Archive | March, 2011

Chatti Pathiri-Sweet Layered and Filled Crepes

28 Mar

As I have already mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I have joined a food blogging community by the name of Kerala Kitchen hosted by two very talented food bloggers – Ria and Rose

This month’s challenge has been hosted  by Magpie’s Recipes for The Kerala Kitchen and  she challenged us to make Chatti Pathiri which is a speciality amongst the Muslim and the Christian community in Kerala but enjoyed by all nonetheless. When I took up the challenge I was faintly confident that I would pull through since I was in Bahrain back then. I had my oven at my disposal and in my mind, the pathiri’s were sorted out. But due to unexpected circumstances I had to travel down to my mum’s place in Cochin and as the month end drew nearer, I felt my confidence fade fast. There was no oven and if at all I had to participate, I had to somehow manage with the stove top. I kept procrastinating till my mum herself pushed me to take up the cudgels, in this case the plain flour and the roller pin.

Within this challenge, I had one more personal challenge. My parents are strict vegetarians ( dad doesn’t even eat eggs) and while the recipes called for either egg or mince meat in the filling, I was faced with the prospect of giving up altogether. It was when I went grocery shopping with my parents, did it strike me that I could easily do my version of the whole thing. My eyes chanced upon the condensed milk tin and I knew I had my own recipe in the offing.

I quickly got onto a shopping spree and stuffed my basket with condensed milk, coconut, black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, assorted dried fruits and raisins. Essentially I followed shab’s recipe and decided on the sweet version of this delectable delight. I wouldn’t say that this Baklava – like treat is entirely easy but it isn’t overtly difficult as well. It is pretty much do-able and the results are stunning. My parents savoured every bit of it and later that night I overheard my dad praising it to the skies to my brother over the phone. That really meant something. It was a clear indicator that chatti pathiri had won a few hearts here for sure.

The Recipe for Chatti Pathiri

Ingredients:

For the Pathiris:

1 cup (150 g) Plain flour

1/3 cup warm water

1 tbs vegetable oil

salt to taste

For the filling:

half a tin of condensed milk (I used nestle’s milk maid)

4 tbsp black sesame seeds

7 tbsp  Grated coconut

3 tbs (30 gm) Raisins

3 tbs (30 gm ) Cashew nuts(Chopped finely)

3 tbsp almonds (chopped finely)

4 tbsp Poppy seeds

3 tbsp cardamom powder

For Coating:

1 cup atleast or even more of coconut milk ( I used the powdered variety that can be done to milk by adding hot water to it)

5 tbsp mix of Cardamom powder and powdered sugar

2 tsp Ghee

Preparation:

For the Pathiris

1. Mix the flour with water, oil and salt and knead into a dough like that of chappati. Keep it covered for half an hour.

2. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions.Using a roller pin, roll it out into paper-thin chappaties/round flat bread of uniform size(6 Inches inches diameter) on a dusted flour board.

3.Heat a griddle and cook the chappatis/round flat bread lightly on a tawa. Keep them aside.You should be able to get 8 chappathis with this amount.

Note:You can vary the size of the chappati /round flat bread depending on the size of the pathiri chatti or the vessel in which you are baking it.

For the filling:

1. Heat a Large frying pan.Add ghee and saute raisins, cashew nuts, poppy seeds, almonds, sesame seeds till seem a little golden brown . Then saute grated coconut along with cardamom powder until they start to change the colour slightly.

2. Mix the above with half a tin of condensed milk and keep aside. Taste to check the level of sweetness. Add more condensed milk if required.

For the coating and the assembling.

1. For coating, make the coconut milk from the coconut powder. If you already have ready-made coconut milk, that’s awesome. Add to this, cardamom powder and powdered sugar and keep aside.

2. Take a non-stick baking tray,  or a deep skillet and spread couple of tsps oil or ghee / clarified butter all around.

3. Keep one pathiri/flat bread as the first layer. Using a spoon sprinkle the nut mix filling on top of the pathiri/flat bread.

4. Dip the second chappathi/flat bread in the coconut milk mixture, coat well and place it on top of the filling.

5. Sprinkle the condensed milk -nut mixture again and repeat this until all the pathiris, the coconut milk mix and the nut mixture is used up and pathiri being the top layer. Pour the remaining coconut milk mixture on top of pathiri (a generous amount) so that it drains on all the gaps on sides and form a thin layer on top. This is important to keep the Chatti Pathiri moist. If you run out of the coconut milk mixture after coating, make more and mix with sufficient sugar and cardamom and pour on top.

6. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes or until the top of pathiri turns golden. Alternately you can do what I did, which is to cook it on a stove top in a non stick  deep skillet or deep pan. All you have to do is to place it at a very low flame and flip it carefully to cook on the other side. According to me, herein lies the test and I passed it with flying colours. Flipping of such a heavy set block of flat breads with filling is a mean feat.  The flipping becomes a bit easy when the lowest layer of flat bread/pathiri is a little hard. When both the sides have cooked well, it is easy to slide it out of the pan into the serving plate.

7. After it cooled down a little, I drizzled it with some more condensed milk and decorated it with pitted cherries.

I was more than happy with the end result and it tastes absolutely fantastic. I have already decided to try it once again but with whole wheat flour and with a different filling. Thank you Rose of Magpiesrecipes for hosting this challenge. I really enjoyed the whole experience.

The Holiday Week

26 Mar

Life couldn’t get better than this. As I wake up ( at whatever time I please), I get a whiff of freshly ground coconut chutney tempering and filtered coffee. Yes, I am in heaven or somewhere close, that I call my mum’s home. Breakfast is always ready, bed always made, clothes already washed & folded and dishes do the themselves ( well a maid does them).  However hard I try, I don’t seem to be waking up to help my mum or she seems to be done with it before the cock-a-doodle crows. Life is bliss right now, as I look out of the bedroom window and see a red cow grazing in bucolic grace. Our flat is surrounded by lush paddy fields. The cool breeze, the dancing rice saplings and the herons flying off in the horizon are the sights that welcome me each day. I could sit here forever and find inspiration to type away on my keyboard. All that restlessness is fading away and I feel every inch of me relaxing in a way, I haven’t for a long long time.

Until… my daughter sneaks up from one side and switches off the power button on the laptop. Grrrr…

Well that’s the real life. My life.

For weekly update, there hasn’t much happened to quote and note. Each day seamlessly blending into the other before I look up notice. I haven’t even decided on how long I am going to stay put ( my idea is forever but I am sure my parents may think it unreasonable :-)) here in Cochin. Before my hubby left for Bahrain ( he left because his office reopened and he was summoned immediately), we had a chance to cruise around the by lanes of Fort Kochi. An unappetising place, to say the least. We also happened to sample a lot baked delights from the local bakers. K. R. Bakes, Cochin Bakeries, Bread World to name a few. Though am not sure about the star quality of ingredients used, the cup cakes and the meat puffs were delectable. Through Bread World, I also stumbled upon their gourmet super market that sells cooking chocolate and fleur de sel. A pleasant surprise indeed. I stocked up on butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, cooking chocolate, food colour, ricotta cheese and all that.  My only glitch in this excitement is that my mum doesn’t have an oven. But as she is pretty upbeat about this whole food blogging thing, we have geared up to take up some challenges. Watch this space for some delectable  Kerala delicacies! We did indulge in one such staple snack that you can catch up with here.

Apart from the gourmet hoarding, I chanced upon a Betty Crocker Mix of the Devil’s Food Cake that I made for Namit’s Birthday. I wanted to see if I was close to the original or not. Also, it would be an experiment – first of its kind for me – to make the cake in the microwave. Well it turned out quite okay but was extremely rich after I slathered the decadent dessert with plenty of chocolate glaze.

Rest of time I spent being on twitter, watching the Cricket World Cup  (especially the India Vs Australia match) and reading some books I ordered through Flipkart. I flipped ( literally) with joy when the courier guy rapped at my door to do the delivery. Books ( affordable ones) are so hard to come by in Bahrain and for me a service like FlipKart is a blessing. I ordered for, not surprisingly, “Julie & Julia” -by Julie Powell,  “How to be a Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson, “Women & the Weight Loss Tamasha” – by Rujuta Diwekar, “Cake decoration for Beginners” – by some publisher. Once  I am done with them or any of them, I shall post a two liner review about it. I still  have some more books to order but my purse strings have been tightened by my conscientious hubby. 😦 I know eventually he will come around. 🙂

Being here in Cochin has its own perks because my daughter has found her own toddler community in the building and spends absolutely no time indoors. I hardly get to see her as she is running out to play with her mates or even by herself. She ignores my existence until she feels hungry or sleepy. I am not complaining!

In other efforts to keep myself busy, I tried to enroll into a driving school but due to some paperwork and the  likes, it did not work out. I have to figure another way out. Also, I am trying to enroll myself with a pastry making course  in Kochi and that too hasn’t met with any success. If anybody can give me any leads, I shall be most grateful.

Finally, I want Amit to know that I miss him very much ( he would blushing to his temples by now) and such a public declaration of my affection would send him to his shell instantly. I also miss my dear friend Namit and all the wonderful weekends we spent doing restaurant reviews, dinners, and sight seeing ( by now Namit would be a deep shade of crimson, slowly turning purple and shades alike). I am sure Mimi misses you both, but right now she is a tad busy doing her stuff. Also, Gayathri, I miss our chats. Somehow, since the time I have come here, we haven’t had the time to connect properly. Hoping that it would be better over the coming days.

