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The Weeper

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The Weeper is a woman who cries. She cries because her heart brims with unspoken hurt, feelings and emotions she wants to express but can’t.

Why one might ask? Because she is an  epitome of a woman harboring strength and courage. Out of respect, out of compassion, out of gratitude. A woman who lives for the greater good by sacrificing her rights, her ego and herself to accommodate the greater egos she faces in life.

The Santorini Dream

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Another one of my Samsung Sketchbook creations. I definitely want to sketch this into this reality. Basking under the balmy heat, gazing at the endless blue sky, eyes feasting on the the burst of magenta haze of the bougainvillea and the muted greens of the  luscious olive groves…..stuff Santorini is made of.

imageRam and I have been clearing out the pantry and using up items rarely used. And one of them being couscous. My experience with couscous is quite limited. I bought it with the hope of doing some salads or dishes but never got around to it. But every time I think of couscous I still recall the couscous soaked in ragout which I had in “Ragu” which was sublime.

I first scoured the internet for ragout recipes but I didn’t have ingredients for most of them. I lost my patience and said you know what I am just going to let my creativity out loose.

It was so yummy I just had to write this down. And fairly healthy too. Come on what can beat that! Flavours and healthy food in the same sentence, how often does one hear that!

Ingredients:

2-3 red onions chopped long
1 head of garlic
2 tsp chilli flakes
4 tomatoes roughly chopped
2-3 tsp of capers
1/4 pumpkin chopped into small cubes
1-2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 pinch of nutmeg powder
1 tsp of cumin powder
1 tbsp of honey/ 1 tbsp of brown sugar
4 cups of stock
Salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

For the couscous:
2 cups couscous
2.5 cups hot stock

Method:
Heat olive oil in the pan. Throw in the chilli flakes, garlic and onion and sweat it down until it starts to brown. Add your cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and salt. Then throw in your capers and tomatoes. Let the tomatoes shrink in the heat and then add your pumpkin and give it a good old toss. After a couple of minutes or so, add your sugar/honey and then pour in your stock. Close with a lid, turn down the heat to medium and let the mixture stew nicely for a good 30-40 minutes with the occasional stir.

This is the same concept as tagine. When something is cooked with a closed lid the flavours expand exponentially. The ragout takes on the vapours, aromas, its own juices heightening the flavour to extents unimaginable. The explosion of flavours is something undeniable even for a fussy eater.

When that’s stewing on, add 2 cups of couscous to a saucepan/bowl. Add the 2.5 cups of stock. Use cling wrap to close the couscous and let it sit for 5 minutes. After this time, remove cling warp, using a fork fluff out the couscous. Just be mindful different couscous have different cooking instructions. So cook the couscous according to your packet instructions.

When serving, portion out some couscous in a pasta bowl. Ladle out that gorgeous ragout and here comes yet another surprise. Some of my avocados were starting to ripen, so for garnish I just shaved off the avos on top and the creaminess of avocados just worked. I don’t know how, somehow everything gelled and made sense. Were it not for remembering portion control I would have gone back for seconds or thirds.

What better way to end your Sunday than a hearty home cooked meal that takes your taste buds around the world.

‘The unwritten’

 

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I feel absolutely cheated! Short changed! Furious!

I absolutely loathe book publishers at this point who kill a brilliant series all for the sake of numbers. Bah!

So here I was following this bloody brilliant and highly imaginative book series by author Victoria Laurie called “Oracles of Delphi Keep”. I was too into the series, a good 3 books deep. And frantically scouring book websites and the Internet to check when the next instalment in the series was out. And guess what I found, a teensy note from the author that there won’t be a fourth and final book because her publisher said so. And now you know why I am absolutely livid with the aforementioned parties.

What happened to good old “wanting to know how it all ends”… what of the value of the written word…what about putting readers and avid fans out of misery….oh the fallen justice…publishers have mercy.

This writers’ ability to make the readers live the story and be a part of the journey and adventure is mesmeric and powerful. And when something like this happens, you know what it feels like? imagine us going on full throttle on the highway and kaboom there’s no more road all of a sudden. And you are clueless on what just hit you!

Here we are witnesses to the talent being crushed underfoot without value for intellect, creativity or imagination. In this day and age of boundless talent shows and reality TV, where it’s all about nurturing talent and providing a platform, here is one of the instances of things going otherwise.

At this rate, that beautiful unique feeling of holding a book in one’s hands is going to be a thing of the past. I think when it’s all the more important to preserve the written word, we have snobbish publishers such as these telling their authors, ‘well this one won’t see daylight’.

Imagine how many manuscripts of worth, punctuated with hours of toil, thinking, imagining, missing plot lines, twining them together, linking the unconnected dots etcetera haven’t smelt the newness of unused paper. And I can’t even begin to fathom writers putting up with these outrageous decisions of their publishers when you have delivered a successful series so far, that too.

How many more such mass murders do I have to witness I wonder. More than outrage I think this blog piece is more a plea to all those brilliant writers out there to follow through and make your vibrant characters see daylight, act out what they were meant to, and put us readers out of misery because there is nothing more annoying than not knowing how it’s all gonna end. Even if your publishers do not publish, find another who understands your worth or better yet in such cases publish your own even if it’s only a small number of copies.

It’s all about how the story ends!

Bergamot in bloom

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When I first bought the bergamot herb, I bought it solely for its medicinal uses. A herb that belongs to the mint family which helps digestion and has a very calming effect on ones nerves. Great for feeling centred and balanced.

Biggest surprise for me was not knowing they had flowers. Was such a treat to find that they did and is such a gorgeous vibrant colour. And great for landscaping as well. I also found that both leaves and flowers are edible. Apparently the bergamot flowers can be used in salads and great to add that aesthetic appeal.

Thank you Mother Nature for your beauty and wonders.

Homemade Gnocchi…….

It’s forever been my dream to make pasta from scratch. The colours and flavours of Italian cooking has always been fascinating for me. Seeing a pasta maker on display on a window shopping trip was all the impetus I needed to delve into pasta making. After coming across an interesting recipe for a lemony gnocchi on Pinterest which by the way is my latest vice, I thought it would go very well and would be an apt choice as it was a far cry from your usual Italian staples of tomato and basil.

And with previous knowledge of gnocchi being one of the tough pastas I set about gathering the ingredients to make this much adored pasta.

Gnocchi is a kind of pasta that resembles the shape of pudgy soft dumplings each probably the size of a walnut. Now I normally go through a gazillion recipes before settling on one which I think I can trust. But today I pulled the first recipe that came up on google. Fortunately for me it was a family handed down recipe, tried, tested and perfected. What more could a novice ask for! The only thing missing was an Italian nonna talking non stop in my ear correcting me.

And thanks to Marie’s tutorial I found making gnocchi was less daunting and a real pleasure. The gnocchi turned out light and fluffy and melt in mouth yummy. It’s one of those pastas that can easily go wrong but if you followed the tutorial to the last word I don’t see how you could go wrong!

For the gnocchi recipe I highly recommend the below link.
http://foodnouveau.com/2010/10/destinations/europe/italy/how-to-make-gnocchi-an-illustrated-step-by-step-recipe/#

Sky is the limit in terms of creativity for flavour combinations for the sauce. The other recipe I was talking about earlier called for lemon juice, garlic and Parmesan. I tweaked it a bit to improvise.

Sauce ingredients:
Juice of half a lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
3 – 4 cloves of garlic pushed through a garlic press
10 – 12 sage leaves
1/2 cup white wine of your choice
Butter/Olive oil 1 tbsp

Heat butter or oil in a saucepan. Add garlic and cook till fragrant and light golden brown. Throw in your sage leaves, lemon zest, lemon juice and white wine. Cook for a couple of minutes until the alcohol evaporates.

To serve:
Once your gnocchi is cooked as per the tutorial above toss it in your sauce and serve in individual pasta bowls, garnish with grated Parmesan and a sage leaf to finish. Buon appetito!

Verdict??? Hey man that’s easy. It was “molto deliziosa”.

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Okay here is the most mouth-watering, king of all fries that was tried and tested. The fries just melted in a close your eyes and sigh kind of way. Yes it was that yummy. And that roasted garlic dip took it to unimaginable heights.

Simple and easy to prep, it’s for those long for something different yet comforting side order made in the comfort of your own home.

For the avocado fries –

Ingredients:
1 avocado
1 egg
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Grated Parmesan
Salt & Pepper for seasoning
Sunflower/ vegetable oil

Method:

Mix bread crumbs, Parmesan, Salt and Pepper. Wet a finger in water and dip it into the bread mixture and taste check for seasoning.

2 plates set aside, one with flour and the other for the above bread crumbs. Plus a shallow bowl with the whisked egg which will be used for binding.

Cut avocados into long chunks. It’s better if isn’t ripe.

Take avocado, coat it with flour, dip it in egg and into the bread crumb mixture. Get your oil going in the stove. And fry ’em up. Drain on paper towels.

For the spicy roast garlic dip –

Ingredients:
1 tbsp butter
2-4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
Sour cream
Chilli paste (I just ground up some red chillies with water in a mortar and pestle)
A few drops of lemon juice

Roast garlic in butter until light golden brown and crispy. Then simply mix up all ingredients adjusting heat and acid to your taste. And voila your dip is ready.

So what are you waiting for just dip that fried green heaven and dip away and enjoy!

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Mazedar ‘masala’

 

Masala @ Mission Bay, Auckland

Mazedar is the Hindi word for ‘delicious’. And I am using this word to describe the delicious food we had at the restaurant ‘Masala’ in Mission Bay, Auckland.

We went for dinner last night to Masala, courtesy my in-laws. Always meant to test drive this place, but never got around to it. We decided to book a reservation in advance for a table with a view of the beach and of course in anticipation of the new year rush.

We were ushered to our table. Because we had read some past reviews about the delays in getting food served, we decided to order our entrée and main together and request them to bring it in stages. Ram and his father decided to sample the “Jaipur beer” which I am told was really good while his mom and I decided not to have any drinks.

For entrée we decided to go for onion bhaji and paneer tikka. I must say we were quite impressed with the onion bhaji. The paneer tikka’s masala could have been better. But they came out in the most gorgeous glass platter served with a mint chutney and yogurt mint chutney and the bhajia were served in a cute metal spiral stand accompanied by a tamarind sauce. Sometimes I think some restaurants let you down in terms of ambience and their choice of cutlery. But Masala appear to have made some wise choices and geared with a well stocked bar to their credit.

For the mains, we decided to try malai kofta, veg korma and veg jalfrazie. They were served with a complimentary accompaniment of rice. For the naans, we chose cheese, butter and a peshawari naan.

The malai kofta gravy was beautiful, but I wasn’t so happy with the texture of the koftas. They were rolled way too firmly for my liking. The veg korma was definitely passable, no wow factor there. And the jalfrazie was yummy. The colour and the flavours were quite different and rated the second best in mains. Another thing that impressed me was that most Indian restaurants especially abroad rip people off by using the same gravy base for all mains and just switch up the vegetables or meats. But you could actually taste the difference in each of these gravies. So good on you Masala for that.

Breads, now here’s something tricky. Cheese naan, well Ram was expecting a gooey cheesy naan, but to his surprise what they meant to serve was a paneer/cottage cheese naan. They should probably make that clearer on their menu. Butter naan was nice, light and fluffy. The peshawari naan again not so wow. Mixed nuts ground with raisins and coconut was definitely not what I was expecting. Maybe it’s probably that I have had better food back home and I am judging their food against those authentic greats!

Finally for dessert, one of the servers suggested that we try their newest addition on their menu the Malai kulfi. So to add variety to the fare we chose Malai kulfi, Mango kulfi and bread & butter pudding with kahlua liqueur. Verdict was Malai kulfi was the best and was as good as the servers promise. Mango kulfi was pretty average, the bread and butter pudding well not too shabby either.

Serving times were fairly quick for entrée and mains. There was a fair bit of delay for desserts but that can easily be justified after seeing the amount of effort that went on the presentation.

Service was very good. But for the fact that we had to call the hostess to come take our orders at the beginning, the rest of the service went down well, with the servers clearing up tables after each course and engaging in pleasantries, checking on our comfort, wiping down the table which we found a bit sticky, all done with a smile.

Before I forget pricing was very reasonable especially considering the suburb. And ambiance was surprisingly good as well. There is good scope to take things up a notch, but it’s up to them to build their brand to enter that league.

So overall I rate Masala with a ‘mazedar’ 3.75 stars on 5.

Aloha 2013!!!

I can’t believe 2012 has flown already. But I have no regrets. It was another year well spent reviving old friendships, celebrating new ones, changing jobs and paying off some of those damned loans.

Thank you 2012 for making us a bit wiser with me being living evidence with the sprouting of more greys hehehe…!It was a merry blast with many learnings and experiences. And guess what the much raved about “Apocalypse” didn’t happen. Yet another reason reminding us to celebrate life in the now.

And it would only be fair to make merry with some of the things we love most. Our four pawed son. Our people. Our food. And so us Ramkumars signed off 2012 with a 5 course spread as a wonderful thank you to 2012 with many more happy ones to come.

The menu was fantabulous with Avocado fries with roasted garlic spicy dip, French onion soup served with French stick & gruyere cheese, Cabbage Rosti, Lemon rocket risotto with roasted hazelnuts and ricotta and for dessert my most favourite part of the meal, the much lazy but super yummy homemade Tiramisu. Of course recipes will follow.

Avocado fries with Roasted garlic spicy dip

Avocado fries with Roasted garlic spicy dip


French onion soup served with French stick & gruyere cheese

French onion soup served with French stick & gruyere cheese


Cabbage Rosti

Cabbage Rosti


Lemon rocket risotto with roasted hazelnuts & ricotta

Lemon rocket risotto with roasted hazelnuts & ricotta


Tiramisu

Tiramisu


Review – Absolutely delightful!

After much indulgence we went to watch the fireworks display over the Sky tower. Surprisingly this year it went on for a good 5 minutes. So thank you to all those pyro tech greats who make everyone’s new year special.

With that I wish each one of you a fantastic New Year 2013 and that 2013 brings you Good Health, Cheer & Happiness.

Heaven in bite size

It’s small, its pretty, it’s colourful, it makes you sigh, and it is ‘bite size’. A gold star to you if you answered ‘Cupcakes’.

