Archive | October, 2014

The Diwali Post and a Panchmael Dal recipe

23 Oct

diwali

Diwali always rehashes special memories of my home town Mithapur. Mithapur is a teeny tiny township in the western state of Gujarat, India. I grew up in a close-knit, safe environment of a township where we celebrated every Indian festival with much gusto. My fondest memories of Diwali go like this:

During Diwali we would have a 20 day holiday in school with assignments from school which I would do in the last 4-5 days only before the end of the vacation. However hard my mother would coax, I would always finish my assignment at the last minute which is a habit I continue to practice shamelessly even now.

Diwali would be a time when friends would huddle around for afternoon chit chat sessions or a quick game of street cricket. I didn’t enjoy playing cricket too much but I enjoyed the company

The township would host myriad of events to celebrate Diwali. One of them was a Rangoli competition. I was a witness to some of the most spectacular Rangoli  art work done by very talented friends in Mithapur.

We used to wait for Diwali evenings to light lamps and to burst crackers. These days there is plenty of propaganda against bursting crackers but in the good old days, it was a much awaited event. If you would ask me now, I wouldn’t like to burst crackers but lighting lamps is still one of my favourite traditions that I uphold.

There wouldn’t be a spot in the dark night, which won’t light up with colours from different kinds of crackers. It is a sight that is so deeply entrenched in my heart and I miss my childhood days even more.

In Gujarat, the day after Diwali is the New Year which everyone celebrates by wishing each other ” Saal Mubarak” . Visiting friends’ homes for sweets and savouries is a highlight of this tradition. By the time it was evening, we would be so stuffed only to start gorging on sweets by night fall.

My mother always made some savouries for Diwali that never lasted even until Diwali and the more I write, the more I feel this strong pull of nostalgia. So I shall shop here with the memory trek and write about this beautiful mixed lentil dal recipe called Panchmeal dal which literally translates to a mix of 5 kinds of dal.

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Having this dal with a dollop of ghee gives you satisfaction of all kinds. It is wholesome, healthy, hearty and nourishing. Five kinds of lentils cooked in spices  lend a flavour that is rustic and homely. Keeping it simple this Diwali, we had a lunch of hot piping rotis, Dahi Bhindi ( deep fried Okra in a tangy gravy of coconut, cashew and yogurt) and some soulful, saffron laced Kheer ( sweet rice milk pudding).

The recipe is as follows ( since this was an unplanned post, there was no time to make a recipe card)

Panchmael Dal recipe

(Serves 5)

Ingredients

The dal mixture

50 gms tuvar dal ( pigeon pea lentils)

50 gms channa dal (bengalgram split lentils)

25 gms urad dal (vigna mungo lentils)

50 gm moth dal ( matki or dew beans)

75 gms moong dal(mung bean/ green gram lentil)

salt to taste

1 tsp of tumeric

Water to boil the lentils

 For tempering 

2 bay leaves

a pinch of asafoetida

2 cloves

2 cardamoms

1 stick cinnamon

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1/s tsp cumin seeds

The masala

1 tsp chopped ginger

1 cup sliced tomatoes and onions

1 tsp chopped green chillies ( optional, if you like it spicy)

1 tsp dry mango powder ( amchur)

1 tsp coriander powder

4 tsp chopped coriander leaves

For garnish

Chopped coriander leaves and fried red chillies

Preparation

1. Clean and wash the lentils and soak in water for 2 hours.

2. Add turmeric powder, salt and enough water in a pressure cooker and cook until 2 whistles. If you do not have a pressure cooker, boil your lentils with turmeric and salt in a pan full of water until they are cooked well.

3. Heat the oil in a pan; add the asafoetida, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds. Once the mustard seeds have spluttered start adding the ingredients in the masala

4. Add the green chillies ( if using ) and ginger. Fry well.

5. Add the sliced tomatoes and onions and keep stirring until they are fried well. Add the dried mango powder, coriander powder and let the masala fry for a few minutes.

6. Add the cooked dals and mix. Add water to get the desired consistency. Simmer for a few minutes.Add coriander leaves and let it simmer some more.

7. Serve hot with rotis or rice after garnishing it with fresh, chopped coriander leaves. In case, you want it more tangy, squeeze some lemon juice and mix the dal well. Serve in bowls with a tsp of  ghee to enhance the taste.

This dal is sure to fire a trail of your favourite childhood memories of having spent Diwali with your parents and relatives. I managed to relive a huge portion of it by making sure my family had the meal together today without the distraction of mobiles, television or even books. We spoke to each other and enjoyed the food for its taste and simplicity.

Happy and safe Diwali to you all.