Because I miss seeing both of you together



The Insolent Child

21 Mar

My daughter turned 1 and a half, a few days ago. Since I am at my mum’s right now, she had made sadya ( Kerala style feast) to celebrate her 18th month birthday and her homecoming. My daughter slurped on the payasam ( rice pudding) and splashed some everywhere she sat. Later that day, I was speaking with a friend over the phone who wished my daughter a happy 18th month birthday. She jokingly remarked, “Now you have only a little time before she hits the terrible twos“.  At this, I most innocently asked what that meant. She explained patiently that children become insolent as they are in the process of developing  minds of their own. They do not take heed to what their parents tell them and no amount admonishment would make any difference to their demeanour.

After her phone call, I noticed Mimi sprawled on the tiled floored, make a face and demanding something from her grandfather, My dad, being the doting grandfather that he is, obliged her. It was then that it occurred to me that this has become a norm with Mimi. She seemed to resort to such blackmailing tactics – sprawling on the floor, crying and kicking, pushing me away, when I try to comfort her, sometimes even biting and scratching. It seemed that my daughter had prematurely already entered the terrible twos phase. Where did that affectionate, ever abiding baby go? The one that giggled and laughed when I told her to stay away from something perilous and came running to me in my outstretched arms. That baby has grown up, taken things in her stride and operated in a calculated way. She has figured and singled out significant ones who would do all that she wanted at that very instant. Her current favourite is my dad – her grandfather.

Always the one to plan ahead ( I bid the spontaneous side of me  good-bye, as soon as I become a mother), I started to think of various tantrum-interventions. How was I going to tackle her misbehaviour if she planned to do a public show-down. Would I resort to talking to her, try to explain things to her and simply hug her till her angry surges were distracted. Or would I resort to more disciplinarian resorts such as spanking and scolding? Such questions nagged till I tried to buried them with other thoughts about the happenings in Bahrain. If you have read my older post you would know that we had to flee Bahrain because of the civil unrest. But now things have pretty much settled down but emotions continue to simmer, I hear.

On an impulse, I imagined the the King of Bahrain as the parent and all the angry protestors as his wards. As a patriarch, he did what he could do best to control the situation which threatened his legacy. But questions such as what means did he apply to protect his interests and whether it was right on his part to completely squash his unarmed opposition with might of burrowed arms continue to haunt. I totally understand, it is a way more complex than I am intending to potray here. There were other external influences that made him take certain decisions that would curtail the economic and other damage already done. Should he have adopted another way via opening all channels of communication? Would that have helped if his untrusting wards refused obstinately to respond to his dialogue? What was he to do under these circumstances? If he had let his control slip, it would have meant he was weak and unable to hold his own. So many questions would have plagued him, I am sure. Like a parent, he would have had sleepless nights, thinking of all possible solutions to the problem at hand.

This also took me back to the conversation I had with mum when she confessed that according to her, my teenage years were the most difficult for her. She shudders to recall the number of times, I would have said, I hated her for reasons unknown. My guess is the protestors were behaving like a bunch of teenagers ( from the King’s perspective) who think they have been harmed, denied and ignored for a long time. These demands may be real or perceived, but the reality is the people of Bahrain feel so, hence not all was right.  This juxtaposition is again an exaggeration from my side, but well, just for the sake of a debate, we can assume it to be fair.

Drawing parallels like this can only mean the amount of thought I am giving to a situation that concerns me. It may be real or perceived, much like I suggested before.

So what would I do when my daughter behaves irrationally ( mm, she is expected to behave like that because she is a toddler) ? Like the King, should I tie her down, suppress her and punish her insolence, so that she doesn’t speak up or act funny again? What are my choices? Well, according to me, choices are aplenty. How I exercise them would make a world of a difference to how Mimi would grow up and respond to various situations. It would define the relationship that I am going to have with her. I feel I should let her act the way she does and try to understand why she is doing that. Be more open and receptive to her extreme emotions and enjoy the learning curve. But in my case, the ratio is very simple ;1:1 while for the King is 1: many ++++. So his problem is complicated manifold. Still the least he could do is be a responsible parent and try to listen to his people. Know what ails them and do the necessary to assuage the hurt.

Most of the times, I have realized Mimi throws a tantrum only because I wouldn’t let her be a part of what I was doing at that moment. It could be baking a cake or watching tv or even surfing the internet. She feels ignored and kicks her feet to draw my attention. All I have to do is to listen to what she has to say ( all gibberish but full of emotion) and take her in my arms. She then does some cookie dough testing for me, helps me dust the flour off my dress and peek through the oven glass from time to time to see the cake rising.

The King has a similar choice too – To open his heart and let his people in.

