Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Taste this!

I'm back from a micro-mini holiday which went past soooper-fast...
I went to visit my parents in Aurangabad along with A (how our train journey to Aurangabad was an adventure in itself is a topic to be dealt with in a separate post soon). My sisters joined us and we had a splendid weekend (how I wished it would last forever.) Needless to say we ate loads and loads of all time favorite foods like puran-poli, narali bhaat, and gulab jamuns and re-discovered the absolute bliss of tucking into a meal cooked with oodles and oodles of love!

Aurangabad is a growing town (almost a city) which boasts of most of the facilities of a big city and still retains the old world charm of a sleepy town. And since some of my happiest years were spent here everything associated with this historic place seems extra special to me.

There are several monuments in and around Aurangabad which speak of its rich heritage. The world famous Ellora and Ajanta caves are very close to Aurangabad. Bibi ka Maqbara, built by the Moghul emperor Aurangzeb is called the Taj Mahal of the South. There's the Deogiri fort built by the Yadav dynasty which is better known as Daulatabad fort. Aurangzeb was so impressed by its "inconquerability" (actually I meant something which can’t be conquered) that he made it the capital of his empire.

On Sunday we planned to pack our lunch and have it in some scenic spot. We drove for around 5 minutes further from Daulatabad fort and found the perfect location. Pleasant blue skies and a spellbinding view of a lake in the backdrop made a delicious meal even more enjoyable. We bought fresh guavas to go with our lunch of dhapates (yummy!!) and bhendi fry.

There are some extremely tasty food items on my "Must Eat" list while in Aurangabad and I consider it an offence to miss any of them. The first slot is reserved for my beloved "Bhalla". This is a sort of potato patty which is drowned in tangy and sweet and spicy Kabuli channa gravy garnished with anar dana, shredded ginger, cottage cheese and cilantro. A mouthful of bhalla and I almost attain nirvana-like state. ;-) I'm eternally grateful to my friend S who introduced me to this place which goes by the very cool name of "Mathuravaasi Bhujiyawala". Very different tasting, boat shaped pani puris are also sold here but they are way too big to eat at one go.
A place called Madhur Milan sells the most heavenly pani puris I've ever tasted (but not close to what my mom makes!).I've seen some die hard fans popping down about 30-35 puris JLT!
Bang opposite Madhur Milan is a humble joint which is very popular for its vada pau. The savory in itself is very simple and basic in flavor. A deep fried aloo vada wrapped in a fresh pau (I like to believe that it is fresh) coated with green chutney and garlic chutney accompanied with one or two fried green chilies is filling and very reasonably priced.
There are several decent restaurants and bakeries in the city where the crowd of hungry eaters literally spills onto the streets in the evenings. But my pilgrimage to Aurangabad is incomplete without a trip to my engineering college-the place where I spent the 4 most joyous years of my life and where I made some great friends. This college has played a big role in shaping my life and the college canteen was our most favorite hangout! Here we discussed endlessly, meaninglessly, sleepily, passionately, we made new friends and strengthened old ties over countless plates of sambar-vadas, dahi vadas, vada pau, bottles of lassi, cups of coffee, tea. The price tag of Rs 4/Rs 5 per item was so easy on our tiny wallets/purses. :-)
There are many more places which deserve to be mentioned, but to resist my temptation of catching the next train to Aurangabad I must stop here.
Even a mental trip to all these places makes me smile and leaves me fully refreshed. I'm sure it worked the same wonders on you all!!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Something's cooking...

I'm a big fan of food. I love everything about food. Reading food blogs, watching programs devoted to food, studying eating habits of people, surfing the internet for recipes,etc. A trip to the local vegetable/fruit vendor is one of my most eagerly awaited activities. Neatly piled bright red tomatoes, brilliant green chili peppers, one or two shy red cabbages lurking behind glowing white cabbages, fresh bunches of spinach, cilantro, fenugreek, and other greens, shiny violet brinjals (eggplant)jostling for space with their greener cousins, and rows and rows of fresh produce are such a feast to the eyes. The rich aromas of onions, garlic appeal to the olfactory nerves. The salivary glands start working overtime at the thought of all the elaborate recipes that could be conjured with all these ingredients.
Unfortunately, my brain thinks too fast for my hands to keep pace with. So even though I know that I'm a good cook my hands need some practice before the world knows this truth.

This brings to me some vivid childhood memories. As long as I remember, at the onset of every summer vacation I would announce to K2 and K3 that I'll make Bharli Bhendi (BB) or Stuffed Okra for them and it sounded really exotic.
It so happened that year after year, vacation after vacation I kept making that announcement which literally became a ritual to start the summer vacation. It's neither that I didn’t want to try cooking this delicacy for my dear sisters nor that bhendis suddenly went out of fashion during summers. It's just that some projects never really reach implementation phase. In my family, thanks to my sisters BB now means any grand/ambitious idea/plan announced (by me) with much fanfare which is sure to fail.

I'm proud to announce to the world that I have been successful to wash off the stigma associated with these gentle bhendis.
I finally cooked some really yummy BB for A which he has qualified was indeed yummy. Now for the benefit of you all who missed out the fun I would write down the recipe. (Thanks to all those wonderful food blogs I've been reading recently I just wanted to write something like this and am kicking myself for not taking a snap of my creation.;-))
But really, it's such a simple thing to make and so great to taste.

We need 1/4 kg of fresh, short and tender bhendis,
3 medium sized onions,
2 large tomatoes,
Half a bunch of cilantro,
1 juicy lemon

For cooking, we can use any vegetable oil
For tempering, take 1 tsp cumin seed, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp turmeric powder
For seasoning, we need red chili powder, garam masala, salt.