Cupcakes

I have always been fascinated by these small delicate looking cakes that come in its plethora of colours, designs and decoration.  And me being me wanted to make it. And what better time than the holiday season to do some baking.

You will find a couple of pics of my very first attempt at baking these mouthfuls of heaven, and I request that you don’t be harsh in your criticism, after all I am a self-confessed juvenile when it comes to baking. Again it was Sir Thomas Edmonds cookbook to the rescue.

I chose not to use those cupcake covers as the ones I baked were using the smaller patty tins as against the regular muffin ones. Either way the charm of the cupcakes weren’t lost.

The recipe for the cupcake itself was spot on, measures were perfect and turned out close to impeccable. Icing well, that’s another story. I ended up making my own measures and failed miserably. So I had to keep adjusting until the icing held together. I had blue, green and pink food colours to use. I first made White Icing and split it in four different cups. And I have again strayed from the ordinary, I mixed pink and blue for the lilac icing, and pink, green and blue for the burgundy icing. Green and Pale blue were from just one drop of the respective colours used in the icing. And as an instrument for distraction from the imperfections of my cupcakes and of course to make it a lot more prettier I used Cachous (aka) Sugar pearls in the centre which I find quite elegant in baked goodies.

Verdict of taste check? Well that’s easy enough. Yum Yum Yummy!!!

Cool bananas……

Banana cake with chocolate icingApart from “Cool Bananas” being a kiwi slang meaning “Awesome”, there is yet another thing that is ‘awesome and renowned,’ and that is the good old Kiwi favourite – Banana Cake (aka) Banana Loaf / Bread.

Mind you I have tried the odd banana cake here and there which weren’t great from few local bakeries and some of them prepared by others which left me pitying their futile attempts at besting a traditional entity.

Finding a good tasting banana cake was just about forgotten when along came a banana cake in its most simple form, without icing or cream, in a good old lunch box. My colleague offered it to me which I sampled and it was love at first bite and I felt compelled enough to ask for the recipe so I could trial it. My colleague who in her offhand casual manner said … ‘Hmmm, it’s just the Edmonds recipe that almost everyone follows’. She said she just whipped it up last night because the bananas were going off and she didn’t want it to go to waste.

And wind to flashback, there I was imagining me making ‘hard to swallow’ and ‘Ugh’ faces of the number of times I had to force myself to finish over ripe bananas to just keep it from going to waste. But voila…here was a simple sensible idea to make use of the bananas before they become worm food. And I have it on good authority that the blacker the banana skin the better your cake’s going to turn out.

So here was my first day of leave in yonks, I pulled out my never-before-used Edmonds book and located the recipe for Banana Cake. I am not a huge fan of chocolate icing on the banana cake, but chose to do with this icing to indulge my chocolate loving (choc-crazy) Mother in law😀

Ingredients:
 
For the cake – 
125 gms softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (3-4 bananas)
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp hot milk
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
 
Method:

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add mashed banana and mix thoroughly. Stir baking soda into hot milk and add to the banana mixture. Sift baking powder and flour into the mix and fold. Grease a 20 cm round cake tin or loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Leave in tin for 10 minutes before turning it on to a wire rack. When cold, ice with Lemon or Chocolate icing or dust with icing sugar.

For the icing –

1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp cocoa 
2 tsp softened butter
Few drops of Vanilla essence
1 tbsp boiling water
 
Method:

Sift icing sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Add soft butter and a few drops of vanilla essence. Pour in boiling water and beat well. Spread immediately and leave it to set.

If you looked at the above list and thought it was too much trouble, don’t be….it looks laborious but its anything but. Whip it all together and you have a star!

Okay, that’s me over and out, time to go bananas………!

This morning I got up to let my dog Molaga out for his business. He wouldn’t go out!!!! He tried going out just to obey me but hesitantly and kept coming back into the house without relieving himself. Which I tell you is definitely odd given that it was over 7 hours since his last trip.

Anyway Molaga and I had our morning romp, fed him his brekkie and left for work, only to hear around lunch time on the news that 3 people were killed in a tornado in Auckland. Thunder and lightning raged on most afternoon. Molaga is not afraid of thunder/ storms thank heavens for that. With concerns of my dog going into withdrawal running in the back of the mind, I returned home to find my parents in law confirm he was still in the same state as he was in the morning.

After about 6 ish when the sky cleared up and the sun decided to peek out, came back my four-legged son’s boisterous mood as if a black cloud had been lifted. How else can I explain this…??? but dogs just have that sixth sense, that which us humans definitely lack. And we think we have a sixth sense…Duh!

I told Molaga to teach me such skills to predict such stuff, and all I got was his wide toothy smile and golden brown eyes grinning looking up at me as if he knew a secret…..

Next time Molaga, a heads-up would be real nice!!! Btw have you considered becoming a working dog and take on a job as a weatherman, or in your case a “weatherdog”.

A thousand times….

Many are the songs we love, but very few capture your mind’s imagination. And out of those gems are the rarest few that evoke emotions or feelings that one would have experienced at their lowest ebb, or their loftiest high. Or those that resonate of  incidents or entities that are special, private and buried in the deep ocean of ones heart.

I must admit most of Adele’s greatest hits such as ‘Rolling in the deep’, ‘Someone like you’ and ‘Set fire to the rain’ hit those notes for me. It’s not just Adele’s fine whisky-like quality of her voice but it’s also her music composition and lyrics which add magnitude to the song.

But this particular artist who by the way I had never heard of before strummed my heart-strings with her mellifluous lilt. Its been ages since I heard a song with such depth rich in vocals and tune.

I kept hearing this song on the radio on a few occasions at work which by the way I should say is awesome and makes my work light and less stressful. This song always left me wondering who sang this, who had such a quality in her voice that can put one in a trance and made me want to listen harder and closer to the angelic and mesmerizing voice. But as usual I never got around to checking until now.

Then came an opportunity thanks to my impulse loving husband who decided to take me out to Breaking Dawn movie which I had been wanting to see ever since its release. Don’t judge me people, but yeah I bite…I am a Twilight fan and I make no apologies for it. And Voila….!, wonder of wonders I find that this song was a Twilight Soundtrack from the aforesaid movie. I was yet to find out who it was for the last time or so I hoped.

Today I heard it, and here I was again thinking yet another time, telling myself I have gotta know who this is…! But this time I knew what to Google for. If you were expecting a hit like ‘Gangnam style’, you may as well stop reading and look elsewhere.

The artist I am referring to is Christina Perri and the song title is ‘A Thousand Years’. Here is the link –

I don’t know why it is I keep making this song to be about a parent child relationship, but I invariably kept thinking in the back of my mind that this was a song I will be singing for my child. Such is the power of music I guess. Crosses boundaries and creates a bond with the artist and listeners caught up in the vortex of unspoken communication of emotions, of stories.

And I know I will keep listening to this song ……… A thousand times!!!

imageFrom my previous posts you may have noticed my love affair with middle eastern food. This time round yet another sweet delight caught my eye while watching one of my favourite TV Shows – World Kitchen presented by Nici Wickes.

The very presentation of this dessert being baked to a perfect golden crunch and the glossy syrup on the pastry was just too hard to resist, that watching it on TV alone was not enough. And so yes I just had to make it.

I normally play it safe when entertaining people at home. But this time I felt a bit too brash and felt like taking a bit of a risk. It was received with gusto and much appreciation. So much so that my friend asked me to make it for her thanksgiving dinner and I also made it on the occasion of my farewell send off at work this week as a special thank you to you my work mates.

Handling filo is normally a challenge, but this is probably one of the most easily prepared sweet treats. So don’t be daunted and feel adventurous. And the effort is so worth it and you’ll experience bliss in every mouthful. And the Orange Blossom water is unlike any other ingredient I have ever used in cooking. It’s by far the most exotic  ingredient I have used in cooking and the outcome is every bit so.

Here’s the recipe for M’hancha, a sweet treat all the way from the culinary haven of Morocco.

Ingredients:

Almond Filling
2 cups ground almonds
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons orange blossom or rose-water
3 tablespoons butter, melted
For the pastry
 
13 sheets filo pastry
3 tablespoons butter, meltedHoney Syrup
½ cup honey
Zest from one orange
1 tablespoons orange blossom
¼ cup slithered almonds
 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Place a baking paper in a circular pie plate or baking dish.

In a  bowl combine the almond filling ingredients and mix well to form a smooth firm paste. Divide the filling into 4 portions, each portion pinched in the form of a log  so this can be placed along the edge of the filo pastry.

Take one sheet of filo and brush with butter, then layer another 2 sheets on top, buttering between each. Keep the remaining filo covered with a damp tea towel so that it doesn’t dry out.

Place one of the almond logs across the long edge of the filo layers and roll up loosely. Repeat the process so that you have total of 4 pastry logs. Leave a spare sheet of filo to patch up any cracks.

Place one log on the baking tray, seam-side down, and carefully curl into a spiral, pinching the centre end closed. Join the next log onto the end and continue to coil, then add the remaining two logs and spiral until you have a large coiled pie! Patch up any cracks with the spare pastry and give the whole pie a final brush with butter.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and crispy. Meanwhile, heat the syrup ingredients in a saucepan. Remove the pastry snake from the oven. Brush or drizzle with honey syrup, and then scatter with almonds.

Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

imageWhen serving  I coupled it with some ‘Deep South’ French Vanilla ice cream which was super yummy. The warm sweetness of the pastry with the cold ice cream was both sunshine and snow on a single plate. Ultimate heaven!

End of Summer Succotash

This is a recipe I love making. Quick and easy!!! And a great shared lunch/Bring a Plate idea, healthy and yummy.

MODERNATION

While I love Fall and am looking forward to the crisp weather, there is no need to say goodbye to the wonderful summer produce quite yet. I will miss fresh corn (does anyone else think that corn was especially delicious this summer?) and dark red, juicy tomatoes. To enjoy the summer vegetables one last time in all their glory, make this summer succotash. You can use it in so many ways. I served it with whole wheat pasta at room temperature with a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese.  YUM! You can also top it with grilled fish or chicken, or just eat it as a side dish or meal all it’s own.

End of Summer Succotash
2 medium zucchini, diced
3 roma tomatoes, diced
3 ears corn, corn removed from cob
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt and pepper
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400…

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Hachiko

I don’t think I have ever seen a movie that made me cry this much, or made me feel this helpless sitting on the other side of the screen and frustrated at not being able to do a thing about it. Nor have I ever heard myself cry and sob out so loudly with gut wrenching sadness while watching a movie either….feeling for Hachi, and at times feeling like a scum, almost like a traitor keeping a secret, that I knew what happened to his master all this time…and keeping it from him. The movie was so real, I was experiencing these emotions as if I were watching it happen, and very few movies allows the audience that privilege.

Many were the times I almost reached out to Hachiko wanting to gather him into a hug and talk to him, comfort him and do something to give him some closure.

This true life story has an unbelievable amount of depth and told with a poignancy that takes ones breath away. “Incroyable”! And my heart goes out to this beautiful Akita who went on to become Japan’s national symbol of loyalty.

I remember it like it was yesterday, my mum and dad used to tell us about the story of Hachi when my sister and I were little and that a statue was erected in his honor in front of the Shibuya railway station. It used to be such a heart warming story when I was a kid. But never in a million years would I have thought that seeing this real life story in reel form would bring out this kind of reaction in me.

Hachiko's first attempt to follow his master

If Hachi’s eyes and loyalty weren’t enough to melt one’s heart, the score of the movie sure will. The music was so beautiful I could cry all over again.

Hachi with his master

There are moments in this movie that only a dog parent can appreciate, the ones that brought some smiles were when Hachiko destroys the child’s home work, and Richard Gere trying to teach ‘Fetch’ to Hachi, and my personal favourite when Joan Allen says – ‘the dog’s already taken…I’m sorry’ making the decision when she sees her husband and daughter bond over the orphaned bundle of joy. And two of the most emotional moments in the film were when Hachi comes the next day to the station not knowing his master had passed away and waiting for him as faithful as ever, and an even more powerful scene is when Joan Allen sees Hachi after 10 years and she says – ‘You are still waiting for him aren’t you? Can I wait with you till the next train?”. The film is fully punctuated with heart warming moments and kind-hearted gestures of people acknowledging Hachi – be it the train station agent and hot dog seller caring for Hachi or people who came to know about Hachi sending donations to take care of Hachi. Richard Gere was so natural, I don’t think it was an act, the rapport he had with the on-screen Hachi felt real. And Joan Allen had given such a powerful and memorable performance as well.

Hachi waiting for his master

This movie is not one of those movies that has a lot of crying in it but one that would make a viewer cry and feel emotions so pure that it is so foreign to humans. This is because we see some of the story play out through Hachi’s eyes. Unpolluted!

You will not cry out of sadness, but this story evokes a cry of respect, a cry of happiness, a cry of affection, a cry of longing, and most of all a cry honoring loyalty in its purest form.

I have always believed that no two dogs are the same, and I sure wasn’t expecting my pawed son to be as emotionally attached to me like Hachiko was to his master nor would I expect him to be like him. But surprised I was during the film, when I was smothered in a shower of wet sloppy kisses and licks from my own pawed son when he woke from his deep slumber to find his mum sobbing loudly over a movie. He fretted and fussed over me for a few minutes that put a smile to my face amidst those tears.

This movie and story has given me a fresh lease of love and devotion towards our pawed companions. And I have come to a conclusion that every dog shows its love in its own way. They express their emotions in the form of Loyalty, hugs, licks, following us around, by coming to our defence etc….but the most priceless of all, and the one thing that says it all – is the ‘wag of a tail’ and that which can’t be bought.

Buddha's Day

I found this interesting article on Herald late Friday evening that claimed that there was such a place in Auckland that would make us think we had entered a different dynasty. Finding it amusing I read the article further to find that it spoke of a Buddhist temple – Fo Guang Shan located in the Botany Downs suburb of Auckland.

Ram and a couple of my friends decided to check it out today especially since the temple was hosting Buddha’s Day and a multicultural celebration. And I have got to agree with the author every bit and more. Whatever the author of the article described was true to its word but thousands times more vibrant and colorful than my imagination.