All thoughts in this post are mere ramblings and such parallels may deem illogical to a rational mind. But every now and then my thoughts turn to the casualities that have occured in Bahrain and I feel a deep sense of remorse. Yes remorse, though I have done nothing wrong. But remorse and sadness are emotions that one feels when it is realized that one is helpless in this situation. In the 10 months that I lived in Bahrain, a new found attachment  envolopes me and I miss Bahrain from the bottom of my heart. I don’t understand politics and have zero opinions about the whole thing but all I am concerned is about the families affected by this clash. I feel that their memories will forever carry the scars if the means adopted to restore security and peace don’t change.

I also dread to go back because I hear the Pearl Roundabout doesn’t stand there anymore. That iconic landmark has been replaced by an insignificant traffic light.

All of this rambling finally brings me to this conclusion, Parenting is very tough and the only way harmony would prevail, is by taking the middle path.

Are you listening, King of Bahrain?

A Snack for the pack- Sweetened Poha

19 Mar

A sweltery evening in Cochin can make one ravenous for sure. Somehow the heart doesn’t crave for something chilled. It makes you crave for a hot cup of tea and some uber sweet snack. Atleast my heart did.

My mum had just returned from work and I was already at her pallu pestering her to make something for me. At this she was quick to respond that, since I am into food blogging and all that jazz, I should make something and give her.

Well that made sense.

So I started to think hard about what I can make.  Then I remembered a conversation I had with my twitter friends in the morning about sweetened poha and lo behold, I knew exactly what was in order.

It is called Aval Kozhachathu ( spelling courtesy, my mum) which is flattened rice or poha in jaggery and grated coconut. It is extremely filling as it is laced with cashews and golden raisins. The whole house was filled with the comforting aroma of ghee ( clarified butter) and cardamom. Incidently, it is my dad’s favourite snack and if he hadn’t been suffering with diabetes, he would have had it every evening. So the entire pack – my hubby, my daughter, my dad, my mom and myself included concurred that “Aval Kozhachathu” it  was.

The Recipe for Aval Kozhachathu(korr-a-che-thu)

Preparation time  5 minutes

Cooking time :10 -15 minutes

Serves :4 Adults and 1 baby

Ingredients:

2 cups flattened rice/poha/aval ( Note that it is brown in colour as opposed to the white variety found usually)

1 and half cup of grated coconut ( Since I am in Kerala, I had access to freshly grated coconut and it would taste better if the coconut used it freshly grated. But it would important to note that coconut powder, coconut milk CANNOT be a substitute here)

1 and a half cup of jaggery, grated for ease of cooking ( Note the colour and shape of jaggery found in Kerala)

1-2 tablespoon of ghee ( clarified butter)

handful of cashews and golden raisins

chopped ripe bananas ( optional)

1 tsp of cardamom or 5-6 cardamom pods

Method

1) Prepare the ingredients by grating the coconut, grating jaggery and breaking open the cardamom pods ( keep the pods though for enhanced flavour)

2) In a pan add 2 Tbsp of ghee ( clarified butter) and fry the cashews, raisins and the cardamom first

3) Add the grated jaggery and keep stirring. The jaggery would start melting quickly and if it doesn’t add a tablespoon or 2 of water to quicken the process. Make sure that it doesn’t burn.

4) Add grated coconut and keep stirring.

5) While the jaggery is still melting, you should sprinkle water on the flattened rice/aval/poha and let it soak for a bit. Take care to not make it very soggy. Just the right amount of sprinkle and you would know.

6) Add the poha/flattened rice/aval to the mixture in the pan and stir well. Keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick or get burnt.

7) You can add chopped bananas because they taste absolutely fantastic with the fare, but I skipped it because, even without it, it would be extremely filling.

8) Ta-da, we are done!!

Everybody had a generous helping while my hubby and I shared some love from a single bowl 🙂

 

Am sending this to The Kerala Kitchen event hosted by Magpie’s Recipes. Hope they like it.

 

 

The Revelation of a Week

18 Mar

* I have combined the happenings of the last week and the current week in a single post. So much has happened and somehow in my mind, I cannot make a distinction about when the previous week ended and the current set pace.

The past week (6th -12th March)

The weather here is Bahrain is changing rapidly. The nip in the air has disappeared and it is getting warmer by the day. You can tell from the way, the flies buzz around and the people have a  skip in their step. Spring is upon this part of the world but it is unlike any spring season I have ever seen. There are no flowers blooming, no humming birds singing, and no larks chirping. In this part of the world, Spring is ushered in by a Spring Cultural Festival which stands cancelled due to the current political and sectarian problems that plague this tiny pearl of a country. Spring is here, and I know because, people have shaken their ennui of the desert-winter and decided to attach more furore to their askings from the their Government.

