Monday, August 8, 2011

When a sultry South African met a Moroccan lover...

Sometimes a heavy dose of reality can take a toll on your spirits. It’s not that I have any issues with reality. But just some days you wish life was kinder. I wish people would smile more, hug more, and kiss more. I wish people would live like there is no tomorrow. If that’s too much to ask. I wish we would let others live like that.... And hey, when I say people it includes me too.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have our realities highlighted with music? The suspense, the joy, the quiet and the solitudes highlighted with a background score! Just like the movies. Imagine drum rolls, every time my family takes the first bite of my freshly baked cake. A nice jazz number when I am working on the dough. Violin when I am peeling onions. A lovely Kumar Sanu, when relishing the Malabar lamb biriyani. Reality would be so much better with some song. But the one of the things that makes reality such a great place to be is the experience of tastes, the feel of textures, the pampering of your most erogenic zone: the mouth. Well! I can most certainly spruce up my reality with some fine food and drink.
Today I choose a fruit and a drink to add colour to our sometimes lacklustre existence. Very simple things. But glorious in texture, flavour and aroma.
A trip to town landed me in the much talked about fruit and vegetable shop called ‘Spring Never Ends’. A cute air-conditioned place with vegetables of local flavour and the exotic kinds (read imported). From broccoli to all kinds lettuces. From cherries from Tuscany to South African pears. It was such a treat for sore eyes. I wanted to pick up everything. And after much mulling settled on some leeks, peppers (yellow, green and red) baby corn and mushrooms. Like the cream on the cake, some luscious and juicy soft South African pears followed. And today the pear is one of the protagonists. The sexy sultry siren of my story (Imagine curtains rising and strumming guitars).

The first bite of this curvaceous beauty just swept me off my feet. My mouth experienced no resistance. The juicy flesh succumbed to my teethy onslaught in total abandon. Firm on the outside, the insides leaves you unprepared for the soft to the bite texture oozing juice. Not to mention the earth-spinning sweetness.I just closed my eyes and sat back to relish in the experience. And to think a simple pear could do this to me.

But the real hero of the story is the drink. A foreigner too. A true blooded Moroccan Mint flavoured green tea. A full bodied experience of flavour. Now this is what I call tea. For the past five years I’ve been having green tea every morning. So much so I can’t live without it now. I have tried all kinds. Different brands. Both local and foreign. But this Moroccan dude simply takes the cake. What makes this tea special is the obvious character of mint flavour. A sip of this tea from a nice tumbler on a wet monsoon afternoon on my balcony has turned to be that time of the day I look forward to most. I coaxed my husband to try the same. Now he loves it to. He claims it is helping his stomach which is definitely overworked from all that eating outs. Regular green tea is usually null and void of aroma. But the mint in this one simply awakens your senses. But the best feature is after you sip the tea your insides feel it has just experienced the most soothing massage. It makes a great after meal mint treat too.

The tea was a gift from a good friend Javed Parvesh. Thank you Javed for introducing me to this Moroccan lover. It has done wonders to my insides ;-)
And this is the story of how a beautiful pear and a full bodied foreigner, married in the chapel of my insides. Giving birth to new experiences. (Hmmm. Right here we can have Strauss’s Blue the background score.)
A remedy for those days when my reality goes south. Of course! Life can be very interesting.
Reality rocks! (The drum rolls....)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Eat Less. Pray more. Love all.

To eat less, pray more and love all was my New Year resolution and I realised I never got around to putting it to practise. But I guess it’s never too late to start midyear. It’s not like the year is over yet.

Eat less: This always holds true for me. Whenever I cook a lot I eat less. I become satiated by the process. Also the simple joy of serving the food just fills me up. I would gladly go without a meal if there were enough people eating from my table.

Pray more: I had gotten so busy with life...that I was hardly looking up to Him. You know talking to Him, about I used to. Let’s just say I forgot that he was driving my car called life. Past one week I just began to tire out thinking I was driving it the whole while....What a laugh! How vain we are. Us humans. We think we are in control of everything. But the truth is we are not in charge at all. “Why, even all the hairs on your head have been counted!” by Him. So He says “Stop being afraid. You are worth more than a bunch of sparrows." “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Love all: To love is to live. There is no other way to live other than with love. Like my dad says - to love is a decision one takes anew every morning. And anyone can take that decision to love anyone in any circumstances. So what could be possibly stopping me from loving all?
Therefore today I choose to bake a carrot cake. It’s healthy and has a lot of goodness. I usually bake it for Christmas. But I feel Christmas is here already. New realisations have been born in my heart. THats what Christmas is all about, isn't it?

