Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Weekends and Long Weekends

If you have never been to the US (maybe UK I am not sure - I have never been there); if there are 2 days holidays that are adjacent to a weekend, and somebody asks you - "So, what are you doing this long weekend?" - you would probably look at him weirdly, as if he has lost his marbles.
In the US, there is a major hype about Long Weekends and to a certain extent weekends also. While back in India, when I came to office to work on a monday, all I would be asked/told was about the next defect to be fixed, or next project work to be done. Whereas in the US, almost every monday , atleast half an hour is spent in discussing what you did over the weekend - and you won't beleive it when I say that sometimes half an hour is not enough - because of the multitude of things that we do here over 2 days of vacation.
If it is a long weekend - then that is even bigger a story. Almost everybody goes out of home for a long weekend here. In Chennai/Bangalore if you got 2 days off on Monday/Tuesday, I can count the number of families who would pack bags to visit another place. 2 days before are spent in researching, getting maps, hotels , directions, things-to-do, things-to-take, booking a car, flight information, weather ... the list just goes on and on ... And after you are back 2 days are spent in chit-chatting on what all you saw, where all you went, how you could have made the trip better and so on ...
It is almost like a crime if you are not out of your house during the long weekend. "What ! you are home all the 4 days!" , "Come on! what are you doing to do?" , "why don't u check the last minute deals on xyz website" .... all 'friendly' suggestions you would hear if you said - you wanted to rest at home for a long weekend.
Some people genuinely interested in visting places make their trips in advance. Others(especially the ones with housewives) make trips only so that they can - a) tell others they went to so-and-so place - b) put a stop to the nagging wives complaints.
I guess, it is probably the amount of avenues/opportunities that you are provided with here - that allows you to go out more often than in India. When I want to plan a trip to any place in the US - I have zillions of information available - on the Internet and in the public libraries. I can even book a meal at a restaurant I am going to eat in 3 months later!! Whereas while in India, we wanted to go down to the Jog Falls - and we struggled to find some information about a hotel in the near-abouts. All numbers posted in web-sites/yellow pages were not responding - and we cancelled the trip!
Well, another long weekend in the offing and you bet - I am travelling !

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Dhania Puris & Aloo Subzi

There are probably very few humans who do not like Potato. In India, there is a variety of items that can be made out of this very simple "child of Mother earth". I was very surprised to find that, here in the US too, it is one of the most often used vegetable. Mashed potatoes, Hash browns , fries, pototoes (cooked in their skins - as Enid blyton puts it) ... these are some of the very few varieties that the so-called more privileged people know of.

I am putting across here one of my most favourite ways of cooking potato, my mother's very own recipe.

2 medium sized potatoes
1 onion - chopped finely.
1 tomato - chopped finely.
1 small cup peas
corriander leaves for garnish.
2 Cups water

Oil, Mustard, split Urad Dhaal for Seasoning

Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Salt to taste.

Way to Proceed
Cut the potatoes into quarter pieces and boil in the cooker. I use a small Hawkins cooker to boil my vegetables (something I learnt from my mom-in-law).It is so simple using this cooker to boil vegetables (unlike my big Prestige - where you should wait for a long time after you have switched it off to take off the whistle). Put the vegetables, sprinkle a bit of water (just enough to soak the vegetable) and put it on gas on medium heat. Switch off after 1 or 2 whistles depending on the texture of the vegetable. For the potato, I put the cooker for 2 whistles. Sprinkle some salt while boiling the potato, so that the potato pieces would absorb the salt. After the potatoes are boiled, mash them slightly. Ensure that you don't make it a complete paste. There should be a couple of chunks of potatoes.

In a kadai, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds start spluttering, add the urad dhaal. When it starts to turn brown, add the chopped onion. Fry the onions till they turn slightly brown. Add the tomatoes, peas and the chilli powder. Saute the entire mixture for 5 minutes. Add water and let this entire concoction boil on a low flame for about 15 minutes. Add the mashed potatoes, salt to taste and stir well. Soon, the entire contents will turn thick. Switch off the gas and garnish with corriander leaves.