The week was not as clueless like the last. My mind was occupied with plenty. It was Namit’s birthday on the 9th of March and I took a lot of time to decided which cake I was supposed to bake. Finally I had to choose from the Caramel Cake and the Devil’s Food Cake. I flipped a coin to decide and Devil’s Food Cake won. So most of the week I was consumed by the preparation of this cake. The recipe is as follows:

Devil’s Food Cake

as adapted from David Lebovitz This dark glistening cake is a mean feat considering I did not follow the instruction to the tee.  I did not have 2 spring form cake tins as instructed in the recipe.  I made it in a single one and then cut the cake into half to make it a layered cake. The chocolate ganache is the literally the icing on the cake. It is the ganache that pushes the cake to the next level. But it was a joy to bake this one and I had my fingers crossed all the while. When I finished it, I knew I had a winner in my hands. My effort paid off when Namit enjoyed a huge piece of the cake and demanded to take all of it home.

THE RECIPE FOR THE DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE

For the cake:
9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups cake flour*( don’t worry if you do not have cake flour on you. I did not too. I made it like this)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 stick or 4 ounces or 113 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup strong coffee (or water)
½ cup whole or low-fat milk
For the ganache frosting:
10 ounces or 285 grams bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup water (or cream)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
Preparation:
1. Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.
3. To make the cake layers, sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.
4. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. (If using a standing electric mixer, stop the mixer as necessary to scrape down the sides to be sure everything is getting mixed in.)
5. Mix together the coffee and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the coffee and milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.
6. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.( Alternately, what I did was to make a single cake and then cut it in the middle to make it into two layers)
7. To make the frosting/ganache, melt the chopped chocolate with the water (or cream) in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.
8. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and the ganache is smooth. Cool until spreadable, which may take about 1 hour at room temperature.
To frost the cake: Tilt cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper from the bottom and invert it back onto a cake plate. Cut the cake into two with a large knife carefully.  Spread a good-sized layer of icing over the top. Top with the second cake layer and spread the top and sides with the remaining icing as decoratively as you want.
I also used chocolate sprinkles and dark chocolate shavings to give it the final touch. The cake looked divine when all the candles were lit. Stunning without a doubt.
I would highly recommend this cake if you are thinking of baking a birthday cake. It is chocolate heaven for serious chocoholics.
We were such a happy lot on Namit’s birthday and spent so much time trying to figure out what all we can do together over the weekend. We came up suggestions like going to the traditional Souq market and doing an indepth research on what produce is sold there so that we get to know the culture even better. I was to come back and write about it on my blog. We also decided on watching some movies like we did the previous week. So far we completed a movie marathon of Anjana Anjaani, Band Baja Baraat and Aisha. Band Baja Baraat was a fun movie and I realized I missed Delhi more than ever. We also watched Phass Gaye Obama which is a rib tickling comedy and I laughed the whole time over home popped pop corn and onion rings. It is one of the better movies that has been cleverly made but put down my poor production value. I cannot say anymore about production value as it is something I stole from the discussion that my hubby was having with our friend, Namit. 🙂
The current week (13th – 19th March)
* I had typed a whole lot of emotional stuff under this note but for some reason it all got erased. I tried to retrieve it desperately but couldn’t. Maybe it was not meant to be out there. I felt drained after the emotional out pour and decided to scrap the post itself. But my hubby asked me keep it and said he will write the current week section for me. I was too upset and shrugged to his proposal. But he kept his word and the extract below has been written by my hubby.
The week started on a surprising note. On Sunday morning after late night viewing of Avataar (the series) Amit  received call from Namit informing him about the unrest. Protesters who had been protesting across the road from Amit’s office have decided to come “on-road” and stop all the traffic. With Ofiice literally out of bound there was no choice but to stay put at home and enjoy the remaining episodes of Avataar.
Feeling – Holiday Yipee!!!
Monday – No improvement in the situation. The protester were staying put in their position and even when police force tried but they did not budge. TV stations were playing in loop the confrontation between protesters and police. Twitter world was buzzing with tweets of claims and counter-claim. Amit was busy checking with colleagues and friends about the situation and also some cricket gossip thrown in good measure. With No Avataar to watch ( we completed viewing all episodes) a sense of being trapped in the house overcame us. However with maid and cook arriving and super market open gave the feeling of life in normal mode.The only surreal part was lack of cars on the roads.
Feeling – Holiday Yawn!!!
Tuesday- The day of great political moves.
With govt declaring an 3 month martial law/national emergency along with arrival of forces from neighboring countries made it clear to us that situation has gone from bad to worse. We kept oscillating between staying-put and flee options. The roads were deserted and the whole place was giving an eerie feeling. The supermarket was closed for  a brief period but still no matter of concern. Then we heard  a small arm fire and teargas shell being lobbed just 100 meter from our house. That was too close for comfort . With teargas slowly wafting through our window our decision was made. It was time to pack bags. Hastily tickets were scrounged and concerned people were informed. The major concern that day – “how will we reach  the airport”?
Feeling – Mild concern!!!
Wednesday- Overslept and got up to find the mobile network was down. Alarmingly checked internet , but thank God it was working, albeit slowly. We received an email from Amit’s colleague stating that he had reached the airport, first in the morning. He was supposed to travel to the  airport with us and that kind of left us in a lurch. Nobody knew if the route to airport was open and how long it will remain open. The luxury of get-up-and-leave is not available to people with kids. Kids arent much concerned with the polictical situation but they can create their own situation far worse than political one , if not peoperly planned for. All moms will agree travelling with kids need meticulous planning , you need to plan for their feeding, sleeping, changing and entertainment needs. All these needs meant that we could not leave in a huff but the phone kept ringing. Concerned Parents from either side, Colleagues who had already reached airport , Friends planning to join for the trip to airport & Arrangement for transport further complicated the issue. All this, in addition to the minor  anxiety of the possibility that we might be offloaded at the last moment, if the airlines decided there were too many people.  Finally at 2pm the packing was completed and transport arrived and we left for airport ( still 6 hours before our flight). The streets were deserted although traffic lights were working.
Then came the roadblock.
With exposure to so many Hollywood movies we thought we have seen  all kind of weapons and guns. However the actual sight of an M113 Armoured personal Carrier(APC) with the lead gun man pointing a gun towards you gives you a chill. This as the first time I’d seen a gun pointed towards me ( though I knew it was a general direction) and I can say I just stopped short of giving a peace sign to him with atleast one of my finger refusing to give the support and I ended up with a finger salute. Men with fingers on gun trigger are not supposed to have good humour and I was in no mood to test that hypothesis.
Fact of the matter,  we were waived off and after some unnecessary diversion  reached the airport. After that point the sense of relief was over-powering and the only thing capable of ruining the feeling was the customer service of our airline.
Due to travel warnings there was mad rush at airport with smart alecs checking in for flight 24 hours ahead. Due to such smart people airport was teeming with people and airport resembled ISBT Delhi on a lean day.
Now we are safe and typing this post from comfort of my mum’s home. I am glad we took the decision to fly back as soon as possible. Still sitting here, my mind keeps going back to the protestors and the families of the deceased. All I can pray for is that better sense prevails and peace is restored.
Further plans have been suspended for a while till the situation abates.