This carrot cake is made with grated carrots and dates or raisins. You can try it too...
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups grated carrots
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts
3/4 cup chopped dates or raisins


Beat together eggs, sugar, oil, grated carrots and vanilla. Sift together
The flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices; gradually add to
Carrot mixture and beat to blend well. Fold in chopped nuts and dates or
Bake in a greased 10-inch tube pan at 375° for about 55 to 65 minutes.
A wooden pick inserted in centre should come out clean.

Soul Food

Fish Moilee and Snake Gourd and Lentil Thoran

So my mission to cook and heal successfully completed day 1 and I am on to day 2.

I had some pomfrets in my freezer and one long snake gourd in the vegetable tray. Like any day I would've cooked that like one more chore. A task I had to finish off and go on to other 'important things'. But today unlike the days before the 'the important thing' was to cook this fish with as much passion and love I could muster.
Cleaning the fish,mentally cleaned out all the dirt in my mind. The feeling of hopelessness some how remained. When I marinated the fish with a salt and turmeric I could almost feel my wounds burning. But burning was good. Burning meant it was healing. I took out an earthen pan which I had never used before. This somehow meant I was testing waters and ready to venture out from my hopelessnes. I put the pan on the flame. Poured some coconut oil and spluttered some mustard and added a a pinch of fenugreek seeds, a sprig of curry leaves. After it had done with the sizzling and spluttering, I added the sliced onion and some split green chillies. The heady aroma of onion being cooked in coconut oil transported me to the land of hope. Suddenly hope didn't seem a distant faraway land. It was near. Added some very thin coconut milk and then added the cleaned and marinated Pomfrets. The fish cooked in this thin loose gravy for a while and then I added some tomatoes. Closed the lid let the fish cook for a bit. And then...I poured this luxuriantly thick creamy coconut milk. Not too much of it though, probably 1/3 cup. And voila the fish moilee was ready and so was my soul...ready to start a day.

The snake gourd was kind of shrivelled up. I Thought it looked like the state of my heart. How do you work on something so out of juice. Just required a little imagination. After the fish dish..I had some hope left. Enough to work magic on this long snake gourd. So took the simple humble toor dal boiled and added that to the chopped snake gourd and stir fried it dessicated coconut seasoned with herbs and spices.
The simple dal salvaged the shrivelled snake gourd (read heart). I felt whole again. Not bad for day 2 of healing.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

For the love of coffee!

I tried this coffee. Though I am not much of a coffee person, this coffee simply swept me off my feet. Try it.
It helped me look at the brighter side of life. I realised Oh! I am so disgustingly full of myself. Let go the coffee said. And let go I did.

Whole wheat pizza made me realise how important family is.

I was looking out for a pizza recipe as my son was asking for it a whole week. But I was too busy nursing a bruised heart. What a drama queen i have turned out to be. It wasn't the end of the world at all. But I just couldn't let go of my disappointment and hurt. Anyway..thanks to good friends. A particular friend teased the hell out of me. He said grow up and move on. And at 36 it's about time I grew up and out of all this.

So i decided to make pizza for my son. While surfing the net for recipes, without thinking or any deliberation I seemed to be sorting out 'healthy' options. I am cooking for family..I am cooking for my son. He needs to eat healthy. So I chose this whole wheat pizza base recipe which read simple.

Here it is:

1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top and let it stand for about 10 minutes.

Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole flour and 1 cup of all- purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto the surface floured with the remaining all purpose flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of the dough becomes smooth for about 10 minutes. Place dough in a oiled bowl and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with towel and let it stand in a warm place until doubled in size, for about an hour.
When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out into a floured surface and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust or leave the whole to make one thick crust. Form into tight ball let it rise for 45 minutes
Preheat oven to 220 C. Roll out the dough until it will not stretch any further. Then drape it over both of your fist and swing it high.
I let mine land flat on the dish. :-)

Spread the garlic rich, herb infused tomato sauce. Arranged some chicken salami, grated some mozerella and parmesan. Also some sundried tomatoes topped the pizza.
baked for 20 minutes. Served hot with a glass of passion fruit juice.
My son hugged me tight.
What a reward! what a healing !