This can be served with pooris/chappatis/even rice. I made Dhania pooris the other day along with this subzi (knead finely chopped corriander leaves into the poori dough.)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy B'day

to you ...
Happy B'day to you ....
Happy B'day Dear "Aena" (That is what I address Rajesh as)..
Happy B'day to you ...

So, finally over the weekend, Rajesh turned a year older ; with nothing much change in almost anything about him :) .... Neither did he wake up an inch taller, not did he have two more white hair on his "jungle" head, nor did he stop jumping up and down like a 8-year old for each goal that Brazil made .... Hmmm... atleast we had the most scrumptious, taste-lingering-in-the-mouth-after-many-hours, mouth watering, heavenly Black Forrest Torte with great relish....

As one grows older, b'days become just one another day - where at the most what you do is go out for a dinner and have a binge! My b'days while I was still "young" enough to celeberate them, were the most wonderful occasions. All because of my darling amma and her surprise gifts !! ....
Amma had the best knack in the world to give suprise gifts and the best suited gifts.
The very first gift that I remember of hers is an Enid Blyton book - bedtime stories. I treasure it a lot and has always been the most favourite of mine.
As the years passed, whenever i wanted a book, I was sure to get it for my b'day - Nancy Drew , 3 Investigators , Agatha Christie ...
One of the best thing about amma was, she knew exactly what I wanted. One morning I woke up on my b'day to find a "Bagful of things" on the table for me... A Moti soap (I was crazy about it those days) , my Anchor Kit stiching framed in one of the bestest frames, a 3 - Investigators novel and much more ... My darling Amma hooked appa also once to join in this "Surprise" game. For one b'day they both went out and bought a very very plush and sooooooooooft blanket for me - hid it in the Car and gave it to me on the b'day morn! ....
Oh! How I wish i were a kid once more ...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ten Things I miss about Amma's Cooking

I frequent some Food blogs whenever I get free time at office. They have a world of their own. Just click on one of the blogs and you get a link to a whole new world I feel. Of all, the best presented is this.
One of the recent topics that they are discussing on is - the title above :)...

So, I thought why not I write about 10 things I miss in my Amma darling's cooking, though it is tough to pick only 10 - because I miss her entire cooking and herself too. Michch you amma ....

Okay here goes ...

1- Amma makes the world's best Maanga kootan and kathrikai fry. This combination is the world's best meal for me. No matter how much I try, I can never get the taste of amma's maanga kootan!

2 - Keerai masiyal. When amma makes it, i don't know what magic is in her hands, it comes with the just right texture - not too kozha kozha(soft and soggy), not too elai elai (leafy) - but the perfect mash. And the fried coconut strips she puts in them .... ooooh ! Slrup! mouth watering.

3 - Keerai Kootu & Vendakai Pachchadi - Amma's venkadai always attained uniform crispness and thanks to the chennai heat, the thair was never less pulli :)....

4. Lemon Rasam and Vendakai upperi - Try as I might , even after following every single instruction of Amma's, I have never been able to master the art of making vendakai upperi. Even though I use the same rasam powder as hers, and my tomatoes are much fresher than hers - the smell of amma's rasam that tickled my nostrils , never ever seems to emanate from my rasam.

5. Vella Payasam - I do not like any variety of Paal Payasam. So, as long as I was at home - poor appa had to suffer and never get to even see Paal Payasam !!! .... I miss waiting desperately for the poojai to get over to gorge on amma's hot hot vella payasam!I would love to accompany amma on her quest to get the perfect "karuppu" vellam for her payasam.

6. Thengai and Lemon Sevai - Years ago we used to make the sevai out of the naazhi ; but then it became too tedious a process and we switched to Concorde. Amma's seasonings for the sevai are the best!

7. Murru Murru Dosai - She would make perfect round and really crisp dosais.

8. Rava Ladoo - Her Rava laddoos were the talk of my hostel during college days ... Such soft laddoos... they would melt into your mouth. My roomies would hide a huge stock away from the rest of the predators and we would enjoy them for a month after vacations also.