Restaurant Review Project 16- Memories

15 Mar

This one’s a special review because it was birthday celebration dinner. Our dear friend, Namit who had had his birthday on the 9th of March, asked us out for dinner on the 10th of March, at Memories. This beautiful restaurant is located at the Bahrain City Center. Original plan was to go to Memories of China but somehow it all got mixed up and we ended up at Memories where they serve all kinds of South East Asian Cuisine.

The situation in Bahrain is still extremely tensed and you can feel the stress in the air. The restaurant was uncharacteristically desolate with just a few families dining at disparate corners. When you see such a sight, it makes you queasy. Heart is tormented by guilt and brazenness – half and half. Guilt because, we are having a good time while things aren’t their best in the city and brazenness because we chose to come out  when majority people chose to stay indoors. Shaking that feeling off, we took our places at this stylish restaurant. No sooner, we picked the menu card, did we realize our mix up. This wasn’t the intended restaurant but we decided to order anyways.

For starters, we ordered

Edamame

– which are immature soyabeans boiled in their pods and salted. This was the first time I dug into the succelent beans and enjoyed it.

Vegetable Tempura

– The tempura wasn’t as light and crispy as I would have liked. The vegetable pieces weren’t thinly sliced and that made all the difference.

For the maincourse we ordered

Sweet and Sour Chicken and Rice

– It is customary to order sweet and sour chicken/vegetables at a south east asian restaurant. It is a safe choice, if you ask me. There is very little that can go wrong. This was an average version of Sweet and Sour with chicken. Not good. Not bad. As for the rice, we had ordered for steam rice but it turned out more towards the sticky side. I am not a big fan of sticky rice and steered clear for the evening.

Singaporean Prawns

– Loved the prawns which were cooked to perfection. The gravy had a some yogurt or bean curd- I am not sure about this. But it tasted lovely.

Bakmi Goreng

– These Indonesian egg noddles were splendid. They are fried noodles with a generous helping of vegetables such as carrots, cabbage and shrimp, chicken and egg. I love this version of wheat noodles which were so refreshingly different from the regular hakka.

Braised Tofu for the Vegetarian Birthday Boy

-This was Tofu braised with vegetables and what looked like soy sauce. It was horridly bland and nothing ( neither salt nor pepper) could salvage this case. Quite an unfortunate choice by the birthday boy.