Some of the scenes that are still green in my memory were the bamboo stalks lining the Zen Gardens, the cute little Buddha statues at every other part of the garden striking various poses, the stone lanterns, the Big Drum, the Iron Bell, Wishing bell and the stand out architecture in the middle of South Auckland. To give it an all gyrating mix which heightened our enjoyment of the first time visit was the traditional performances of various cultures. There were Japanese drums, Chinese Dragon dance, our very own Kiwi favourite -The Haka, Flamenco etc, Asian women and children decked out in traditional regalia and food stalls lining the gardens and paths with an all vegetarian fare to sate hungry tourists and devotees. As if that wasn’t enough there were stalls giving away Paper lanterns, Chinese zodiac stones, gift articles for a donation, which went towards the maintenance of the temple.

The main part of the event of course should be mentioned, which would be the prayer offering to Buddha, with many people lighting colorful candles and incense sticks and placing it in front of the deity for their wishes to come true. Because it was a big event, there were many dignitaries present from different cultural backgrounds offering the prayers in their national language. Another notable new thing I came across was the special session for ‘Baby blessings’. As the name goes, it was exclusively for babies where in families brought them to get blessed so they would have a bright and prosperous future.

After watching few of the events and prayers, out we came on to the food stalls, where they had organized a coupon system of prepaid food. And redeeming it for what ever we wanted. Very reasonably priced and a lavish array of items to choose from. We settled for Pad thai, Iced lemon tea and Sago dessert.

Having experienced the Fo Guang Shan on one of its busiest days, I can’t wait to go there on a less crowded day. Most of the temple scape was dotted with throngs of people, which  I am hoping will be less crowded on other days. I can literally imagine the peace and calm of those ornate walls and stone gardens beckoning me already.

Here are some of the memorable images from our day out.

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Enjoy!

Looking ‘Peachy’

8 months back when we moved into our own place, many were the plants and trees that we couldn’t identify at the peak of winter. And this one particular tree kept us guessing for at least a good three months. And lo behold, one fine spring morning we saw the most precious of pale pink buds glued to those branches.

Who would have thought that this one bald leafless, dwarf like tree would flower into the most beautiful pink blossoms and few months down the line, give us such luscious fruits? My first experience of nature’s bounty in my own backyard especially in my first year in our home was memorable.

Peaches hung off our tree like bunches of golden tennis balls with a slight pinkish red blush. Here we were thinking we’ll let those peaches grow nice and big and ripe and we’ll pluck it off our trees. What a wrong move that was! By the time we headed into our backyard with our buckets and broom sticks, we found that some of our sneaky feathered visitors had made a meal of nearly 70% of those fruits. Even with the rest of the peaches that we could salvage, we got quite a sizeable number.

Peaches

And here we were reveling in this gorgeous spring offering, we found that we obviously couldn’t keep all these gorgeous fruits to ourselves. We gave away dozens to extended family and friends. And were still left with lots more.

If someone said twiddling thumbs was a sign of idleness, I wouldn’t agree to it. So here I sat twiddling my thumbs thinking up ways to use the remaining peaches. I thought I’ll play word association so I can come up with some ideas and surprisingly came up with quite a few words – Peaches and cream, Peach Cobbler, Peach Strudel, Peach Conserves, Caramelized Peaches with Ice cream….not bad for an off the top of my head response.

I decided to go with Peach Cobbler as I recalled the fact that many books I had read made a mention of it and I was of course craving for cake and something ridiculously sweet as always.

Peach cobbler-will post my own pic soon

Googling the first recipe that came along, I scanned the ingredients and method. And I found that it was easy as pie too!!! My sous chefs mum and Ram did a fine job of the prep and I must commend them on their enthusiasm and efforts. The prep took all of 15 minutes and the baking 40 minutes. End of the happy hour, not having any more patience to wait any longer, I happily cut up some chunky pieces of the hot Cobbler the moment I took it right out of the oven and we heartily enjoyed that rustic country-style dessert late afternoon. Every mouthful was peachy perfect. And not too shabby for a maiden attempt if I can say so myself. I highly recommend this recipe. The measures were perfect for me.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/peach-cobbler-recipe/index.html

It was perfect the way it was even without the ice cream/whipped cream serving suggestions.

Coming up next, time for some good old home-made Peach Conserve.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Nici Wickes in World Kitchen

I am sure many TV audiences around the world either ‘Love’ or ‘Hate’ cooking shows. There sometimes is just about an overload of them that even food lovers tend to get put off. But show me a cooking show worth its salt and I am in. I have my very own personal food show schedule. From globe-trotting with Nici Wickes’ in World Kitchen, or dining with Pete and Manu in My Kitchen Rules, or getting inspired by Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meals, or going to Marrakech with Peta Mathias… there seems to be something immensely satisfying about food trotting and learning basics in cooking to the most exotic dishes in the world. On one such new journey I stumbled onto Maeve O’ Meara’s Food Safari discovering Indian Cooking.

Pete Evans and Manu Fieldel - My Kitchen Rules

I can’t believe I have not appreciated the richness of our cooking all these years and have simply taken it for granted. The multitude of spices and aromas emanating from our kitchen, cooking with all our senses is such a testament to Indian cooking. And I had thought I had seen it all in terms of Indian cooking. Little did I know, how much this one chef could show how little I knew about the ingredients we use. Who is this guy? Seriously!!!

So inspired by the passionate style of his cooking, I googled to find out more details about this chef. And I found that he was a successful restaurateur owning no less than the best Indian restaurant in Sydney, Australia – “Nilgiris”. No mean feat I’d say!

Chef Ajoy Joshi, to put it simply and to use one of his favourite words is ‘Bloody’ brilliant. His take on food was such it showed me a whole new level of food appreciation. If you can understand me becoming a fan with just one line he uttered, with a simple realisation that this was a man who knew what he was talking about. His analogy being, which also happens to be the truth – “‘Spices do to the tongue, what colours do to your eyes”.  His passion for food is quite apparent from the way he handles ingredients, understands their purpose and presents his food with flair.

Here is a sample featuring him in the Food Safari video where he cooks an Indian Style Hyderabadi chicken.

http://www.sbs.com.au/food/foodsafarirecipe/index/id/40/n/Indian_style_Hyderabadi_chicken

It’s also inspiring to note that he conducts cooking classes for those whose knowledge of Indian dishes are limited to Butter Chicken and Naan Bread(always get me…LOL). And for far off fans like me, his blog lessons are a huge consolation. Let’s just say its one of the times I really appreciated the use of technology. He focuses more on the ingredients, how to use them and get the best out of them rather than write blog entires that are more of a recipe index. But having said that so as not to disappoint and also bring home the flavour of Nilgiris, he has also shared links to his recipe gems. Here is the link to his blog if you want to join in on the discovery of Indian Cooking Ajoy’s way.

I know for sure which place I will be visiting when I am going to Sydney. If only he would open a Nilgiris in Auckland. Ajoy I hope you are reading this!!!

Pasta alla Vodka

Probably one of my best ever pastas, this was again an adaptation which was way better than the original especially since I incorporated some of my favourite ingredients(mushrooms and onions).

Ever since my sister said she had tried out a Vodka pasta back home in one of the restaurants, the idea of using Vodka in a pasta was quite enticing. And I just had to try making it at home. And it was every bit delicious and mouth-watering.

And the law of diminishing marginal utility went for a toss right out my kitchen window.

Ingredients:

Fettuccine (Or any pasta of your choice) – 500 gms
Chopped Onions – 2 
Garlic – 6 cloves
Chopped tomatoes – 3 [Drain if tomatoes are juicy]
White Button Mushrooms – 1 cup
Red Chilli flakes – 1 tsp
Vodka – 1/4 cup
Heavy Cream – 3 tbsp
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 tbsp
Salt & Pepper for seasoning
Dried Mixed herbs – 1 tsp
Fresh sprig of parsley right from your garden
Grated Parmesan cheese
 
Method: 

Place pasta for cooking as per instructions on the cover and then get your pasta sauce going.

Heat Extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan. Add garlic, onions and red chilli flakes and sauté till turning a slight golden brown. Try not to brown your onions.

Remove saucepan from the stove, set aside and add the vodka. Place saucepan back on stove top and simmer for a couple of minutes till vodka reduces to half.

Then add mushrooms. Cook until slightly soft. Turn the heat up and throw in your tomatoes, cook well. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium and add heavy cream. Season with the dried mixed herbs. Let it cook for about a minute.

And if your pasta is cooked to the right consistency by now, drain and wash with cold water in a colander and  add your pasta to the sauce and coat well.

Garnish with fresh sprig of parsley and grated parmesan, serve. Voila!!!… your Pasta alla Vodka is ready to be enjoyed!!!

Mango Kulfi

Kulfi – am sure the very word sets the taste buds wagging amongst all Indians. A much-loved traditional Indian Ice-cream, it is such a wonderful dessert. The traditional version of Kulfi is fairly laborious to prepare but worth spending all that energy spent into making it.

So when I was craving for something sweet and that which would remind me of back home, I thought to myself ‘why not make Kulfi’. Surfed through many a blog and websites, found that making Kulfi was indeed very time-consuming. So I decided to start searching for a short and sweet kulfi recipes. And I stumbled onto this wondrous quick as ‘Kesar Mango Kulfi recipe’.

Aha…easy I thought to myself. Mix everything up and pour it into the mould and stow away into deep freeze. Now that’s more like it, then I realised I had to buy the kulfi moulds. Went to nearly 3-4 Indian grocery stores none of which had Kulfi moulds. For an alternative, I thought of ramekins and ice-cube trays. But these were such boring options!!! Then suddenly I recalled the image of my niece enjoying her popsicle. BAM!!! Eureka!!! Popsicle Maker to the rescue. I immediately drove down to the store and bought it.

Ingredients:
 
2 Cups Mango/Kesar Mango pulp
1/2 Cup Sweetened condensed milk
2 Tsp Sugar
1/2 Tsp Saffron
1/4 Cup Thickened cream
10-12 Pistachios roughly chopped
4 Cardamoms, de-seeded & powdered
 
Method:

Take a mixing bowl. Combine mango pulp, sweetened condensed milk and sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.Start adding thickened cream little by little. Throw in the saffron strands and cardamom powder. Whisk till the mixture is even without lumps or blobs. Add roughly chopped pistachios and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the popsicle maker and close with provided lids. Freeze for about 6-8 hours and enjoy.

Kulfi before freezing

*** Best to let the Kulfi sit for a couple of minutes when taken out of the freezer.  If you are having difficulty in pulling out the kulfi, try placing the mould under running water and twist it out slowly.
*** The first time I made the Mango Kulfi it was without the cardamom. But when I tried my friend’s adaptation of this recipe with cardamom, I reckon this spice takes it to a whole new level. 
 
 

I’m Tangled

Tangled

…. in the magic woven by Disney’s Tangled. Wow….What an animated film!!!

I had thought that the era of Princess stories were well and truly over with Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. And to think the tale was spun and adapted with so much flair from a dusty old fairy tale like Rapunzel was so breathtakingly beautiful. Made me want to believe in fairy tales once more. After watching the film, I was left with an immense sense of brimming Happiness and joy.

The Smoulder

Each character was so full of life. Flynn Rider aka Eugene Fitzherbert had me at his first smoulder. Rapunzel won me over when she turned a bunch of drunken thugs around into singing about their dreams. Maximus the royal horse was more a giant grown puppy. Maximus was my adorable apple munching hero in the story. And Pascal, Rapunzel’s chameleon with its cute bulging eyes and antics was a memorable sidekick too.

The hair of Magic Gold

There is some sort of unspoken fascination about dreams being painted on tall tower walls with vivid colours and a thousand floating lanterns alight in the midnight blue sky that tugs at one’s imagination. Not to forget the hair of magic gold touched by a drop of Sun bearing the magic of healing and swashbuckling was most endearing.

Rapunzel

The story line was equally bewitching although one might argue that a wicked witch and a young princess is an old school formula. But all that mattered to me was it was told brilliantly in a very different way. The movie kept me engrossed every minute of the way. Rapunzel’s guilt trips on leaving her tower and enjoying to her heart’s content and regretting crossing her mother was so natural and amusing to watch. And who would have thought that an old lady saucepan would make a great weapon someday!!!

The Adventurous foursome – Eugene, Pascal, Rapunzel & Maximus

And Eugene’s turning a new leaf was heart warming too. The lantern scene was so romantic. Romance can never get old and in true Disney fashion kept that trend alive. Also in the climax my heart very nearly stopped for a second during the ‘moment of reckoning’. What a turn! I honestly didn’t see it coming.

Romance of a thousand lanterns in the midnight sky

Truly captivating animation, colours, expressions, imagination and many more adjectives that can only merely give a glimpse of the charming Fairy tale. For those that love and appreciate animated films and Fairy tales, Tangled is one film that must not be missed. Watch it with your kids, or your grandchildren, or nieces or nephews. It is a great film with a great heart. I rate this movie a “Perfect 10”.

Dum Aloo

Has always been one of my favoured dishes whenever I went to a Dhaba /North Indian restaurant. The Dum Aloo again is a special dish that has special memories that I associate with home and my childhood.

Racing against time to complete the end of the month reports, it was a tradition to not cook dinner on the last day of the month because all four of us would be busy as bees. As much as it was busy it was also memorable and a treat for us back then. We ordered our night’s dinner from the Kwality Riviera Punjabi Dhaba in Adyar. Our standard order used to be Butter naan, Palak Paneer/Kadai Paneer (there has to be atleast 1 paneer dish) and the Dum Aloo.

Realising it had been ages since I had tasted Dum Aloo, especially since I am now keen on making dishes that I enjoyed eating, but never made before, I decided that this would be something I will do for a get together. It is risky for a first attempt. But what the heck! What is cooking without a bit of risk and adventure? – I ask!

Yummy Dum Aloo

 

Ingredients

1/2 kg Baby potatoes/regular potatoes cut to the size of baby potatoes – boiled and peeled
3 tbsp Lemon juice
Chopped Coriander leaves
4 tbsp cup Ghee
Salt
1 tsp Sugar
1/2 cups Water
1/2 cup milk.
Oil

For the masala paste
2 tbsp Coriander seeds
2 Red Onions chopped
A small knob of Ginger
1/2 cup Desiccated coconut
8-10 Cashew nuts
2-3 Green chillies
2 tsp red chili powder
6 cloves of Garlic
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
1/4 tsp Mustard seeds
1 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Garam Masala

Method

Boil and peel the potatoes. Prick the potatoes making 5-6 holes with a toothpick or a fork to allow the potatoes to absorb the flavour later. Shallow fry the potatoes until it turns golden brown to give it a crisp texture on the outside and set aside.