9. Thattai/Ribbon pakodam - This was my favorite snack and often made at home for all festivals.

10. Her love packed in every item she made. My mother did not have much time to experiment with new dishes, but she was the mistress in every single dish she made. Perfection is her middle name.

:(( Now I am surely nostalgic and want to each my mother's cooking ! I always beleive that no matter where you go in the world, what dish you each - you would always want to come back "HOME" and eat that simple yet most delicious food that your mother cooks...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Javvu arisi Upma

Continuing my food blogging , here's one of Rajesh's favourite dishes - Javvu Arisi upma (Saabu daana). The moment you eat it, you will realise why this item is called Javvu (meaning sticky in Tamizh).

The first time I got to know of such a thing was when I was in Class 5. We had gone for a trip to the "Paradise On Earth" and this was what I ate almost all the 5 odd days that we stayed there - for breakfast. No matter how much amma or I have tried, we have never been able to get that taste that is still imprinted in our minds!

Well without much ado, let us sink our teeth into the recipe.. Don't blame me if your teeth remain stuck :).

Don't forget these ...

Javvu Arisi (Saabu daana) - 2 Cups
Onion - 1 , Chopped very finely.
Corriander leaves - 10-11 sprigs , Chopped very finely (for garnishing).
Kadalai (Peanuts) - 1/2 Cup - dry roasted and coarsely ground
Green Chillies - 4-5 small - slit lengthwise.
Oil, Mustard, Split Urad Dhal - for seasoning
Turmeric Powder , Salt

Did you do this ? ...

Wash the Javvu Arisi in little water. While doing this if you notice that the entire contents are getting too soggy or forming a paste - don't proceed to make the upma. Use this javvu arisi for making vadam(sorry don't know the translation), and try to get another brand for the upma. Soak the javvu arisi with water just covering it for about 20 minutes. You will notice that after 20 mintues , almost all the water would have been absorbed and the tiny balls are puffed. Strain away all the remaining water.

In the meantime, heat some oil in a Cheenuchetti (kadai). When the oil is hot add the mustard. When mustard starts spluttering add the ural dhal. Add the Onions and slit green chillies to the kadai , when Urad dhal starts to turn brown. Saute this mixture until the onions turn slightly brown (the ones that you get in the US hardly turns brown ....) - ensure that the onions are not kachcha - that spoils the taste of the upma. Add the javvu arisi to this. Sprinkle Turmeric powder and salt. Mix well.

At this point, I will take a small deviation(you can skip this if you want). Rajesh loves if the javvu arisi is actually a bit javvu (sticky) - so what I do is sprinkle a bit of water to the above concoction, cover it with a lid and cook it on medium flame for 5 mintues. This causes the entire upma to stick together a little bit.

Add a little more oil and the ground peanut powder (This ingredient is the one that gives the actual flavour to this upma). Keep stiring the mixture for about 10-15 minutes on medium flame till the entire saabu dhaana is cooked.

After taking the cheenuchetti off the gas, garnish it with the chopped corriander and your upma is ready. Have this for breakfast with a glass of Orange juice and you will feel swargam :)...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Tennis, FIFA, 2 Fishes and a Rabbit

It was a nice and eventful weekend.
Friday evening as we sat discussing the weekend - what to do, what not to do ... we decided on an impulse to go and see "Cars". So, driving our "CAR" we went to the Great Lakes mall, got a pop-corn and just manage to park ourselves in the comfy seats and the "ads" started. Now this is something I HATE missing - the ads. Rajesh often complains that they don't play the "Sonali - Nirma" ad in the US...

Well, more about "CARS" later...

I grew some "Tennis limbs" over the weekend. Having touched the racquet for the first time about a month ago and running around more to pick the balls , than hitting the ball - i thought i would never play a single shot. But this weekend, i surprised myself and more than me - Rajesh(when i scored a couple of points hee hee)....
We spent some time at our community center. The Govt. of this country does give you back some of the tax you pay and in definitely a very good way. Alreayd , I can write a short story about the library - and now - the community centre benefits is a totally different story...