So Memories leaves me with no memories of anything spectacular. I find this a common problem with restaurants that seem to offer myriad of cuisines in one platter. They just do not do justice and seem like trying too hard. This I have to admit, that Memories did not have the run-of-the-mill menu. They had tried to incorporate varied flavours but weren’t able to come out with flying colours in all of them. I feel bad for Namit- Birthday Boy as he seemed to go hungry that night. We did not feel like trying any desserts so we just asked for the check.

A meal for 3 cost us 21.780 BD to be precise. Just about average for the average food.
But as custom dictates, I shall announce that Memories ( Bahrain City Center) has been SLICED!!
The verdict goes like this

Food- 3/5
Ambience 4/5
Service – 3/5
Overall – 3/5

It remains to be seen, whether I would be able to go and review another restaurant in Bahrain. Stepping out has become a problem with the sectarian clash here in Bahrain. I hope I am able to otherwise it would make me very sad. So fingers crossed.

Clueless Week

11 Mar

I have spent several afternoons trying to pen this weekly update.  The words did not come out. I am at a loss here and have had to resort to distraction. But to tell you the truth, distraction does little to help recall the events of  last week.  I tried to think of ways to remember such as using Mind Maps by Tony Buzan (Thank you , Namit) but nothing.

Such acute amnesia can only mean that there was nothing to report about over here. Also, the situation is, with the current week going south and my previous week’s update remaining unfinished, I had to offload it somehow.

So I am going to write about how each of us ( Mims, Amit and  me) spent the week.

Mims – She’s been hooked on to the nursery rhyme dvd and keeps watching it in loops. She dances to it and  claps her hands in glee. That reminds me, she also likes the Glee Series on FOX and tries to follow their routine. A cute a sight, really. As far as vocab is concerned, she hasn’t been all that  inventive. One addition to her vocab is Anu. Yea, my name. She calls me by my name now. My heart melts at the sound of it and my guess is she has picked it up from all the times Amit calls out my name. But Mims goes, “A-nooooo, A-nooooooo”. Every word out of  her mouth is a celebration. I feel like baking a cake or atleast a cup cake for that joy. An over indulgent mum, you may say. But far from it, I see myself getting angry with her at the slightest of misdemeanour. I keep promising that I would bite my tongue as soon as angry words threaten to spill out.

She has also found sanctuary in action and puts no effort to learn any new words. If she wants something, she points out her tiny finger at it and says “Mimi , Mimi” which is a sure indication that she wants it right this instant. She points a finger at her mouth or runs to kitchen, each time her stomach growls for food, she even operates the dvd player to play her favourite nursery rhyme dvd.  Sometimes for sheer impish pleasure she calls out to Amit and says “Fa -Fa”. Amit is floored with that mispronunciation too. We shopped for some really pretty summer dresses for her and new shoes too. Her old shoes ( really cute ones) are tad too small. A sign that my daughter is growing or atleast her feet are!

Amit – There is very little that I have attempted to write about him First because he feels too self conscious and asks me specifically not to put his photographs or mention him. But I still do, because he is a biggest slice of my life  and my life has revolved around him. He thinks otherwise, but what’s important is, I think it does. He is a homebody and is most comfortable in the company of his family. He hates venturing out until it is absolutely necessary. He does so more than often because, I like going out. As a person, he is extremely reserved but for appearance sake he may come across as being extremely gregarious. He is the happiest with a book in his hand or surfing the internet for historical fact-finding. He is attached to his past and forgets nothing. I can go on and on but he would be very upset with this transgression. The past week has been all cricket and the World Cup for him. Work has kept him busy and the rest of the time he spends on cricinfo. He comes home and demands a family hug from us like the Teletubbies lot. He also critiques all my baking efforts and minces no words if they aren’t unto his high standards. Before sleeping, due to the dearth of books, he prefers to watch super hero animation movies. Currently he is hooked on to the Avataar Series which is about the The Last Airbender. I have to admit, this one is really addictive.

Me/ A-Nooo – I haven’t had the easiest week. Mentally it was the most confusing and frustrating. Job hunt has been like a wild goose chase and has been giving me some sleepless nights.  While I search for a job, I constantly debate about going back to the corporate world. I know in my heart, it is not the kind of work I enjoyed. I would like to be involved in something more creative. That being said, I have  had all my work experience with a single company. Would it be wise to base my decision on such a small sample size? All these questions would be answered with time, I know. But I feel my time is running out and a clock is constantly ticking inside. Do any of you feel like this??

When I feel like I am stuck in a quagmire, I channel my energy towards writing, baking and running. That brings me to some level of peace  but then the basic questions remain unanswered, so the vicious cycle continues.

But my baking efforts have been spectacular. I surprise myself because I was a non -baker once and to come out with such tantalizing treats shocks the day lights out of me also. No no, I am not being immodest. Really.