Grind all ingredients of the masala paste into a smooth paste.

Heat ghee/oil in a pan. Add the masala paste. After the rawness of the paste is gone and the ghee starts to separate from the gravy, add milk and water. Let it simmer for a while. Add the lemon juice to the gravy and then add the potatoes. Add sugar for the balance in flavours.

Cook covered partially for 8-10 minutes to allow the masala to seep into the potatoes.

Garnish dish with chopped coriander.

Dum Aloo

 

 

 

Mum’s ‘Can never go wrong’ Veg Korma

I kept craving for the amazing Veg Korma mum used to make for us regularly which I used to take for granted back then. Korma was fairly regular back home. Not once did I think I would be missing this awesome dish sorely. So I decided to make it. If I can’t go to India, I said to myself ‘bring India home’.

Again this turned out almost as perfect as mom’s did. Thanks Mom for sharing your signature dishes.

If you stick to the measures given, you will for sure get the taste and beauty of my mother’s Veg Korma which is unparalleled. And surprisingly quite easy to make.

Ingredients:

2-3 Medium sized Potatoes cut into medium square cubes
10-15 Beans cut into 1 inch pieces
2 Carrots into medium square cubes
2 Onions finely chopped.
3 Tomatoes cut into square chunks
1/2 Cup desiccated Coconut
7-8 Garlic cloves
10 Cashew nuts
3-4 Green chillies
1 tsp Cumin seeds
3 Cloves
1 Cinnamon stick
Oil
Salt

Method:

Heat 4 tbsp oil in a sauce pan. Add jeera, cinnamon stick, cloves.  Add onions and sauté. During this time get your veggies (Potatoes, Carrots and Beans) steamed in the microwave. Add tomatoes, and fry till tomatoes turn mushy. Add salt and 1 cup water for everything to boil.

Grind Coconut, cashew nuts, chilli and garlic into a thick paste. Add this paste when the veggies comes to a boil. Add water as required for right consistency as cashews tend to make gravy thicker. Garnish with coriander.

Mum's delightful Veg Korma

 

Serving suggestions:

It’s a fantabulous combination with Aapam. Goes well with Pulao and Roti/chapatis too.

Peas Pulao

 

Peas Pulao

Made this really easy and simple peas pulao recipe for a get together recently. Is a sure shot that would please everyone. The sweetness of the peas is really what makes the pulao a success.

 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp Oil
1-2 tsp jeera
2 onions sliced julienne
7-8 cloves of garlic
Whole garam masala [2-3 Cloves, 1 Cinnamon Stick, 1-2 Bay leaves, 2-3 Cardamom, 3-5 Peppercorns optional]
4 Cups Basmati Rice
2 Cups Peas
5 Cups Hot Water
Coriander leaves chopped
Salt

Method:

Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add whole garam masala & jeera seeds, fry till aromatic. Add the onions and sauté until it turns translucent. Then add the peas. After a minute or so add the washed basmati rice and fry for a couple of minutes till the rice is evenly coated with oil.

Add 5 cups hot water to the rice and add salt lastly. Close lid of pressure cooker and let it cook up to 1-2 whistles. Remove off the heat. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Yummy peas pulao

 

Peas pulao is ready to be served.

“Oi, You!!! Molaga looked up from his digging questioningly. Understanding that I meant for him to come in, he walked back towards the patio door. “Uh-uh…What are you supposed to do???”. He paused and looked up at me just as he was about to enter the house. He knew the answer all right. He just thought he could get away with it. Meekly Molaga swept his paws on the door mat and obediently stood on the spot waiting for me to haul the hose in to spray water on his paws. Once he was clean he pranced back as if he was calling it a day and clonked on to his bed, panting.

I shut the french windows and picked up the newspaper and pen, headed back to the bedroom with my Coffee mug. Setting the coffee and paper on to the coffee table by my bay window seat, I plumped up my “Eat Pray Love” Cushions (that’s what I call it) and settled my back into it.

Eat Pray Love Cushions

Boy I love those cushions. If you are thinking that these cushions bore the design of the book cover or Julia Roberts smiling on my cushion, you are definitely wrong. I call them that because they are just cushy and plump like the one in the movie when Julia Roberts reads a book relaxing against the cushions in Bali. Ahh…sigh!!!

The pleasures of life…..

I turned my attention back to the paper taking a sip of the wonderful brew. My eyes scanned a list of Vacancies available. I was looking for a part-time or casual job on the weekends that could teach me a bit about art or gardening or one of those areas that I class as ‘Nice to know’.

‘Mystery shopper for vineyards assessments”- Talk about getting drunk on the job.

‘Earn while you lose weight’ – Paper runs. Boring!!!

‘Community support worker for Children’ – Challenging!

‘Potter’s barn/Antiques store help required’ – That now caught my interest. I made a circle around the ad and got up deciding to give them a call tomorrow.

Antique love

Being a huge fan of learning on the job, I decided that I was not going to attend courses or seminars to learn something new. I wanted the rush, thrill and excitement of creativity flowing between my hands. And learn about things that one could only pick up on the job. To have the feel of my imagination turning into a piece of art. Or learning the secret mysteries and journey of a well travelled artefact held more excitement for me than sitting behind a projector with the tutor droning on a monotone.

I put out the lights and climbed into bed with memories of the day swimming back into my mind, the last conscious thought being my coffee with Brody while Molaga settled himself at my feet. I stared into the ceiling reliving our parting scene.

Embarrassed by my own gesture that I had reached out to a total stranger and having had a conversation of what felt like partaking on a very personal part of someone’s life, I rubbed my eyes trying to wipe the memory, mentally distancing myself. But the images just kept flowing ….fading into a black and white movie starring me and Brody, I could see the scene play out almost live.

I saw myself giving a moment to Brody to gather himself, I bent down and ruffled Molaga’s head and stood up prompting Brody to stand up as well. I coiled Molaga’s leash on my palm and gave Brody a half-smile and nodded my head to one side, shook his hand and said – “Thanks for the coffee…,and of course the Biscotti!”. “Rrrufff!!!” said Molaga. I guess he was saying thanks too.

“Hey I owe you remember???”, replied Brody. I waved him off and turned away with a smile, Molaga at my heel. Brody called out – “Hope to see you around sometime, my HERO”. He yelled the last word out for everyone to hear.

I got into the car my cheeks burning hot.

Side view mirror

I drove off without another glance at Brody but watched him on my side view mirror to find him staring at the back of my vehicle fading away into the distance.

Corn Methi Pulao

If you are like me so out of ideas and searching your brain for that inspirational quick and tasty fix after a long hard day’s work. The perfect answer to that sumptuous dinner is Corn Methi Pulao. I came across this recipe which sounded so good and lived up to its expectations every bit.

Corn Methi Pulao

Ingredients:

Basmati Rice – 3 cups
2-3 Onions chopped
1 Cup Methi leaves
1 Cup Corn kernels
1 tsp Turmeric
Whole Garam Masala – 3 cardamoms, 3 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 bay leaves, 3-4 peppercorns
1-1.5 tsp Jeera
2 tbsp Vegetable  Oil
5 Cups Hot Water
Salt to taste

Method:

Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add jeera and whole garam masala to the oil. Once the spices turn fragrant, add the onions and saute until translucent. Throw in the methi leaves and corn. Add turmeric and salt.

Add the washed rice to the cooker and fry the rice for a couple of minutes on high. Add 5 Cups hot water to the rice and check level of salt. The water should taste a tad salty which would be about a pinch more than the saltiness that is just right for you. Pressure cook up to 1 whistle and turn off the stove.

Yummy Corn Methi Pulao

Serving suggestion and Tips:

***Serve hot with natural yoghurt or better yet greek yoghurt🙂

***You can also add some garlic along with the onions and may be fried paneer(cottage cheese) too to make it yummy and indulgent.

***Reduce quantity of methi leaves if you do not like the bitter flavour of the leaves.

Not even during my wedding did I feel this kind of jitters or leap through highs and lows that felt like a roller coaster ride. Resigning ourselves to the rather limp and stuttering version of online cricket live telecast, ordering extra data usage and getting prepared for the match lest we miss out on the nation’s verve, we waited for the hours to turn into minutes and minutes to seconds. So when our friends invited us over to watch the D-Day Final at their home joining in on the spirit, to watch the Historic match on Live Television, it was with both hands that we grabbed the opportunity. Now all there was to do was go through the pain staking wait for the match to start.

On one side there is all this historic data pointing to some supposed results, while the other side of unpredictability depicts the recent brilliance of the young talent within the team beckoning a new era in Indian cricket.

Superstitions and Hoping against Hoping rife in my mind, I read on my Facebook page, a friend write – “1983 and 2011 calendars are exactly the same. And the million dollar question – India won the World Cup Final in 1983. Can History repeat itself???” My childish heart grasped at the illusion of victory in India’s arms this time round.

For that Coveted gold trophy

So when the Indian team started off great with fantastic economy in giving out runs, sharp fielding by the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli saving precious runs, containing the Sri Lankans, there was much hope within me that the Boys in Blue (Indians) can pull it off with the stellar batting line up they had. My wishful thinking declaring that we had a positive chance of bringing back the World Cup if the Target was under 250 runs. With Zaheer Khan going great lengths for economy of run rate, it was an absolute shocker when the last of the power play resulted in India being thrashed taking the Grand Total to a formidable 274.

“No worries’, I told myself. We still have hope with greats like Sachin Tendulkar and Virendar Sehwag who if they built a partnership can crumble the opposition’s defence or attack to dust. But that was not to be, with the careless Sehwag being given out for an LBW (Leg Before Wicket) on his very second ball. Well we still have Sachin and the youngsters to rely on. Let’s not give up hope yet. Enter Gautam Gambhir who was being pressured by the Lankan attack, he started off shakily establishing a much-needed solid partnership. Sachin treated the crowd to a couple of boundaries and some classy shots picking gaps intelligently for the much-needed runs between the wickets. But alas, another punch below the gut, he was caught behind by the wicket keeper. The equilibrium was tumbling and so was the Indian confidence.

In came Virat Kohli who’s bullish attitude can be misconstrued for arrogance or false bravado. He and Gambhir started stabilising the Indian innings by running between the wickets and building a partnership and keeping the run rate under control. But my developing faith in them again was shaken by Kohli’s exit. What an unlucky catch being caught and bowled by the bowler it was! But mind you both Kohli and Gambhir had put in place a foundation, something for the rest of the line up to make up for the remainder of the runs. Something to build on!

The partnership that gave Hope - Kohli and Gambhir

If you had been following the World Cup, you would have expecting Yuvraj Singh to make an entrance. Surprise Surprise! The skipper entered the arena. MS Dhoni decided it was time he stepped in, came in ahead to put a stop to falling wickets and build on a quintessential partnership. Gambhir trudged on bravely taking in the attack while the skipper quickly settled into a rhythm to complement him. Dhoni the ice man known for his ultra cool composure, made calculated decisions and risks playing aggressively turning the plates of pressure back on the Lankans. Once both of them got going, there was no stopping them. The Lankan bowling couldn’t infiltrate the Indian batting. No chinks in the armour. Of course no match would be normal if it weren’t for a couple of lucky turns, one of Gambhir being dropped early on in the match and Dhoni having a just miss run out ruling him safe after a third umpire decision.

The match was finally turning in favour of the Indian’s side with the duo piling up runs and not cowering under pressure. Dhoni inched on with selfless play leading his team to victory, and the crowd praying for Gambhir’s ton. Such a shame, the young man missed out on his World Cup 100 when he was dismissed by being bowled out when he moved away from the crease to go for a big one. Shy of 3 runs to the ton, the youngster exited but with much pride for what he had done for his country. He had done what experienced batsmen couldn’t. Given the Indians a new lease of life and a chance at a possible victory.

The tournament sweetheart Yuvraj Singh came with his breezy swagger, those face lines creased with determination, grit and steely attitude of taking his nation to the victory stand. It was a run a ball situation and the match could go either way still. The fear that Lankans could capitalise on one sign of weakness and could change the fate of the game did not go without consideration. And what finally turned the fates was the couple of boundaries that became the nail in Lanka’s coffin. With one more run between the wicket, Dhoni took stage for what would be the moment millions of Indians would come to revere. He blasted the ball to a Huge Match Winning and World Cup winning SIX

The World Cup winning sixer

making history in style. Yuvraj broke into joyous tears of disbelief while the first of the Captain’s smiles broke out just then.

Yuvraj's cry of victory

India had WON!!! Made history. Sorry, repeated History! But re-scripted the definition of what it was to be on a winning team. It was no more a case of Tendulkar shouldering on the nation’s burden like Atlas, but every man giving it his all to make this win a possibility. The known story of Indians crumbling if the great Sachin fell was no longer true, it has been disproved. The Indian team has been resurrected by a captain called Dhoni whose leadership greatness has reshaped the team morale, calibre, with talent being given the right recognition that they deserve leading the team to a memorable victory.

But on saying that what a dedication to the legend named Sachin who played his last World Cup. And about to retire from ODI. Although he did not get 100 Hundreds at the World Cup it was a poetic sunset on his career going away with a World Cup achievement under his belt. He had waited with bated breath for 21 years of his career. What a glorious way to end his career! Thank you Sachin for being a perennial inspiration to the young generation for giving cricket such a priceless legacy that cannot be obliterated till cricket’s dying days. May your legacy live unto eternity.

 

The Legend - Sachin Tendulkar

Here are some of my emotions that I shared on Facebook immediately after the match.

“WHAT A MASSIVE WIN!!! I AM SO PROUD TO BE AN INDIAN!!! JAI HIND!”

“I am reeling from the dramatic win by India….you’d think hope started dwindling after the first 2 wickets fell…but Gambhir & Kohli stabilised the Indian Innings and Dhoni rose to the occasion and gave the innings of a CAPTAIN….Hats off to Dhoni for keeping his cool till the last moment and what a six to finish off in style…
And its such a poignant send off for Tendulkar…..”

“Can’t hold back tears of JOY AND UNCONTROLLABLE HAPPINESS!!!!!!! It’s so amazingggggggggggg……”

“And wishing that India wins the same way in the Down Under as well in 2015!!!”