We sauntered in the Riverside Park near our house Sunday evening and caught this amazing juvenile fishing on his own. I could not resist taking a snap of his with his booty... My! look at his expression. Now that is what I would call "Picture Perfect". He must not be more than 8 years and is so confident. Back at home, i know of parents who are even scared of letting their 16 year old boys to cross the road all by themselves !!! ...

Rajesh spend most of his time glued to the idiot box - the reason this time being the all-famous FIFA (try as much as I can, i could never get an interest in this stupid game where 22 people are chasing one single ball) and I spent most of my time raving, ranting, yelling, scowling, moonji-thooki(can't get the translation sorry!) at this ....

While coming back home from the park, we happened to spot one happy-bunny munching away aware of two of its fans clicking away snaps of its beautiful "bod" (hee hee) ... Of the 16 odd snaps that we shot, this was the only one that came out well. But then this is the "ONLY ONE"...

Now it is back to the mundane routine of life .... Monday - i hate you!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mooli Paratha

It was "Micham Socham"(left overs) day last Thursday. Once a week, we have this at home, all the left over one spoon uperi (subzi), 2 karandi(laddle) sambhar, 3 chappatis .... all consumed together, along with the all-ever-favorite curd rice!.... This time we decided to make Mooli Partha. I have been visiting food blogs for quite some time now. So, inspired by all those zillion cooks in the world, I decided to put across my recipes also here.Many of them might be repeats, but then who-cares!

What to put in?

Atta(Wheat Flour) - 5 handfuls (gave me around 6 medium size parathas).
Mooli (Mulangi in Tamil) - 1 big (grated finely)
Red Chilli powder - 1 teaspoon
Salt - to taste
Ajwain - 1 teaspoon

Onion - 1 small finely, very finely chopped
corriander - 4 to 5 sprigs finely chopped.

Oil - 2 teaspoons
Yogurt - 1 laddleful

How to Make it?

The Filling

To the grated Mooli add salt and chilli powder nicely. Keep this aside for about 10 minutes. The Salt will help drain out all the water from the mooli. Squeeze the mooli well and remove all the water from it. Don't throw away this water! To the chakka(squeezed out mooli) add the finely chopped onion and corriander. Mix well and keep it aside. This should now resemble a dry powder like mix.

The Covering

To the Atta, add a little bit of salt, ajwain and the Oil. Mix it well, so that the lumps formed by the oil are gone. Now add the yogurt and knead the mixture finely. It will be sticky so be prepared. If the mixture is kneaded well into a soft dough you are good to go; else add the water squeezed from the mooli little-by-little to this atta mixture. Be careful to add the water in small proportions because if you add a tad too much, the entire atta mix might become sticky and thus the parathas are very difficult to make. Keep aside this kneaded atta for about half an hour (so that it becomes nice and soft).


Make small balls (about the size of a golf ball) out of the atta. Keep some dry flour by your side. This is used as you spread out the parathas. Spread one ball into a small size circle (about the size of your palm). Now put a small portion of the mooli mixture at the centre and start folding the edges towards the centre to make a ball out of this. Round this ball finely and started spreading it out again into a bigger circle using the "belan". Ensure that you give as little pressure (otherwise the mixture will tend to come out of the covering). And also, spread it from the size where the folds are visible. Do not spread it too thin, as you do for rotis. Parathas have to be a bit thick. If at places, the mixture part is seen, then it gives a nice tang to the paratha.

Heat the tawa for about 5 mintues. When it is hot, put the paratha on it. Ensure that you cook at a medium- high flame and keep rotating the paratha on the tawa; so that all sides are cooked evenly. Press the sides of the paratha while doing so, because more often than not, they are not cooked well. Once the paratha starts rising slightly turn it over. Apply oil on the turned up surface. Repeat the same for the other side. Keep turning the sides over until cooked well.

Serve this with mint chutney or mango pickle! Yummy ... meal is ready.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and

And pretty maids all in a row.
Rajesh's latest hobby is the mini-pot-garden that he is growing in our patio. I am not a very flora-fauna person, my likes for the same extending only upto taking good pictures of the former. But I must say, the patio is looking extremely 'healthy' and beautiful. Yesterday, I clicked a couple of pictures of the same. Here they are...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Fanaa .... for you!

Finally I got my wish fulfilled. I managed to convince Rajesh to take me to Novi to watch “Fanaa”.

Going to Novi to watch a movie is very tiring I feel. For one, it is nearly 45 minutes drive from home; and the movie timings are such that we cannot have lunch before leaving or after coming back. The movie made up for all these petty troubles. Even the fact that we lost our way back and had to nearly drive an hour in the burning heat, did not bother us – as we discussed the wondrous movie that we had just watched.

Well, on the onset – Fanaa is not something which will be liked by all folks. It is totally “hatke” from the current trend of movies – no sex, sleaze, fast music, dhishum dhishum, poor PJs…. It is a through and through emotional fare.

A simple and told-before story – but with wonderful packaging and creative art which creates all the difference and the magic.

Kajol has proved without doubt, that she is still the best with this shattering comeback. All the while I was watching the movie, I was mesmerized by the beauty of her eyes and expressions. Nobody else could have played the role of the blind girl – Zooni and yet come out with one of the most expressive performances. Every time she smiled/laughed ; I felt “Oooh! She is so beautiful even after all these years!”…. Kajol’s dresses have been tastefully chosen to fit her role and highlight her character on the screen. All through the first half she is mostly clad in ankle length colorful skirts and long tops, while the second half of the movie shows her wearing salwar-kameez (which tends to make her look slightly fat). She plays the role of Zooni with √©lan. In - her longing for the Prince in her life; her determination to prove the love they share to Rehaan; her anguish in finding Rehaan dead when she sees the first light; her pranks with her son; her refusal to let Rehaan go out of her life again; her dilemma on finding the truth about Rehaan - she takes you along on an emotional ride.

Words cannot describe the greatness of an actor like Aamir. There are very few actors who play a role like they wer born to play a character; one of them is Aamir. He has been given a lot of injustice by the Bollywood film industry in terms of awards and appreciation. The transformation of the flirting, playful guide who is beguiled by Zooni’s charms and falls in love, despite himself ; to the hardened terrorist who will do anything for his cause is sudden and leaves one wondering is it the same person who is playing both the roles. As the charming, saying shayari at the drop of the hat tourist guide – Rehaan steals your heart in a heartbeat. The chemistry between Aamir and Kajol is unmistakable as they waltz in the rain signing “Dekho Na…”. In the second half, he plays a subdued role – torn between his duty and love for his long-lost-and-now-found family. There are few actors, when they cry on screen, can evoke emotion even in the hardest of hearts I feel – Kamal Hassan, Amitabh, Sanjeev Kumar, Aamir Khan. The scene where Aamir breaks before Kajol and promises that he will return back to be with her forever is heart-breaking.

The locales of the movie are splendid. The first half of the movie is entirely shot in Delhi and the second half in Poland. K. Ravi Chandran’s camera work is brilliant. I believe there is more skill in shooting a scene with people all around, in a common place and make it look ecstatic; than to shoot in an isolated, already-beautiful picturesque spot. The skill of a cameraman is put to test when he shoots a song in the ruins of a monument; than when he shoots in the sprawling grasslands of Switzerland. This is exactly what is proved in “Subhaan Allah” …
The rain song is probably one of the most finest ever pictured in Hindi movies – the way the drops falling on the protagonists is captured is amazing.
The backdrop for the song “Mere Haath Mein” is the most beautiful and romantic I have ever seen. Delicate colors and perfectly matching costumes!

I think it is after ages that the poetry in Hindi songs returned. Prasoon joshi’s lyrics are dripping with honey. The voices of Aamir and Kajol in between the paras of “Mere Haath” add a mystic feeling to the song.

Last but the best is Salim-Sulaiman’s background score. Each time you hear the “Yaa maulaaah” in the background, you feel something deep inside you stirring.

All in all – one of my favorites till date!

“Tere Dil Mein mere Saanson ko Panaah mil jaaye. Tere Ishq mein mere jaan fanaa ho jaaye”