Over the weekend, we invited Namit, for a pao bhaji treat. This is my favourite Indian street food and if it was possible and if the calories didn’t count, I would have eaten it every single day. Considering it is fairly easy to make and makes for a tantalizing a snack, it wouldn’t be wrong to guess that it would be made in almost every North & West Indian home.  It is still to catch up in many parts of south India, while I am no position to comment upon how Pao Bhaji is percieved in the east.

The recipe  for Pao Bhaji ( Bread and spicy vegetable mash) goes like this:

Ingredients:

2 large Potatoes ( boiled and mashed; skin peeled)

2 large onions

2-3 Tomatoes

1-2 Capsicum

half cup of green peas

1 cup of cauliflower florets

1 large brinjal

1-2 medium sized carrots

Pao Bhaji Masala – I use the Everest Brand*

200 gms of Amul Butter or any butter will do. Salt variety tastes better.

Salt to taste

Lemon Juice

Coriander leaves for garnish

Chopped onions ( separate from the above mentioned onions) for garnish

Garlic & Ginger paste (optional)

Note * – If you do not have pao bhaji masala, you could use, a combination of coriander powder, Amchur powder ( mango powder), red chilli powder, garam masala, cumin powder

Preparation

Boil/pressure cook all the vegetables except onions and tomatoes and keep aside. Boil, skin and mash the potatoes separate from other vegetables.

Chop onions and tomatoes and keep aside.

In a large pan, heat some oil and fry the onions first. When they turn pink and translucent, add tomatoes. Let them fry for a while and keep stirring with a  spatula. Then add the mashed potatoes and mix thoroughly. Let it fry for a while. At this stage, you can add the garlic ginger paste.

Meanwhile, try mashing the boiled vegetables as much as possible and then add it to the potato mash mix in the cooking pan. Mix thoroughly while mashing all the same. Make it as homogenous as possible. Add 100 gm of butter first.

Now add the Pao Bhaji masala or alternately the mix of masalas mentioned in the note. Mix well.

Let the vegetable mash cook well in the masala. Add salt to taste. When the oil starts leaving towards the sides of the pan, take the pan off the fire.

The remaining 100 gm of butter could be used for grilling the bread and for topping the bhaji ( vegetable mash). More the butter, the better it tastes. Obviously.

While you plate up the bhaji and the pao, you could give the bhaji a squeeze of lemon juice and top it with chopped onions and coriander leaves.

Thats about it. Now have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, because, that’s how I enjoyed it.

My baking venture of the  week was Lemon and Blueberry Banana Bread and with vanilla custard.  The banana bread encrusted with juicy blue berries was well recieved and with vanilla custard it was a surely a trip to heaven and back.

Lemon & BlueBerry Banana Bread

Banana bread is by far one of the easiest baking expeditions, I have undertaken. But gratifying none the less. A far cry from the usual chocolate and strawberry, it calls for the comfort and the warmth of bread with almost cake like consistency but none of the fan-fare attached. The Blueberries give the burst of juice in parts over the mellow  taste of the bananas.

The Recipe for Lemon Blueberry Banana Bread

Yield: One loaf

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

3 medium ripe to overripe bananas

zest and juice of one large lemon

1/2 cup butter

3/4 brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries*

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup pastry flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lay bananas (skin still intact) on a baking sheet and throw them in there for about 15 minutes. When done, remove the bananas from oven and allow to cool. Turn the oven down to 350°F.

2. While the bananas are roasting, grease an 8 x 4 loaf pan very well.

3. Now we are going to brown the butter for maximum flavour enhancement. In a small pot, melt the butter over medium heat and continue to heat until it begins to foam up. Don’t stir it, instead swirling it as it foams. Once the foam dies down and begins to take on a rich brown colour, remove it from the heat. Set aside.

4. Peel the bananas by cutting a slit in them and gently squeezing them into a bowl, they should come right out without a fight. Mash them up with the lemon juice and zest.

5. Stir in the browned butter, sugar, vanilla and buttermilk. Gently fold in the blueberries.

6. In a separate bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add to wet and combine, but do not overmix!

7. Immediately pour the batter into the greased pan and pop it into the oven for about 60 minutes. When done (toothpick comes out clean), remove from oven and set on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes before turning it out to cool completely.

Consuming all these goodies is negating my work out effect. But I am keeping at it like an indefatigable warrior. Now I am looking to cut back a little on baking for a few days and try some new dinner and lunch recipes especially Kerala style food.

I am participating in the Kerala Kitchen challenge hosted by http://magpiesrecipes.blogspot.com/p/keralakitchen.html and am proud to have already submitted an entry of Pathiri and tomato curry to the same. What this will ensure is, that I get to learn and try new Kerala recipes. So kudos to that!!

%d bloggers like this: