry with my cousin!

The lessons went on and before long I forgot being angry.He had a nice way of teaching.He had a strange calming aura which he wore around him always.He would be in the moment always,not in the past not in the future.And the gaze.Behind his glasses,he had soft sensitive kind eyes.As the lessons went on,I gradually found myself waiting for his classes.

My Maa made lovely crispy French toast almost everyday that he would come over for my classes.She would break the eggs,mix in the chopped onions and green chillies and with an expert hand,strew over a pinch of salt.White loaves of bread would be cut into halves,dipped in the beaten eggs and soon the aroma of fried eggs and onions would waft through as he would delve deeper into explaining the equation of a hyperbolic curve.One evening,when the table had become too crammed with books,Maa asked me to pass on the plate to him.I was passing it over to him,when our hands touched.It was unintentional,but it took me a second to retrace my hand.He did'nt look up but the sensation took time to go.Something struck me somewhere and that night I lay awake thinking of nothing in particular.It was a hitherto unknown feeling.I thought And thought and everything seemed to be hazy.There was something going on in my head...but I knew not what.

The next morning I knew what it was.I was surprised and happy.I never realized that I had actually started liking the person so much.And French toast.It somehow reminded me of our classes and of him.I said a silent prayer.

I started waiting up for the days when he would visit.He was slowly getting into the intricacies of the real world.His studies were getting over and it was time to think about life ahead.I had a pretty blurred view of all this and thinking about that would seem like the last thing to do at that moment.It was now a long time that we had met and he was much warmer than before.His stolid and firm countenance now gave way to a subtle smile which would now appear quite often on his face.I would muster the courage to cough up convenient one-liners which he would appreciate and enjoy.If the smile on his face would be because of what I said, I would feel like the drudgery of the whole day has been washed away in a second.And I would glow inside.

I passed my tests with flying colors and the grades surprised even him.He was happy and I was the happiest.I had done something to make him smile his beautiful smile again.It felt like the best time of my life.But then the truth started setting in.He had just got a splendid opportunity to study overseas and it would build him a good future.To me it was heartbreaking to even think him go,but I kept my feeling of disappointment from him. I never understood if he ever realised how I felt about him and my naivete kept me from letting him know.But I knew that he enjoyed my company.Or so I thought.

He left after a final and proper goodbye at our home.That evening I felt rotten to the hilt.It felt as if the juices of a succulent life had withdrawn from my insides leaving it wiry and emaciated.I felt hollow.The smile of my face stood perfect and not for one second did I show him the remorse I had.I never wanted him to leave and I never wanted the evening to end.I kept on watching him go from our balcony.Something told me that maybe I had lost him forever.

But I was wrong.The first letter arrived and it was a total surprise.Ohh,so he remembers me,I thought with glee!I tried to smell him inside the folds of the letter.He had touched it with his hands,penned down the words.He was there all over it.I was overwhelmed and sure that he had finally understood my feeling.It was a battle half won,almost effortlessly.The letter told me that he had taken out time in between his numerous chores to write the letter.And he asked me the recipe for French toast-the way my Maa made it.lt brought me closer to him as I never had before.I was finally getting to be a part of his life...maybe.

The letters gradually cut down on the number of pages.It would initially be four or five pages,scribbled on both sides.The later ones would no longer need to be stapled.That would be obvious,I reasoned to myself;his courseload must be getting heavier and that would naturally leave him with less time to write me long letters.But it hurt somewhere.It was always as if I expected this every moment but could not accept it when it actually happened.Because inside me,I hated this to happen.The letters grew few and far between and finally stopped coming.I almost said to myself that I should no longer be expecting anything more.I had after all never made it clear to him.The usual knack for taking responsibility for everything that I was not even responsible for took over me.

But then he remembered me.Almost two years had passed by,when he visited us again.I was both happy and dismayed to see him.All this time I could never forget him.He was there with me every moment that I lived.When I failed to concentrate on my studies, his eyes would give me a gentle stare and I would be back to work.I lived and breathed him.Without him knowing even an ounce of it.I was amazed at myself.I wanted to tell him how badly I wanted his presence back but I only managed a curt smile.The small talk came to a pregnant silence when he reached into his duffel bag and brought out his wedding card.He was getting married.And the purpose of his visit was to invite us to his wedding,the most important event of his life.My insides suddenly grew cold;so cold that I could not feel the life inside it.My mind went blank.I let out a jolly smile and asked him how he fell in love.He happily narrated how he had fallen in love with this girl who had been a friend of one of his closest friends.It was not love at first sight but the subsequent meetings had gradually brought them closer.So close that one day they realised that it was time to walk down the aisle.My breath got stuck somewhere in the abyss of my dark black heart and I felt ill at ease.

It was time for him to leave again.I offered to walk him to the door.The happiness in his heart had made him such a changed man.He seemed happier,merrier and more cheerful than I ever had seen him be.I realised that he has found his ultimate happiness almost the same time that I lost mine.We engaged in unnecessary small talk.I wanted the door to be nearer than ever before.Bidding him a passive goodbye,I could feel him look at me.The soft sensitive guileless eyes as he walked down the stairs.I froze that moment in time.I knew there were things that would remind me of him...the aroma of Maa's French toast,my math textbooks,the memories of our brief time together...and I promised to live with all of it my life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Soul curry and a New Year!Subho Noboborsho!

I celebrated the Bengali New Year at home in India this year!The year 1417(lest you get petrified,the Indian-Bengali calendar does have a different calculation and algorithm altogether,hence the year is not 2010 but 1417!) seeped into me very smoothly and joyfully over delectable Bengali recipes prepared very lovingly by my Maa,who was seeing her little one home after quite some time:).

 Life here is so different from the place 20 hours away...but it seems cakewalk now to gel smoothly into wherever I am at whichever time.Just 20 hours ago,I would be trotting the sidewalk,running to catch the Transit bus to work and a mere 20 hours later,I would be basking in the glory of having my family fussing over me,over my 'unecessarily' busy schedule at work in a foreign land,over my 'ruining' health and slimmed-down waistline,which to me seems chic and trendy though!;)Idiosyncracies of a race amuse me.Seems quite imposing and beleaguring at times when one is suddently faced with the proposition of having the reigns of one life affectionately seized from one's hands.I agree that my ways are at times uncouth,the lifestyle in shambles...but still there is a certain zing is all the disarray.But then probably the emotions and affections of people who care for you actually lies bundled up somewhere in their assumed ownership over your life.A difficult situation to comprehend but a heart-warming thought to cherish:)I'm sure you must have had a feel of this subtle affection some way and sometime in your life,have'nt you?

Be that as it may,I had a hearty time feasting on all the lip-smacking delicacies!I thought of posting the recipe for 'Chingri maach diye doi fulkopi' or Cauliflower curry in yogurt sauce with shrimp.This is a lovely hot and sweet preparation with the spiciness of a curry laced with the piquance of yogurt, infused althrough with the subtle sweetness of juicy,turgid raisins.