“It was so worth losing sleep if my nation could win….
Am reading and re-reading the cricket team reactions and fans comments trying to relive those moments of cricketing greatness…every word drawn out from the players and the people is so emotional and passionate! One can never doubt the nation’s religion is indeed CRICKET!!! Such an edge on seat FINAL!!!!!!! Well played Indians!!!”

“The World Cup 2011 finale is one match that I wouldn’t mind watching again and again.
And there has been only one other match that held me in such awe….it was the match when no sandstorm on earth was going to stop the Zeus-like Tendulkar display his exemplary brilliance at Sharjah against the Ozzies!!!”

Thai Dragon Soup

 

Thai Dragon Soup

Don’t ask me why it’s called Thai Dragon Soup. I couldn’t find any information on the background of it. But the soup was a warm saviour on a freezing cold night. I bet you there is no easier soup recipe than this. No blending, adding cream, no separate preparations yadi yadi da….All that is too much work.

But this Soup my friends is one of the easiest ones I have made. Sumptuous, nutritious and fulfilling. While browsing for ideas for quick dinner I came across a Thai Dragon Bowl Soup (http://gourmeh.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/499/) which is the original version and inspiration to my making this soup. My Thai Dragon Soup was an adaptation of that recipe as my fridge wasn’t as well stocked for a proper dinner that night.

Ingredients:

2 Capsicums sliced thinly;
2 Onions sliced thinly;
8-10 White Button mushrooms (any mushroom will do) sliced thinly;
8-10 Green Beans cut into 2-3 pieces each (longer the better);
100 gm Rice Noodle (Thick flat type);
6-7 cloves of Garlic crushed;
1 knob of Ginger peeled and crushed;
2 stalks of Bruised Lemon grass stalks;
2 Green Chillies slit;
Lemon Juice;
Worcester sauce;
6-8 cups of Water;
Salt & Pepper for seasoning;

I had no stock and I thought to myself if I dunk all veggies onto water with a bit of salt and pepper, my stock’s ready. So that’s exactly what I did.

Boil water in a deep saucepan. Throw in crushed garlic, ginger, lemon grass stalks & all the veggies and let it boil. Season with salt and very little pepper as we have added the chillies already. So mind the heat!

Once the colour of the water starts changing, add a small splash of Worcester sauce. It would roughly take about 15-20 minutes tops for the veggies to get cooked. When the water reaches a boil and the colour of the liquid turns a darker brown add the rice noodles. The stock would start to thicken after adding the rice noodle due to its starch. Boil until the noodles are soft and cooked through. Do not overcook as the noodle will absorb most of the stock which is why the noodle is added towards the end and is on the heat for just a little while. Once you remove the soup off the hob and let it rest for about a minute or so and splash in few drops of lemon juice which zests up the soup and takes it to a whole new level.

Yummy soup

Garnish with some coriander for that fresh flavour.

There you go!!! Hot Thai Dragon Soup to keep you warm and give you the comfort food feeling.

Having reached ahead of me, Brody stood on an un-parked spot as if to reserve the spot for me. I got off the vehicle with my pawed friend in tight leash. Grimacing about the agonies of containing my mad canine especially when passing or stopping by an eatery, I walked with Brody till the front of the cafe.

He turned around and asked what he could order for me. I told him – “Just a strong hot Flat White, no sugar would be great. Thanks”. Brody went in to order while I found a table for 2 and settled down Molaga who started eyeing the cafe and back at me, begging with his pitiful ‘Poor Me’ whine and soulful eyes. I was just deciding whether to treat Molaga or not when Brody came with a packet of Biscotti and settled onto his chair.

Molaga on his best behaviour

And of course one can guess who Molaga’s new best friend would be. The traitorous mutt! He sat erect in his most well-behaved posture in front of Brody as if to say -“Hi! I’m a good dog on my best behaviour. So I deserve a treat!!!” Brody asked if it was OK for him to give the Biscotti to Molaga. And I just nodded my acquiescence. He smoothed Molaga’s golden head while the mutt munched and grunted on his treat relishing it every bit. Brody asked what his name was -?

I replied saying that his name was ‘Molaga’ meaning ‘Chilli’ in my mother tongue Tamil. He found that amusing and repeated the word ‘Molaga’. Molaga looked up as if we both were nuts to keep calling out his name while he was very much there. He turned around to look at me, as if to say -“Duh…”

After a few awkward moments of silence, both Brody and I broke into speech at almost the same time. I asked – “So are you from around here…” and he came with -“So do you like living in Auckland?”. And I told him I’ll answer first and replied that “Yeah. I do like Auckland. It’s a melting pot. Love meeting people from different walks of life! It’s been great so far. Knock on wood!”. He leant back and said “In reply to your question, yes actually. I have lived here pretty much my whole life. Best thing about this particular suburb is one gets the best of the country and city life”. I nodded and lapsed into silence.

View of Auckland

I observed him quietly sitting across me. There was something about him. He seemed to be on edge yet I could sense an inner struggle in him to act normal and relaxed. Up close, I sized him up concluding he probably would be about 5’10 – 5’11, toned & athletic looking, nice features with chestnut-brown hair and bright hazel eyes. A boy next door type.

He moved his chair forward a bit, and leant his elbows on the table joining his hands as if in prayer. He said -“About what happened just now, I am not like this…you know!!” I shook my head and replied – “Hey look, let’s just put that behind us and go our own ways. It’s no Biggie! You did buy me coffee to make up right?”

He started replying -“But you don’t deserve….

“Here’s the lady’s Flat White and the Gentleman’s Caramel Latte. Enjoy your coffee”, said the waitress smiling nervously hedging around Molaga. If only she knew Molaga up close. He was such a marshmallow once he gets to know someone.

“As I was saying, I shouldn’t have turned on you when all you were doing was try to help”. He took a deep breath and exhaled, looked up at me and said -“I had one of my panic attacks. I normally get them when there is lightning and thunder”.

My expression softened with understanding and said ‘Oh! I understand.” I was unsure if I could ask the next question and wondered if it would get too personal. But I went ahead anyway, -“So do you take any counselling and do you try to avoid wet weather outings?” For a moment he looked mortified and as if he was not going to answer it then he shrugged saying -“Tried both, been there, done that. What else can I say?”

I thought to myself, ‘Well that was short’. But didn’t answer any of my questions that were running at the back of my mind. ‘What made an adult like him be scared of thunder and lightning’. I mused to myself – ‘Perhaps a bad experience in childhood!!!’.

After we both took a few swigs of coffee, he straightened his spine as if to gather some strength. He spoke in a demurred voice -“I hate thunder and lightning, coz my dad died on one such night. And I get these attacks because it reminds me of that night…..images of a heavy downpour, flashing lightning and the horrendous sound of cracking thunder….fills my ears”. I didn’t want to interrupt him looking at him lost in painful memories, his eyes losing a bit of the brightness it had earlier.

Fear of lightning and thunder

 

He looked up with a drooping sad smile and pulled himself together saying – “Look at me telling my life’s story to a complete stranger”. I thought to myself that some of his behaviour at least made some sense. And my hand reached out to him on its own to comfort his palm, I squeezed his hand gently as if to reassure him.

He seemed embarrassed by his opening up to me the way he did and his cheeks flushed a bright tomato red. He withdrew his hand from mine.

I told him, “This is perfectly fine. Did you know it helps if you actually talk about your issues”.  He nodded accepting I was right but I knew in my heart that he didn’t buy that philosophy one bit.

 

Fuming at myself for putting myself and Molaga at risk, and all for what – an unknown stranger??? I decided I was not going to do such a stupid thing again. I told myself I should thank my stars that I will never be seeing him again and that I should be glad he walked off the way he did. Cursing myself and asking what I was trying to prove out there, I gathered up Molaga’s leash and tugged him along. The rain had slowed down to a light drizzle. Huffing a sigh of relief that I was almost at the top of the track and sighting my car only a few yards away, I scanned the area for the urchins with the fear coming back to niggle my mind that they may come back to attack.

I reached my car glad that there was no one else about with the exception of an SUV. I loaded Molaga into the rear seat of my vehicle, shut the door and turned to open the driver seat door only to find the jogger standing right next to the driver’s door looking at me as though in anticipation. I was quiet and looked at him directly in his eyes questioningly – “Now what?”

 

The Olive Branch - Picture Courtesy http://www.decorativetileshop.net

He held out his hand saying, “Hi, I’m Brody!!! I am really sorry I behaved that way. And I just wanted to say thanks for coming to my rescue. I really don’t know why I behaved like that…I really appreciate what you did out there….I…I….” He was a deluge of words all of a sudden and he was hanging around unsure what to say next because all the while he was apologising, I still had not shook his hand and I was giving him a stern impatient glare.

I saw he was indeed sorry but my ego within struggling whether to give in or not. I looked around everywhere but him and then grudgingly nodded my head in acknowledgement, held out my hand and said -” Name’s Dhriti. That’s OK”, my good manners coming to the fore.

And Brody smiled a slow uncertain smile which turned into an apologetic expression of not having caught my name. He replied -“Nice meeting my saviour. Sorry I didn’t quite catch your name….”. I spelled it out for him – “D-H-R-I-T-I” and pronounced my name again. He mimicked my name and almost got it right. So after the name practice, I signalled pointing to the car plastering a fake polite smile that I had to head back.

He stepped back giving way and let me board my car, with him still hovering near my car. I wound down my window and called out a “Bye” and started the vehicle. He bent over the driver’s window  and asked – “Do you mind joining me for a cup of coffee…err..you know…just as a…. emmm… just as a thanks??? There’s a decent cafe just up the road ahead of the round about.”

I did not see that coming….uh uh. I hesitated my expression uncertain what to make of it and what to do about it. I didn’t want to sound reserved and at the same time understanding his need to offer his thanks in the form of a coffee and call it quits…which is exactly what I would have done myself had I been in his situation. I asked him “Now…???” And he nodded his head eagerly. I said “OK…a hot coffee would be nice.”

The Unexpected Coffee

He pulled his keys from his jacket, gave me a sailor’s salute and jogged back to his SUV. I looked at him belting himself confused by his reactions. I thought to myself, just when I was thanking my stars that I never would be seeing him again, this happens. I conclude I can’t seem to grasp the ironies of my life sometimes and that I just had to go with the flow really.

 

The famous Jigarthanda

The famous Jigarthanda

For those who don’t understand what on earth ‘Jigarthanda’ means and for those who are wearing that puzzled crooked nose expression that I did when I first read the word, it’s a tall cold drink served in one of Tamil Nadu’s most famous eateries Murugan Idli Shop. Its originates from Madurai, South India and sells famously during summers.

Murugan Idli Shop

Murugan Idli Shop - Meals Ready🙂

I said to myself, it is not every day that one gets to try weird or unheard of stuff. And I just about pounced at the chance of experimenting that on one of my outings during my holiday in India. After a maddening amount of shopping at Fab India and fashion parades for my family, I was ready to drop and could almost hear my poor feet cry, begging for some respite. And we still had to eat our lunch, I realised with dread my day was far from being over.

So while we were discussing about the nearest eating joints in the Besant Nagar suburb, the first thing that popped into my head was Murugan Idli and suggested we head there. I remembered those beautiful idyllic mornings, when my family and I drove down to Elliott’s Beach to watch the sunrise, go for a small walk along the walkway and somehow managed to end up at Murugan Idli for steaming hot breakfast and some superb filter kapi (coffee). I should admit that the sunrise and walk was merely an excuse to head in that direction. With Adyar being a hop skip and jump distance away from the beach, it almost used to be a weekend ritual for us.

Anyway coming back to present day, we parked in the most cramped parking spot we could find that barely gave us concession to twist our way out of the car. I came round the car and the first thing that my eyes spotted was…………

Jigarthanda

Jigarthanda

Remember that expression I was talking about??? Oh well I read the word and of course pronounced it wrong. My father in law said it was pronounced as “ji-guru-dhan-da”. But I think the word has been localized quite a bit. It’s literal translation in Hindi is “Jigar” meaning Heart and “Thanda” being “Cold”, in effect supposed to mean something that cools your heart. Whether it does just that, I am not sure, but good news is its considered to be a health drink and I sighed with relief that there was at least something that I could enjoy without lesser guilt.

About Jigarthanda

About Jigarthanda

So we went in, and to my petty and cheap thrill I saw the menu with prices under $1 NZD for an item. I thought to myself, I had lived here most of my life, you’d think I knew about it and that there would be no surprises there. But having paid $3-4 for a plate of Idli and to see it priced so reasonably was actually having a ‘jigarthanda’ effect on me!

Look at those prices!!!!

Not heart warming, heart cooling indeed. I ordered a nice crisp Onion Rava Dosa and Vada served in Banana Leaf + that Superb Filter Kapi which was awesome. South India is well-known for serving their meals on Banana leaves and did you know that food tastes thousand times better eaten off it and aids in easy digestion too!!!

For super digestion - eat on a banana leaf

I declare today Saravana Bhavan needs to learn a thing or two from Murugan Idli. Saravana Bhavan has lost their charm and authenticity of retaining local flavour, over pricing ridiculously and have you looked at the quantities recently. Living off yesteryear’s glory! Murugan Idli still has that southern charm, intensity of flavour, reasonably priced and still packs a punch.

Can you believe that 4 of us adults ate sumptuously and a couple of us even went for seconds yet paid a bill of only $10 NZD = Rs.300-340 approximately. Since I was so full up, I decided I’ll get a take away of the Jigarthanda as I didn’t want to miss out on that. And it was a such a refreshing drink that reminded me of the local flavours, aromas and colours.

Next time you go to Murugan Idli, you know what I’d be recommending. South Indian saapaadu South Indian saapaadudhaan!!! [Translates to South Indian food is truly South India food only, meaning no other cuisine can be of the same league].

 

 

 

The highlight of my vacation - My sister's wedding

What a whirlwind of a holiday – Didn’t know when it started and finished! Such was the hustle and bustle during my supposed holiday in India. Right from the moment I landed, my sister was having a gala time having a ‘go’ at me for my clichéd outbursts, rude gestures, and shrieks of panic on a oh-so-normal death ride from the airport to back home, to shopping for clothes like a mad thirsty desert traveller for water, and eating like a beggar who hit jackpot for trying such enormous variety of the tastiest food ever. I felt like a stressed out Aladdin with my wishes coming true and not knowing how to get a grip on things.

Like all things good, my holiday was ever so short which obviously left me craving for the extra couple of days even after I reached half way to Singapore on my return flight. And I say a holiday shouldn’t be this busy, it was predominantly punctuated with wedding preparations, meeting people and having almost bad yelling fits with the maid servant or the Gurkha(watchman), and shopping at different corners of the city, it felt like my feet never touched the ground.

With such high stress levels, the ugly unsettling feeling of the safety of my home and the health of my herb garden didn’t do me any good especially given the holiday time burglaries and worry if the neighbours were indeed watering the plants and collecting our mail.

The best thing about the trip was the wedding itself which was gorgeous and surreal. I can’t bring myself to believe that my baby sister is married. It feels like only yesterday that this gap toothed toddler kept tagging along with me during my playtime in the evenings and to think she is married now …. Time indeed flies huh.

I’ll upload some snaps soon and recount some of the most memorable things on this trip. So keep tabs for more!!!

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 43 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 44 posts. There were 62 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 34mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was April 28th with 65 views. The most popular post that day was Now that’s what I call refreshing…….

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were mail.yahoo.com, facebook.com, healthfitnesstherapy.com, digg.com, and obama-scandal-exposed.co.cc.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for toothless the dragon, mowgli, toothless the dragon smiling, berries, and lord of the rings scenery.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Now that’s what I call refreshing…… April 2010
6 comments

2

A Walk down Memory Lane! April 2010

3

De Wyze Choice June 2010

4

The Auckland Food Show 2010 August 2010
3 comments

5

About April 2010

 

Countdown to fly home

Did my eyes read it right??? Are my eyes deceiving me???

I just can’t seem to believe it. All along everyone in my family have been counting down for various reasons – Birthdays, New Years, Anniversaries, House Warming dates, Holidays etc. More recently a countdown for our trip more so than the New Year.

Lost in the gazillion countdowns that we have had, and having been so used to it, the days left didn’t seem to matter much because I kept telling myself – ‘Don’ t get too excited! You’ve got 2-3 more weeks to go. So pipe down’. So pipe down I did. Squashed all my excitement and childish fantasies so I did not become hyper excited and behave like a kid with a sugar rush.

And here came the weekend, I checked the calendar just now to see the number of days to go…and my eyes very nearly popped out….I tell you, it was such a strain to my optical nerves!!!

Wonder of wonders I am onto single digit days without me even realising it!!! Time flies…..Only 7 more days to go, and I’ll be ‘Home Sweet Home’.

As usual I still have one week of counting down, wishing that the Calendar pages would fly as fast as a bullet train.

Come on slow poke, MOVE!!!

 

Tamil script - Photo source - http://www.southindianassociation.org

Here I was on a mundane Wednesday, twiddling my thumbs thinking what I should do next. I settled down with my laptop, decided that I will listen to Rahman and Ilayaraja hits.

The moment I started listening to the songs, I was awash in a sea of nostalgia. The mesmeric quality of the music and honeyed lyrics filled my spirit with a longing so fierce, I wanted to possess the beauty and the harmony, the music and lyrics evoked in me, yet I also wanted to release it free and wild so it can soar to even greater heights.

But what made this music even more special than it already was, is the language I heard it in. The familiar intonations and emphasis on syllables, stress and roll of the tongue on these words brought about the realisation that it was such a joy to hear my own mother tongue. To hear Tamil in its grandeur, lounging in the abode of literary heaven, in the form of poetry or in this case lyrics was most beautiful.

My awe for the lyricists and poets has amplified ten fold. I was struck by their power to give each word and sentence new meaning, creating new levels of understanding and interpretation, heighten imagination in ways a common man couldn’t possibly envision. These are the people who by the play of words could exaggerate and magnify the beauty of a simple flower and make it look like an exotic orchid.

I do speak in my mother tongue at home, which is colloquial and makes it sound so drab. But there is a difference when heard in poetic form which gives me a sense of contentment. Its simply inspiring! To explain the difference between colloquial Tamil and poetic Tamil would be challenging. But here goes… If I speak Tamil, its like a danseuse practising in her track pants. But hearing Tamil in lyrical form is something akin to a danseuse in a splendid costume giving the performance of her lifetime.

There are so many songs with great lyrics. But listed below are the lyrics that set off this deluge of appreciation.

Tamil lyrics –
“Veerapaandi kottaiyilae,
Minnal adikkum vaellaiyilae,
Oorum aarum thoongumbodhu,
Poovum nilavum saayumbodhu,
Kolusu sattham manasa thirudiyathae”

English Translation –
“In the fortress of warrior Veerapaandi,
At the time that the lightning was striking,
When the whole town and river was sleeping,
When the flowers and moon were resting,
The sound of anklets stole my heart”

Madras, here I come!!!

 

Besant Nagar Beach

It’s all about my upcoming trip to India. A myriad of emotions that are buzzing in my head. Excitement, Happiness, Apprehension, Worry, Anxiety, Eagerness, Impatience and few emotions that I cannot even begin to describe.

I have become so used to doing things in my own pace and set in my ways, kind of like being ‘institutionalised’ like Morgan Freeman says in The Shawshank Redemption. It is going to be quite a challenge to be able to adapt quickly to change in time zones, food, water, climate, people etc albeit only for 5 weeks.

When one of my colleagues asked me if I was excited to be going back home, I replied – “Yes I was!” And said to her that I had a very strong feeling that I was going to be viewing my own home town with different eyes. She replied with her own reflection of life experience that I would indeed. She said – It’s going to be a new experience and that I was going to invariably end up comparing lifestyles no matter what. I must say that I agree with her. After all we are all human. People keep telling me that it is not fair to compare. But having lived in India for a good 20+ years, living now in NZ for 3+ years and returning back to India for a short period, the comparison is all but inevitable. One thing I have decided though is that I will not be judgemental about my observations and comparison.

With 3 weeks to go, I can hardly wait for the calendar pages to fly. What is this trip going to hold? I wonder if I would be able to handle my own home town the way I did back then. I had this ‘take-the- bull- by-its-horns’ attitude back then which has now mellowed down so much, it makes me ponder if I still have a bit of that fire to handle Madras this time round. My family members back home keep telling me of the ever mushrooming malls, numerous eateries, restaurants and boutiques. That Madras has changed so much and become the hub for an urbane lifestyle down south. Café & Pub culture, shopping extravaganza, Multiplexes and what not. I was there at the beginning of it all three years back. But to see it post fruition with the city pulsing with vivacity is an experience I am really looking forward to.

I also want to recapture some of my happy memories by visiting spots and doing things that I still reminisce with a fondness and smile. Be it a morning breakfast at Murugan Idli after watching the sunrise at Elliott’s Beach, or be it indulging in Masala Poli and Mysorepa bought by dad from Sri Krishna Sweets, or be it jamming sessions or endless conversations way into the night with my darling  mother and sister and much much more. I want to do at least some of it, if not all.

My thirst for challenges still remains unquenched. So bring it on Madras. Hit me with your best!!!

Vegetarian Moussaka

 

Yummy Moussaka

Moussaka – Have heard that word before. Knew it had something to do with food. So when I came across the word on a Kurdish takeaway menu, I said let’s try that. And yummy doesn’t even begin to describe it.

And I just couldn’t get enough of it. Not that I went to the point of gluttony and wanting a second helping during the same meal. But I kept thinking about it and googled numerous Moussaka recipes to make it. Not satisfied with any of the recipes, I fused bits of 3 different Moussaka recipes and came up with my own. And I tell you, that doesn’t happen often enough. And the result – a raving success. So here’s the recipe if you want to try it.

Vegetarian Moussaka:

Ingredients for the Moussaka –

  • 1 Large Aubergine/Eggplant
  • 1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans (washed and drained)
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Green chillies (if you like it hot/or you can season it with pepper)
  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh Parsley
  • 1/2 Bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Cheese
  • 1 tsp Dried Mixed herbs (optional)
  • Bechamel sauce

Ingredients for Bechamel sauce  –

  • 3 tbsp Flour
  • 4 tbsp Butter/Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • A pinch of Nutmeg powder
  • Salt & Pepper to season

Method –

Cut aubergines into 1cm thick circles, lay them on a baking tray. Sprinkle salt and let it rest for 20-30 minutes so the bitter juices get removed. Squeeze out the juices from the eggplant before baking it. During this time get your onions, tomatoes and chillies chopped up. Crush garlic instead of chopping them for a more rustic taste.

Heat some oil in a saucepan, add your onions, garlic and saute until the onions turn translucent. Then throw in your chillies. Cook for a minute. Then add the washed and drained chickpeas to the saucepan. After this is cooked for a bit, add your tomatoes and season with salt and cook for a few more minutes.

While the lentil mix is cooking, prep the aubergines. Brush both sides of all eggplant pieces with olive oil and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Flip eggplants after 10 minutes in the oven so the other side is cooked through as well. The eggplants must look almost transparent at the end of it. After which remove them from the oven.

Now for the bechamel sauce.  Heat a saucepan, put the butter/oil and add flour. Stir with a spatula until the flour starts rolling up into small balls and comes together. Start adding milk little by little. Replace your spatula with a whisk now for stirring and this will easily dissolve those lumps in the sauce. I learnt this the hard way, believe me. Add the bay leaf and pinch of nutmeg to it. Season it with a little salt and pepper. And cook until it thickens. You don’t want your sauce to be too runny nor too thick. Try to keep it in the middle so you can easily pour it later onto your baking dish in the end.

Take a slightly deep baking dish so you can start layering. Place one layer of  baked eggplants for the bottom most layer. On top of it add the lentil-onion-tomato mix. A sprinkle of chopped parsley and mixed herbs. Top up again with a layer of eggplant topped by the lentil mix and parsley & herbs again. Then pour the bechamel sauce evenly to cover the eggplant and lentil layers. [By the way you need to have removed the bay leaf from the sauce before you do this].

Combine the bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl and sprinkle on top of the bechamel sauce.

Your moussaka is ready to be baked. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the bread crumbs become a deep golden brown (or almost close to charring). I baked it at 200 degrees Celsius.

Vegetarian Moussaka

* If you want a traditional version of Moussaka, you can replace the bechamel sauce with a traditional yoghurt mix made Greek style. Combine an egg, 2 tbsp greek yoghurt, 1 heaped tbsp of parmesan cheese, a pinch of nutmeg and whisk together. This also gives the same creamy texture to the moussaka and bake.

 

Go Bananas

 

 

A Wave of Shock! Raised eyebrows! Petrified eyes! Are you nuts???

I am describing the array of expressions that I got in response to the words that I uttered – “Stick a needle in the banana”. Just one of those times when literal translations shock the living lights out of people.

A regular day at work, a welcome respite of a team meeting to punctuate one of our busiest days. Our manager was talking about one of her upcoming training sessions on “Courageous conversations with people”. We all thought that it was a very different topic and something worth investigating a bit more. After all, training programmes these days have become so clichéd, repetitive and boring.

So with the brimming interest in the topic I shared a recent conversation that I had with a client about tactfully pointing out her setbacks. You could ask if it was my place to point it out in the first place. Just call me one of those ‘poke-one’s-nose-in-other-people’s-business” type of people and one who does their job a bit too well. I took it upon myself and said it just had to be done and did just that. And the client agreed to the bitter truth that I illuminated for her. Many of my colleagues were surprised that the client accepted it.

And we all agreed in the end that it’s not the facts that people disagree with, but the manner in which we put it across to them. So I finished with a cheeky grin and said – “Kinda like sticking a needle in the banana”.

And that’s when those expressions came to life and the room fell silent. I looked around. Some of them didn’t understand what I meant or implied and looked at me as if I were nuts.

And one of my colleagues gathered his ‘courage’ and asked me what I meant. So I had to elaborate. “By pointing out a setback to a client, I am poking or pricking them with an information that can’t easily be ingested. And when you stick the needle in a banana it goes down a bit more easily without noticing it.”

Dawning, by that I mean ‘understanding’ I realised was also an expression I have come across all within a span of 1 hour. Office dynamics I say makes me ‘Go Bananas’!!!

Visit to Middle Earth

 

The Statues of the Two Kings - Gates of Argonath

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, always chanting about the beauty of New Zealand, I must admit my appreciation for its natural beauty only seems to be escalating. The fascination to visit New Zealand intensified when I watched the trailer of Lord of the Rings (especially when I saw the trailer for The Fellowship of the Rings). Now that I am here, I can understand why the film makers not just Lord of the Rings makers, but also others across the world choose this country for their work. The plush meadows, rolling hills and the many rivers and lakes is the perfect answer for many film makers scouting for “THE” perfect location.

Be it for romantic walks alongside dreamy blue beaches, action and suspense on the wildest treasure hunts, or mysterious disappearances in the bush, or fantasy where pixies come alive under the white silver moon, or the eerie feel of haunting amidst shadows of giant-sized trees, or better yet sets for the likes of war films, epics, documentaries or dramas to show the magnificent sprawl of land with its bountiful space, NZ is the answer to all of the above and more.

I had this wonderful opportunity of visiting Matamata with my husband who found an awesome deal to visit Hobbiton online. Matamata is known for its thriving farming and thoroughbred horses and that which boasts one of the largest farms which was the very setting for the Hobbit village. A farm converted into a Hobbit set. You may think “what’s so great about that?”. May sound mundane, but the work that has gone into it to create the set was huge.

The Shire's Rest - Hobbiton in Matamata

We started our tour from the Shire’s Rest, gave our tickets to the guide and boarded a bus. And it struck me that its been aeons since I’d last been on a bus and remembered my college days only too well and the groans and back pains after a bumpy ride in the bus. But fortunately bumps were very few this time round. We rolled up the farm tracks watching the many white dots decorating the lush green paddocks. And by white dots I meant sheep. The tour guide was chatting away on his microphone with his tourists throughout the bus ride about the films. One thing in common amongst all the tourists on the bus was that everyone (except maybe the kids) had watched the movies and/or had read the books.

