Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Ode to Chai Time

The amount of pleasure that can be derived from “small” things in life are the “biggest” achievements of one’s life. I sincerely believe that it is the more “small” non-consequential happiness you fill your daily life with – the more fuller a life you have lived. The definition of “small” is upto the individual.

One such “small” thing that has been a part of our life for about a year now is our – Chai Time. The Mr. and I religiously have this “Chai Time” 10 minutes in the morning and about 30-40 minutes in the evening. The Morning “Chai Time” is more like a pick-me-up event where we start with a crib “Why does Morning always have to follow the night? Why can’t it be night after night?” rubbing out the sleep in our eyes and Every day while in office, we long for the clock to strike “Time to go home” , so that we can rush back home and spend the best moment of the day, savoring the pleasure of each other’s company + tea + the latest DVD that we got from the library – interposed with tidbits from the day at work, gossips, frustrations and happy events. The ‘Snack King’ – the Mr. – spices up the these moments with his wonderful snacks – pani puri, chaat, chevada, Mudi-chana-choor(also called Bhel puri), pakodis ….. He is the quickest snack maker I have ever seen. Even before the water for tea gets to boil he is done with the most tastiest and crunchy snack. Of course, none of those would taste half as good without my special “Kadak” chai. We would get all our goodies to the table in front of the TV, settle comfyly in the soft couch, and inaugurate the best time of the day by dipping our respective biscuits (the Mr.’s changes every fortnight – from ‘Milk bikis’ to ‘Good Day’ to ‘Rusk’ to ‘Sunfeast’ before starting another cycle ; I am true and loyal to only one biscuit – “Marie”) in the hot and piping tea. As I stretch out my legs, while sipping the refreshing concoction, occasionally thrilling my palate with a spoonful of the Mr.’s preparations and watching an episode of “Friends” – I think – “This is Life! No matter how bad my day at work has been or no matter how bleak my career looks or no matter how many personal issues I have, I am thankful to God for this moment in my life. I ask for nothing but continuity of this ritual!”.

I am not a poet; so this is my ode to my “Chai Time” with my bestest friend – the Mr.! My Pre-valentine gift from the Mr. – this tiny play china tea set – adorns one small, warm corner of my “show-shelf” aka showcase.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Hot" Blog



The Year 2006 was a good “Blog” year for me. I made some really nice Blog friends – one of whom –Shobha- is now also a personal friend. She gave me a recipe of a dish that was a total hit with all her friends – I tried it out over the weekend and it was indeed a knockout one! So, with her permission I thought I would share it on my blog. Bisi Bele Baath.

My very first recollections of this dish go back to 16 years ago. There was a new shop that had opened in the Dwaraka Nagar signal. Those were times when Appa, Amma and me would eat out almost every Saturday – the hotel industry was in its infancy in Vizag and the quality of dishes were truly good. We were delighted with the bisi bele baath that was served in this new hotel – a small but clean place. The dish in itself was delightfully prepared , garnished with cashews and soaked in ghee; and to add to it were the best potato chips that I had ever had. We were addicts of this place for a long time and then suddenly it closed. Our Palates were severely disappointed. But there was hope in the far horizon. We bought an electric rice cooker and along with that came our Maseeha – the cook book which contained the recipe for this wondrous sambhar-rice! And lo – re-started the wonderful Sunday lunches of “hot” bele baath!

One day while ambling thru the aisles of ‘Aditya’ , I picked up the MTR bisi-bele-baath mix. And as usual the Mr. liked the meal I prepared whereas I could not really relish the sweety taste of the masala and swore that I will never make it again, till Shobha’s mail came. So, the weekend that flew by saw me buying the necessary ingredients and making the dish. Even the Mr. who had swore not to have lunch – a stomach ache from the previous day’s dinner of fiery Thai fried rice – could not resist taking a cup of the delicious dish!

So here goes – in Shobha’s own words –

Ingredients

Rice – 1 Cup
Toor Dhaal – 1 Cup
Veggies (Potato , brinjal, peas, carrot , beans, capsicum, drumstick … ) all minced well – 2 cups.
Tamrind – key size – boil it and take out the juice.
Turmeric powder – ½ teaspoong
Hing – to taste
Salt – to taste
Ghee / Oil

For Masala

Coriander seeds - 2 tsp
Chana dal - 2 tsp
Red Chillies - around 8 to 9 – according to spice needed.
Coconut – 1/2 cup
Poppy seeds - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon sticks - 1 or 2 (depending on how well you like / hate the cinnamon smell)
Cardamom - around 4 pods
Cloves - 6 to 8

How to?

Roast all the ingredients for the masala and grind them into a wet paste.
Cook the Dhaal and Rice together.

In a Pot take the tamarind juice salt & turmeric powder and bring to a boil. Simultaneously - in a pan, add ghee & put some mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they splutter, add the veggies saute them & add the contents to the tamarind water. When the veggies get boiled & when the tamarind juice gets thicker, add the wet-paste mixture and mix. At this point the mixture will appear thick like sambhar.

And then add the cooked rice-dhaal to the pot. Add 1 to 2 tsp of ghee. Simmer and allow the rice-dhaal to get fully soaked in the sambar-kind-of-thing.

Garnish with cashews lightly roasted in ghee.

So, is your mouth watering already! Even as I write this mine is – guess it is time for my tea

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I am Back ...


Okay! Enough of postponing writing a blog – I told myself today Morning!


The New Year is only 25 days old and I have already broken one of my resolutions – being more regular in writing my blog. I had resolved this year that I would try to find out if I have a “creative me” and make her wake up more often; and if I did not find one – try and develop one!

So, where I have been? Kinda busy – sounds a nice way of explaining the break; but that is not entirely true – I have been plain lazy also in betweens. We shifted apartments as the new year dawned – that way I got to leave all the ‘old dirt’ literally behind me. I liked our new place – it is a single bedroom (the previous one was 2 bedroom) and seems quite spacious. In 4 hours of shifting the Mr. drove 42 nails in the house and magically set up all the decorative items. The best part of the new place is “GAS Cooking”!!!
Well, for all those friends, not in the USA – please don’t think I have gone mad to be pleased about “Gas” for cooking. Because in the US of A, getting gas cooking in your apartment is nothing less than a blessing. I am posting some pictures of our house here.

Finally, I got to satisfy my religious desires two weeks ago with a long pending trip to the “Tirupathi of USA” – Pittsburgh temple. It was a long 6 hour drive from our place – the Mr. and me took turns to enjoy the smoooooth Ohio Turnpike – for folks who drive on the broken and hardly existing roads of Detroit – driving on this newly laid(I think so), extremely smooth and silky road in the state of Ohio is like wearing a silk shirt! One word of Caution – if you are driving via Ohio to Pittsburgh – please take a food break before you leave the state of Ohio, because once you get into Pennsylvania State till you reach Pittsburgh (which is about an hour’s drive) you do not have any Food exits at all.
We visited the temple twice – Saturday evening (as soon as we arrived in Pittsburgh) and then again on Sunday morning to attend the very beautiful Suprabatham sevai – enough dharshanam to last for a year maybe.

What amazed me most was that just like Thirupathi this temple also has been built on a steep hill – well not as high as the 7 hills of Thirupathi but definitely on a one small hill. If you are tad too fast you will miss the discreet and conspicuous left turn that leads to the temple. Narrow winding paths lead up to this small yet very beautiful temple. I have visited two other “big” temples here in the US – one in NJ and one in California, so I really had great expectations for Pittsburgh and was a bit let-down to see that it was much smaller than the other. There are very less idols also inside. But it was the sheer beauty and exact resemblance to his counterpart in India, of Venkatachalapathi that held me in awe. I am thinking that since it was the one of the very first temples to be built in this Alien land it is so famous. The best part of visiting any temple in the US is the unlimited amount of time you get to stand just few feet away from the main deity. Visuals of huge monsters yelling “Jarangadi” in Thirupathi and “Veru Veru” in Guruvayoor came into my mind. Every time I visited these places I have complained that I could not even see the deity from top to bottom. But this time, I had no complains for I stood almost 20 mins just 2 feet away from the Lord!

The Mr.’s favorite thing in the trip was the Temple’s food. That was probably the best Prasad I have ever had. Tasty and hot Pongal, sambhar rice, pulihara and curd rice and the sweet boondi, which I wished were served as Ladoos instead.

We choose the wrong weekend for a trip – it was raining all through. After having lost our way in an attempt to reach the Pittsburgh downtown, we gave up all our photography dreams and ambled back to the cosy confines of our hotel – which shockingly had 3 Indian channels! I must say – I was bowled over with surprise to see Star TV, Vijay TV and ETV on the 27 inch idiot box in Days Inn. Globalization is definitely on its way!

Here is one of the two pictures that we clicked in the whole 2 day trip.

The next day was Pongal and since it was Martin Luther King’s day – I got a day off. While the Mr. went to office, I behaved like a typical house-wife and made Chakara pongal and b’fast for him and saw him off at the door with the apron round my waistJ. Here is some pongal that I offered as naivedyam.

So, there is a recap of what I have been doing for a while now. I had been wanting to write this since a long, the longer i postponed the more hesitant I felt to write it all down. But then I somehow keyed it all in. Hopefully I will continue blogging often from now on.