First, we'll start with the stuffing part.
In a frying pan, take a tbs of oil. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder and heat it. Once you hear the mustard seeds crackle add very finely chopped onions. After the onions turn golden (they smell heavenly!)add tomatoes.
Stir 2 to 3 times so that the onions are not caramelized. Turn off the flame, season with chili powder, salt and garam masala Squeeze a lemon and add the lemon juice generously to the pan, mix it well. Taste it, hmm....delicious! Our Masala is ready.

Turn to bhendis.
Wash the bhendis and wipe them dry. Chop off a little bit from both the ends. Make a lengthwise slit in these bhendis and stuff each of them with the stuffing we have made.

Gently arrange these stuffed bhendis in the pan (same pan in which we cooked the stuffing) in a layer so that the stuffing is not disturbed. Sprinkle a tbs of oil and the remaining stuffing masala on the bhendis and stir fry the bhendis for sometime till they are fully cooked. Decorate with chopped cilantro.

Serve piping hot with a dash of lemon. It goes very well with plain rotis or steamed white rice.

Phew! I almost feel like Tarla Dalal! I can see K2 and K3 rolling their eyes!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

It takes three to tango!

We are three sisters, sometimes I feel we are a set of triplets, born in installments. K2 who is 2 years younger to me and K3 the baby of the family who is 1.5 years younger to K2 are God's best gifts to me.

My fondest memories flash before my eyes in the form of Kodak moments and almost every snap of it has K2 and K3 with me.
There I'm riding my tricycle with K2 and K3 on the back seat, we 3 are playing holi in tiny petticoats, red faced.Then we are dancing in circles swirling our white frocks, here we are enacting some skit. In one we are all college goers gossiping,laughing, preparing for exams.
I don’t remember us fighting at all! Our sibling rivalry was of a different kind...we 3 rivaling against the rest, a fourth person was an outsider to our team. We had our little games, our own secret codes, our own interests and own little world!
I envied K2 for that peculiar guttural "gook gook" sound she could make somehow and I couldn’t even after hours and hours of practice. And I envied K3 for that extraordinary ability of hers to lick the tip of her nose!
(By a strange twist of fate my husband has both these supernatural qualities.)

Nothing has changed much even today except for the physical distance between us. I don’t even need to close my eyes to visualize the angry look on K2's face while she's examining the tiny zit-which-will-soon-explode-into-a-nasty-pimple on her fair face. I don’t have to be there to feel her soft silken hair falling over her face again and again. From here I can experience the relief she feels when she realizes that it's raining outside and she doesn’t need to go out for that morning walk. And I know by heart what time of the day she would be stifling her yawns and fighting hard to stay awake.

I know which song K3 will like to just hum in the bathroom and which song she will sing in her loudest voice as well as dance. I know which dress will make her lovely eyes pop like that... (A dhinchak black with any-color dress)I just have to see an ad for a drama workshop/magic class/trekking trip etc and I can see her beautiful face shining with excitement. I’m amused by the gay abandon with which she throws her clothes into the laundry basket and am touched by how her heart goes out to any poor salesman walking in the sun, dripping sweat.

Having said all this, I don’t need to add that I miss being with them badly.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Twisted Beginning

After procrastinating for what seems forever I finally signed up for a yoga class just around the corner. Ever since I was born I had this ambition of getting up early with the sun, put on some really cool work-out suit and go jogging or do some form of exercise. It never happened. Either it was too cold in the mornings, or it rained, or I didnt have good shoes or I had to study for some exams or there were many street dogs just waiting to pounce upon an unsuspecting jogger.There are many many or's and many more dogs.
But when I realised that the marital bliss I'm basking in has given me something more than just glow and shine and which is showing in my growing girth and also on the weighing machine I knew my moment of truth had come. Either I had to take up some physical activity or I would have to donate my beloved jeans and those tight (not so tight actually) salwar kurtas I've painstakingly shopped over the years. I chose to join a yoga class.7.30 am is still early morning and still late enough to get a good night's sleep. Exactly 57 seconds walk from my house and I find myself in a hall with neatly arranged mattresses. 6 people (including me and A) and the benign,bespectacled instructor are all set.I like instructors with spectacles, dont know why, but guess that gives them a "clear" vision. I give a confident look to A and try hard to quieten my jumpy nerves. I'm scared about getting stuck in some twisted position. With gentle warm-up exercises I can feel my lazy muscles(read flab) waking up. 3-4 simple asanas with a 2 minute relaxation position(I love shavasana) and we are done for the day!! Not many twists in today's tale. We are given two dronas (lotus leafed cup) which are covered and a health drink. The health drink is brown colored tasteless liquid. "Barley water", the instructor tells us.I anticipate Sooji halwa in those covered dronas. "Sprouts" the instructor smiles behind his specs.And we have a holiday announced on the first day! A healthy way to go!!! I chuckle to myself.

Hey!! Welcome to my blog!!

I me myself! I owe this phrase to my hubby dear(A).Early during our courtship A began every other sentence with I, Me or Myself. Strangely, I fell in love with this self-loving guy and decided that let's marry him and give him something else to talk about.Getting back to how my blog got this name.... So after giving a good exercise to my grey cells and after looking at hundred other blogs for inspiration I gave up,I mean I gave my blog this name. On second thoughts A's oft used phrase(which is now no longer his favourite) makes a real apt blog name! I hope all you out there would like to visit my blog and read my posts. Though I would like to issue a warning right at the onset,that most of the times I will go on writing without the reader understanding (not even for a second) what it is all about. Hey but I can assure you loads of simple, harmless fun reading.