The White dots

 

To add to our fortunes the ever unpredictable kiwi weather seemed to be tour friendly with the late spring sunshine beaming down on us wiping out the chill in the air. It was just perfect for the 1.5 to 2 hour slow trek up and down the paddocks and low hills. With an ado about safety and acceptable behaviour from the friendly tour guide, we marched on. We visited the homes of Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee and many more featured in the film. Apparently the people who built the set had to literally cut into the hills to create holes and ploughed the dirt and roots out. And started building these home like structures. They are quite narrow if you enter them, one will barely have space to fit more than 3 individuals in a horizontal line. And only of one of the hobbit holes were made larger than the rest as they wanted an angle from within the Hobbit hole looking out at the scenery.

Hobbit holes

Hobbit holes

Hobbit holes

Another landmark from the film was the perfectly symmetrical oak tree which apparently caught Peter Jackson’s eye which also tipped the scales in this farm’s favour in terms of becoming the location for Bag End.

The Oak Tree

Because the tour was conducted in a relaxed and cool pace I was not even tired. While we were waiting for the bus to arrive, the tour guide who was armed with a stock of interesting anecdotes and snippets about Lord of the Rings trilogy and Tolkien fanatics shared a couple of interesting cases of fan frenzy.

One of them was about a couple from overseas (he thinks they were probably of Norwegian or Swedish descent) visited Hobbiton. The husband and wife duo spoke Elvish. And the husband was the only one who spoke English, his own native language & of course ‘Elvish’. He translated the tour guides dialogues to his wife in Elvish, which many of them found amusing but took it in good spirit.

The other was another extreme. A fan bought a $750(NZ $$$) gold ring like the one in the movies, that was sold at their souvenir shops and took a scenic flight over the mount where Mordor (Mt Ruapehu in NZ) was filmed and dropped the ring from the aircraft. Hows that for crazy? Gold melting idiot I’d say.

As if on cue the bus arrived just as the story ended. And we trudged back revelling on the experience we just had. We left the Hobbiton immediately and went to the city centre to have Pizza from a local Pizzeria – Power Pizza that sated our ravenous hunger. And the pizza was surprisingly good. And we also had a tangy soft drink – Frank’s Blood Orange which was the perfect solution to quench our thirst(given that we were parched after the trek).

This is a must see place for the Lord of the Rings fans. I highly recommend a trip to the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata. They also have packages including Sheep rearing shows, Farm stays etc. Do check out their website for more information. My South Island tour of the movie set is still due (the one with the Gates of Argonath pictured at the top of the page). Hopefully in the next couple of years. On the whole the long weekend was well spent and well worth it!!!

 

 

Toothless smiling at Hiccup

 

If someone had told me that Dragons could smile, I’d have said – “Well Pigs could fly too”. I mean, can we even conjure up an image of a Smiling Dragon!!!

“How to train your dragon” was captivating, honest and refreshingly original like a breath of fresh air after a slew of not so memorable animated films.

This film captured my attention first when I had gone to the cinemas. At first when I saw the trailer I thought that it might be one of those wannabe animated films fighting for a spot alongside the likes of ‘Ratatouilles’ and ‘Shreks’.

Although I can’t quite place them in the same pedestal as the above named greats, this film had heart and courage in the large measures. What stood out most was the nature of the film. The storyline was an antithesis of what a Viking and Dragon stood for.

A Viking whose nature is to be a brute, turns out to be a Viking with a marshmallow heart unable to fulfil his tribe’s tradition of becoming a dragon slayer. And the fire-breathing dragon, he turns out to be a bit of a pet who could smile & imitate his friend and quite a Da Vinci in the making. Be warned, that smile is so cute, it will have you falling in love with a dragon. The beauty of the film lies in these two individuals entering an unorthodox friendship that changes a tribe’s way of life forever.

Toothless and Hiccup

The portrayal of the main characters ‘Hiccup’ the Viking & ‘Toothless’ the Dragon were beautiful. The characters were clearly etched out and the bonding between them was brought out well too. The supporting characters had just the right level of dialogue and twined in a subtle manner that the focus was not taken off the main characters and the plot.

I must acknowledge the graphics, illustration and animation. Right from the cute characters, the scenic flights with Toothless, the life and verve of the Viking lifestyle and their age old tools and stone made structures etc were breath taking. It was simply magnificent and a treat to sore eyes.

On the whole, this is an animated film worth watching that will leave you thinking about the movie even after you have finished watching it. A bit late on my review but for those who have not yet watched it, I rate it a hearty 4/5.

Beetroot Halwa

You’d think having lived in NZ for at least 3 years, I would have bought Beetroot at least once during this time. I have not, well, until recently, when I decided I just had to buy it. When I added it on to my grocery bill, I thought of making either Beetroot curry with coconut garnish or Beetroot Halwa.

Obviously known for my notorious sweet tooth, the latter won hands down, the compulsive craving for me to make Beetroot Halwa way too overpowering to ignore. So Ram & I ended up making this beautiful melting hot red velvet delight.

First we shredded the Beet in the food processor. Poured some milk on to a pan and brought it to a light boil.

Shredded Beetroot

Then added the Beet to milk so it can be cooked until tender.

Cooking Beetroot in Milk

Then after the beet was cooked tender, added the required amount of sugar and stirred it until it dissolved.

Stirring in the sugar

Then as the water from the beet dried up, started adding ghee little by little.

Beetroot working in the ghee

Last but not the least, a twist to the Halwa, which I call the “enhancer” – freshly ground cardamom powder. Half a teaspoon of it ought to do the trick.

And to sign off with flair, ghee roasted Cashews mixed with the Beetroot Halwa which looks like Pomegranate seeds glistening the midst of the halwa.

Cashews strewn in the Beetroot Halwa

And the taste was as good as it looked!!! Luscious and mouth wateringly delicious.

The Food Show

To describe the Auckland Food Show in three words – “Bustling, Colourful & Inspiring”.

Never did I think that one of my long forgotten wishes was going to come true. When Ram came home that evening, he had this really smug grin that made me wonder what he was up to! He asked me to open a plain white envelope. I looked at him with narrowed eyes all sorts of things racing through my head. Could it be movie tickets? A pay rise?(Yeah right, we are barely out of recession…duh!!!) Invite? A surprise holiday?…… I wish!!! Ram a holiday in Bali would be nice🙂. I slit open the envelope with these thoughts playing around in my head.

And what do I find? Two tickets to the Auckland Food Show. I was stoked. No words. No reaction. Just a gaping silence from me. My eyes misted and I smiled sheepishly, thanked Ram for surprising me and for remembering such a tiny detail from a long forgotten conversation.

So both of us got our very first taste of attending a Food Show in the midst of Food Connoisseurs. We were clueless where to begin. We scanned the hall to find on one end an amphitheatre that was going to host cooking shows by top celebrity chefs from New Zealand and across the world. And the remaining floor area housed stalls in various shapes and sizes of the gazillion retailers offering up their produce for the people to sample and judge. And if they were lucky to win the vote, some spot sales and collection of their business cards for tying bulk deals.

I realised that the Food Show is such a wonderful platform for companies to showcase their products and build their public image.

Hawkers galore –

Some of the stalls had such enthusiastic sales people inviting people to sample their products that the hawkers in the streets of Mylapore would have had a healthy competition. The stalls boasted a wide range of products and services right from the most divine cheeses to exotic fruit juices, luscious wines, electronic gadgets, delightful chocolates, rustic chutney, organic preserves and many many more items. I am sure one can imagine the scale that I am trying to describe. Humongous!

GeeBees Chai –

We started around by visiting the first aisle of stalls. An announcement was made that the first cooking show was going to start in a few minutes. Ram and I checked the schedule and made a beeline to the amphitheatre.When we were doing so, we almost bumped into a poor girl standing with a tray of tiny plastic cups carrying samples of different teas. The aroma of the tea assailed us. We tried Ginger Chai, Cardamom chai and my favourite of the lot Masala Chai. I looked at Ram wistfully wanting to buy them. Ram said let’s go for it and we picked up a box of each. They are sweetened and flavoured tea packets sold for instant chai and all we need to do is add water. Worth trying!!! And by the way I checked out the price, it’s $10 a box with 10 sachets in it. A dollar for a mug does seem expensive but not when you have it once a while.

Annabelle White & The Feijoa Chocolate Man

Annabelle White –

We hurriedly paid for the tea and made a move onto the theatre. We went up 7-8 steps and grabbed a couple of seats right in the middle for a good view. We faced a middle-aged live wire on stage who was so vivacious she would have put young people to shame with her boundless energy and smile. She was Annabelle White. Her every sentence was punctuated with wit and humour. Her theme was Comfort Food, Home cooking tips and fun while cooking.

She singled out Ram as he was acting cheeky. When she asked the audience to “Hold on tightly to your chairs”, Ram being Ram literally did that. Am sure you can get the drift. So she cornered him and said “you, the man with the baseball cap. Can you please stand up please?”. His neighbour on his left and I poked him in the ribs to stand up. Annabelle said “Because you have been cheeky you need to be punished. So what chocolate would you like – Feijoa Milk Chocolate or Caramel Chocolate? Am pretty sure you will be picking Feijoa……I mean who can say no to it….”, when Ram interrupted and said “Caramel chocolate”. Annabelle became all animated and sent her assistant flying to us with a pack of mouth melting Caramel chocolates and that’s how Ram was named the “Feijoa Chocolate Man” for the remainder of her show.

She shared not just some tips for home cooking, she also shared some of her recipes which I am yet to try, but I am pretty sure will turn out as wonderful as her. I ended up buying her Cakes and Slices book from the book stall eventually that evening. After the show we even managed to talk to her and got treated to a photo opportunity too.

I am sharing some of Annabelle’s tips –

  • Food should always be served with seasoning and a little bit of sweetness to add that oomph factor
  • Rubbing lemon on apples prevent it from browning and also increases its flavour
  • Pumpkin Soup will never taste the same, with a dash of lemon juice and adds a wonderful zing to it
  • Never add salt to boiling peas as it hardens the peas
  • Add oil only while draining your pasta and not while cooking it

We pretty much stayed put for the next two shows as the crowd had just started milling into the Food Show. So it definitely pays to go early for good seats and some fresh perspective.

Stefano di Pieri

Stefano di Pieri –

Next on stage was accomplished Jack of All Trades / The Self taught Chef Stefano di Pieri who is based in Mildura, Australia. He was a person who had a nice fading Italian accent, adding just the amount of rustic charm. His love for food was apparent from the way he handled the food. His show focussed on Modern Italian Cooking. He spoke about bread making  and demonstrated making a Rosemary Foccaccia. I have always pronounced Foccaccia as ‘fo-k-asia’, but apparently the right Italian way of pronouncing it was ‘Fo-kaa-ch-ya’. He also demonstrated making a Piadina, a traditional Italian flat bread which according to him is something like a Pita bread.

Some of the things I learnt from him were –

  • If you want really good bread always purchase a high quality grade flour
  • Use flour without gluten
  • Some of the ingredients he suggested we can use to liven up your boring bread is to add Sultanas, Rosemary, Thyme etc while making your bread
  • While making bread always ensure you prepare it in a warm environment. Warmer the environment the better your bread will turn out
  • The world’s most expensive mushrooms are Porcini Truffle Mushrooms. There are 2 varieties apparently – White Truffles and Black Truffles. White Truffles comes from Piedmont in Italy and the Black Truffles from Périgord from France

Stefano’s show was certainly different, presented on a different level altogether and something I could appreciate because I just love Italian food. Sitting without moving for over 2 hours was a real pain. But well worth it. We finally waited it out for the next show, for the chef who is a common face on New Zealand Televisions these days and Ram’s favourite.

The most animated Chef – Richard Till

Richard Till –

The temptation to yell out to Richard, for him to say “Shop smarter NZ” in his overtly enunciated voice was just too much. But I was on my best behaviour. Richard’s theme was method and technique. But I have just 2 words for his show. Sloppy and entertaining. He spoke about browning of onions, cooked a rabbit and made Aioli which was the saving face. I wouldn’t say I was wowed by his presentation, but there is just something about him that keeps you on the tenterhooks. But as an after thought, it’s probably trying to understand his talk and accent which was the challenging part during this particular show.

I will hunt down my recipe sheet and share the Aioli recipe shortly.

There after we started scouring the numerous stalls sampling items of interest and buying if it was great. Have put the pictures of only brands/products that are worth mentioning.

To die for Almond croissants

Paneton – A french bakery located in Auckland central. We just happened to pass by their stall. The aroma of warm bread drew us like a moth to a flame. We saw the array of food for sale on display. Those Almond croissants that they had made were the best I have ever ever had hands down. So soft and almondy, the medley of  smells of melting butter, almond essence and warm baked sweet bread was so mouth-watering and irresistible. I can’t get the softness of the croissant off my head. It was that perfect!!!

You will find this jewel at 21 Halsey Street in Auckland opposite to Victoria Park.

Nuttz

Nuttz – As the name goes, nuts in such a variety of flavours. The show stealer was their Moroccan Tagine cashews. Also good was the Chilli and Lime cashews. Packed with flavour and quite addictive I must say. This sales representative for Nuttz, was quite enthusiastic, even tried on some of his linguistic skills on us. Bubbly and energetic living up to the brand name he represented.

Equagold Vanilla Woman – Suddenly in the milling crowd, I came across this golden statue or that’s what I thought. I gaze at the golden spectacle with open curiosity, the head-gear dazzling me and suddenly I get a wink.and that’s when I realised it’s a human statue. I immediately had to get a picture of the golden human statue.

The Golden human statue

Heavenly Fudge –

Heavenly fudge

Butterscotch is the flavour. Mouth melting. Worthy of finger licking. Delicious!! Need I say more. Gorgeous!!!

Masala Dosai in the middle of a Food Show –

While all we were getting were tasty nibbles and small samples, we were hungry for a good bite of food especially since we missed breakfast to accommodate all that tasty samples. And wonder of wonders, in the middle of the rows and rows of stalls, the smell of masala dosai filled the air. Our noses followed the aroma of the dosai and saw fresh hot dosais being made. And paired with Mysore style sambar and coconut chutney, it was the perfect lunch that afternoon.

Masala Dosai

After buying some Sun dried tomatoes and Greek Olives and booking a snazzy Kenwood Food Processor, we returned home with a full stomach and our minds filled with images of food and foodies memories!!!

A weather to fit the mood

Panic and fear were my first reactions when I heard the commotion. The sight of the unfriendly jogger lying on the ground paved way to a hurricane of anger within me, surprisingly not at him, but at who had done this to him.  A rush of adrenalin surged through me and I charged at the urchins with Molaga at my side. Even during this, my satiric humour took over. I thought to myself that I was the Damsel (well not exactly in shining armour) riding to the rescue of the knight (in distress). And Molaga, well not exactly my noble steed, I chose to think of him as the Noble Canine.

I quickened my pace and stopped sharply two feet from the gang. As if to command the urchins attention, Molaga gave a series of loud barks. The urchins were startled and backed away to one side hurriedly away from the jogger. I didn’t see the jogger, I was trying to focus on the urchins and remove the immediate threat off the scene. I schooled my face with my best stare and put my left hand out forward as if to ward them off and yelled – “Can’t you see he is in pain? Back off or I’ll set my dog on you!!!”. Three of the urchins exchanged quick glances amongst themselves and fled. The last one was still undecided whether to take me on and Molaga or run for his life. He gave it a half-hearted shot anyway and said, “Look at him, a loser. A lost case. Eh!” and made a sniggering noise as if to win me over. My hate for foolish acts of bravado mounted, I rolled my neck and sighed and loosened my grip on Molaga’s collar and all I said was -“Molaga….” in an undertone. Panic split his face and he careened off without another word.

After scanning the area quickly for any further threats, I squatted beside  the victim and gently put my hand on his shoulder. I rolled him onto his back and bent over him to check for any injuries. Molaga also fretted on my side sniffing the jogger from time to time, his forehead marked with worry wrinkles. He even tried to give him a lick on his ear as if to wake him up. I shook the jogger gently to shake him into consciousness. He rested his head on the ground and exhaled loudly. He opened his eyes in a state of confusion and fear, he raised himself weakly on his elbows and bent his knees. I noticed his startlingly bright hazel eyes, dilated in fear.

When he saw it was just me and Molaga, he relaxed his crouching position and ran his fingers through his hair in relief. I immediately reassured him – “Hey it’s okay. Are you all right? Are you hurt anywhere?”. No response. He looked at me uncomprehendingly as if I were talking to him in Greek. His expression changed to one of exasperation and then anger. I could not even begin to fathom the reason for his misguided anger. He stood up jerkily and dusted his rear without realising he was going to get more mud on his clothes. He raised his right hand to his forehead, as if he was tensed and in the midst of a mental battle. He then looked up and said in a stilted tone -“I am not like this usually okay! Just…just…leave me alone” and he spurned off without a backward glance.

My jaw literally dropped at his weird reaction. I just couldn’t believe that I was brushed off like this and that too when I had put myself at risk to save him from that gang. The ungrateful wretch left me standing in the pouring rain, the disbelief cementing me to the ground.

Molaga playing 'Fetch'

When I reached home, it was to find Molaga just as I had expected, hanging around the window, wagging his tail off at the sound of my car hoot and jingle of the keys opening the front door. And not a second inside, he was all over me like he hadn’t seen me in decades.  His unconditional love was gratifying and always a welcome feeling that I appreciate every single day.

So after our evening pamper and cuddle session and my quick freshen up, I walked up to the window to check if the sky was clear enough to go for our evening walk. Vacillating in my decision, with my mind leaning towards taking a rain check on that walk, I turned around to tell Molaga that, only to find myself cornered into changing my decision. I should say forced to change my decision. It was as if my golden brat knew I was going to tell him “No walk today”, he stood there with his big brown puppy eyes, the leash hanging off his snout, a silly wide grin pasted on his face.

How could I say no to this puppy? So I took the leash and smiled down at him saying -“You win”. And we drove down to the nearby regional reserve. This particular one was one of our favourite hangouts called “Waikowhai”. This place had a nice winding and sloping path leading up to the beach. “Waikowhai” is a Maori word that literally translates to “Kowhai by the Water”. The “wh” in the word Waikowhai is pronounced like “fa”, so the pronunciation goes something like “Why-Ko-Fa-i”. Kowhai is a beautiful yellow bell-shaped flower that is very native to New Zealand (as pictured).

Kowhai

Waikowhai is one of those unique parks which boasts a wide-spread vegetation lined with native trees and plants alongside the pathway leading up to the waterfront. The shore itself is encrusted with pebbles, sea shells, rocks, sea weed, driftwood etc. On the right side of the beach are cliff walls sporting a dog exercise area nearby where our canine friends can be unleashed and are able to run with wild abandon. One would think it was a white sand beach if it weren’t for the crunch of sea shells under your feet. With the very picturesque setting and salty air beckoning us, we started our trek down the slope.

Molaga let off the leash was a lot subdued today making things a lot more easier for me. As we made our way slowly, I saw a bunch of urchins hanging around a bench. I could hear their guffaws and rude noises long before I reached them. I ignored them and made my way past them entering the exercise area. I picked up a dry driftwood and threw it far into the water. Molaga ran into the water with all the excitement he could muster and went to fetch the piece of wood. He brought it back and dropped it at my feet, and shook himself dry and of course spraying all the water on me in the process. He then stepped back two to three steps backwards at an angle and shuffled his front paws front to back as if to mimic the throwing action. After playing “Fetch” for a while, we trudged on a bit further down the beach. The temptation to sit on a rock and dip my feet in the water was very compelling. I sat gazing into the horizon when I heard the splish-splash on wet sand as if someone was running on shallow water. I turned to my left to find a lonely jogger running back towards me and onto the path leading back to the car park. He was tall and brawny, dressed in dark running shorts and rain proof jacket covering his head. I nodded and smiled at him in a friendly manner expecting him to return the smile. Um, wrong! He looked at Molaga, then me, scrunched up his eyebrows, narrowed his eyes at me and jogged past me without even so much as a nod. His sharp stare made me feel edgy. So much for friendly smiles, I thought to myself. I shrugged my shoulders trying to get the hazel eyed stranger off my head.

As if to dampen my mood further, the sky just then decided to cry on me. I quickly whistled to Molaga and we started our trek back to the car park. As we made our way up, the rain started pouring and lightning and thunder flashed in the sky.

The way up was very steep and more tiresome and the wet weather didn’t help one bit making the already loose soil slushy. The concrete tiles were running with muddy rain water.

Suddenly I heard a commotion up ahead of me. Even in the rain I could hear that eerie yelp like that of a wounded animal. A noisy scuffle broke ahead of me on the walkway. Molaga’s ears perked up and he started growling from his throat. I knew he had sensed a threat. I kept a hold on his collar and peered through the sheet of rain. There in the distance, I saw the jogger cowering under a tree with his face between his knees crouched in a foetal position as if in pain. Three out of the four young urchins were swarming him with insults, mocking remarks and rude gestures. I wasn’t sure if they had attacked him but he seemed to be writhing in pain as I saw him clenching his stomach.

I knew friendly smile or not I had to help him then and it had better be fast!!!

“How much do I owe you, love?”, asked the wizened old gentleman as he peered down at me pushing his spectacles down the bridge of his nose. I replied back saying -“That will be $85.00 Mr.Kusac!”. “Ah now, is that an increase in the prices I am hearing?”, he asked. I said “Yes, indeed sir! That is exactly what it is. The rates for the materials and books have gone up unfortunately and there you go, all the students are bearing the brunt of it”.

“Ah young lady, you have just sweetened the deal for me, by calling me a ‘student’, making me feel like a youth in his prime”. He pulled out some bills out of his wallet, handed them to me and said “Here you go, now that’s settled”. He gave me a toothy smile, nodded his head as though saying goodbye and half turned. Changing his mind though, he turned back around and asked -“Not to sound rude or intrusive, might I ask you, what your name is and where you are from young lady?”. I smiled at him secretly smiling with the knowledge that I knew I was about to be asked that question. I flashed my dimples at him and said “My name’s Dhriti & I am from India”.  He raised his eyebrows and nodded his head as though he approved of it. “Ah! Yes! Yes! That’s wonderful. Now what does your name mean again?”. I replied saying -“It means Courage”. Mr. Kusac smiled and shook hands with me signing off with a “Its been a real pleasure meeting you Ms. Courage. Hope to see you around soon”.

I smiled turning back to the filing cabinet to file our latest enrolment Mr. Kusac under Handmade pottery(Level-3).

My work place never ceased to amaze me. Everyday I saw different people from different walks of life, making their way into the Community Learning Centre, some thing common amongst them all. A thirst for knowledge and a passion to keep themselves busy as bees.  I have worked here as a course facilitator for nearly 8 months now and ‘bored’ was never a word I could associate with this place. I taught “Sign Language” and “English for Migrants”. More recently, I took on some of the administrative duties temporarily while the usual Administration Support went away indefinitely to support her pregnant daughter. Both the roles giving me a good opportunity for me to make some extra greens and a great way to meet new people.

Almost done for the day, with just the quick wind down meeting at the end of the week with the rest of the teachers pending. The clock ticking closer to home time, I worked extra zealously finishing up at the front desk picturing Molaga bored to his bones waiting at the window for me. And then for that much-needed jog for the both of us. I only hope it doesn’t rain until then. Molaga here I come!!!

Molaga waiting

“Just apply your mind and you’ll sniff it out in no time, sonny”. I grinned at my dad as we walked out of the house to climb into our station wagon. He had that ‘brimming with anticipation’ expression where he was pushing me to get it right, just like when I tried cracking a Math problem.

The words “You almost have it son. You have almost got it. C’mon!!!” kept echoing in my ears and mind.   The hand that came to pat me turned into a flash of lightning clapping me and pushed me with a mammoth force that I crashed on the left side of my ribs and I smashed into something hard.

View from my window

I woke up with a start covered in sweat, my hair plastered onto my scalp. I looked outside the window. It was almost early evening, soft rain pattering on my window and the smell of cool fresh air filled the room. I sat panting heavily. My mom rushed into the room with a worried expression removing the oven mitts off her hands, and came to stand next to me. She pushed my hair off my forehead and asked, “Brody you alright? Was it one of your nightmares again? I thought you’d hurt yourself and screamed in pain.” She sat beside me on my single bed and picked up my hand, encasing it in hers and she rubbed my palm, her mindless action soothing off the last vestiges of my nightmare.

I half smiled at my mother thinking about how unique mothers were with their unparalleled sense of perception where their children were concerned. And I wondered how she knew I was in pain! I just nodded my head to confirm that it was one of my usual nightmares and reassured her that I was okay now.

She said, “Do you want to come help me cook dinner or do you want to go back to bed?” I replied stretching out the kinks on my neck and said -“I will just go for a run I think. I need some fresh air to clear my head”. She patted my cheek and gave me a quick hug. I quickly changed into my jogging tracks and sweat shirt, put on my sneakers and stepped out of the house. I looked up at the sky and saw it was drizzling. I put the key into the ignition and drove down towards the regional reserve nearby.

After the huffing and puffing run behind Molaga, both of us returned home hungry and tired. I rummaged around the cupboards for Molaga’s food.

As far as Molaga is concerned, I suffer with a ‘blinded by love’ syndrome. I let him get away with the worst of his behaviour but in the end that would amount to a big nothing compared to the kind of retribution I can get, which is pure boundless happiness and joy. So my relationship with Molaga is somewhat akin to a 60’s Indian wife devotedly waiting on her husband to finish dinner. It’s such an irony. And I am supposed to be the human!!!

Molaga always knew that I put him first, food wise. So when he heard the sound of me opening and closing kitchen cupboards, he immediately strutted up to the kitchen and watched me intently while I cut up his food packet and emptied it into his bowl. The bowl barely touched the ground and Mr.Gobbler attacked it with the avid hunger of a guy who hadn’t had food in a thousand years. I rolled my eyes and sighed.

I felt hungry but the run that evening had just about done me in for the day. I settled for Spicy instant noodles.

Molaga eyed me from time to time to see if I was eating. I sometimes feel, he checks up on me from time to time, you know just to ensure I was okay. Wow, I must be in denial to even think that. The truth of the matter is, in the real dog world,  it is to ensure he wasn’t left alone of course.

I stretched out on the sofa and flicked the Television on and  started watching “The Big Bang Theory”. Molaga joined me up on my couch and snuggled up cosily at my feet. After a while of blurring images and flickering light, my eyes started drooping. Molaga saw that I was falling asleep and nudged at my bare feet as if to say let’s go to bed.

Snoozer

Sometimes he is more human than canine. I looked at him fondly and realized he had filled the emptiness of my life with the love shining out of his warm brown eyes. Recovering from the acerbic aftermath of my relationship, I guess my craving for love and loyalty was more a priority on my list, on my road to recovery and normalcy. I got up and tucked him up in his bed. Turned off the lights and hit the bed like a sack of potatoes.

The Karate Kid remake was, to describe in one word, ‘”O“sum’. I loved every bit of the movie.

Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan made a fantastic duo. Jaden was a miniature replica of Will Smith. And his acting and talent stood out. Not at all like the shoddy wannabe Karate champ like the kid in the original movie. Jaden’s attempt at authenticity, was refreshing and it definitely looks like he has done his home work. His moves and flexibility was so genuine, he left me in awe for most of the movie. He acted with such a casual air as if he were born to do it.

The Karate Kid

Jackie Chan’s performance was toned down and low-key, but probably just what the role required. Jaden and Chan had a good chemistry of a student and teacher. His wardrobe looked frumpy but I guess it was customized to project his role as a maintenance man. Jackie Chan was presented in a totally down to earth manner, but very inspiring. I still remain a fan of his, and I could see some really authentic Kung Fu moves. It was great to see him in action again.

The role of Jaden’s mother was also well justified. A typical mom who loves her kid to bits and brims with pride at his hard work and achievement. She was good too.

The movie was packed with light and humorous as well as emotional moments. It was very well laid out. This movie is worth watching more than once. I will never look at removing and hanging one’s coat the same way again. And the cobra exchange by Jaden on his opponent was something so well-played out. During the showdown at the tournament, the audience was so involved, I could hear them cheer for Jaden when he scored a point against the enemy. Such was the involvement of the audience.

And China was shown in such a breathtaking manner. It was charming and beautiful. The locations and cinematography was simply out of the world. The colors, the architecture, the culture, the decorations, the festival, the Kung Fu school etc was shown in full form. It was a wonderful projection of China as it is today, with a blend of traditional as well as modern scenes of China.

On the whole, I rate the movie 4/5. Enjoyable and worth watching more than once.