{Travel Post} The Doha Diary – Katara Cultural Village and the Torch

16 Oct

Thank you to all who enjoyed reading the last  post and felt they were able to extract the essence of Qatar’s purposive balance between the old and the new. It is important for any culture/nation to refurbish the diminishing coat of traditional ethos in order for the generations of the future to enjoy and take lessons.

Katara cultural village overlooking the Doha skyline

Katara cultural village overlooking the Doha skyline

A single day is quite enough to change perceptions and this epiphany happened every step of the way on the trip. Primarily known for welcoming working immigrants, Qatar’s other facets fascinated me no end. After our enchanting visit to Souq Wafiq, I have strong doubts whether anything else on this excursion was going to trump that. But I was proved wrong in no time, when Mr. Jamal our guide took us to the Katara Cultural Village.

The Katara Cultural Village – Katara is a cultural hub that allows the interaction of myriad cultures through theatre, literature, music, visual art such as paintings and photography. A splendid celebration of all the human senses, Katara Cultural Village is a great place for families to come and enjoy a day in appreciation of arts and crafts. I noticed there  were  some workshops that take in students, young and old, temporarily to give them a feel of the different art mediums. The cultural village houses the Qatar photographic society which is to support the growing photographic movement in Qatar.

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Vintage doors are such an attraction

Fanar - the lighthouse / beacon - to act as a guiding light to whole of mankind, and to help all non-Arabs to have a better understanding of Islam and culture of Qatar.

Beautiful Turkish lamps adorn the ceiling/ Fanar (right) – ( literally translates to the lighthouse / beacon)  a center to help non-Arabs to have a better understanding of Islam and culture of Qatar.

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Passed by The Royal Tandoor in Pearl Qatar (left)/ ornate tap in the Katara Cultural Village(right)

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Mr. Jamal , our tourist guide, the Doha skyline and the model of the solar system at the Katara cultural village

Katara Cultural Village was such a visual treat with interesting dimensions to it. This is where we had our sumptuous lunch at the L’wzaar Seafood Market( highly recommended) where we tried different kinds of seafood dishes ( risking my allergies). Gorgeous food and gorgeous servers!

There two most striking features about Katara Cultural Village which I enjoyed the most:

1. Amphitheater – This Grecian inspired space is stunning with a seating capacity of 5000. This gargantuan amphitheater has played host to several celebrities such as the renowned actor Jeremy Irons and Angela Gheorghiou, the soprano.

The amphitheater overlooks this statue of an Abaaya – clad Arab woman, wielding the world in a piece of cloth representing the country’s forward thinking attributes.

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2. Gandhiji’s three monkeys in the modern world – This is a series of sculptures created by Indian artist Subodh Gupta, representing Gandhiji’s the principle “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” There were two things about the sculptures fascinated me. One, all of them were in military gear and second, they were made from stainless steel cooking utensils, aluminium buckets and such. One of the sculptures had glasses portraying ‘see no evil’, the other wearing a hood expressing ‘hear no evil’ and the third one wearing a gas mask signifying ‘speak no evil’. The underlying theme of this triad were – war and peace, public and private, global and local.

See no evil/ Katara cultural village

See no evil/ Katara cultural village

Hear no evil

Hear no evil

Speak no evil

Speak no evil

From here, we went back to our hotel with our senses full with the sights of the city and the gorgeous food making us drowsy. I took that time to explore the hotel which by far is one of the most beautiful properties I have ever seen.

Sharq village and spa

Sharq village and spa

By dusk, we dressed up for dinner which was at the Torch. We were booked for dinner at the Three Sixty which is a revolving restaurant unlike any other. Located on the 47th floor, the restaurant offers a panoramic view that simply makes your heart skip a beat. The food, needless to say, was top notch. The dinner and the spectacular view was a fitting end to my  wonderful sojourn.

The Torch, Doha

The Torch, Doha

I had to cut short the trip by two days because it was my daughter’s 5th birthday the next day. But a whole day was spent in Doha, exploring the city like I had never done before. I am glad that I took this time out to attend the Qatar Summer Festival for which I have only the Qatar Tourism Authority to thank. On my way back to Bahrain, at the Hamad International Airport, I was mesmerized by the efficiency of the airport. The only bit I was disappointed with was that the duty free section was very minimal. The range and the choice I expected was not available. Maybe with some more time, when the newly opened airport is developed further, more duty free outlets will be available to delight the customers.

Hamad International Airport

Hamad International Airport

{Travel Post} The Doha Diary – Souq Waqif

8 Oct

Here are 3 facts about Qatar, that you may not know:

1. In 2022, the World Cup final will be played in a city in Qatar that does not exist yet – This future city will be called Lusail,

2.Al Jazeera – The satellite known for its controversial reporting is broadcast from Qatar

3.  Every single building in the Doha Skyline is a completely different design from the other and there are about 40 such buildings as per this source.

To me, until a month back, Doha was a place for work; of strict project deadlines, meetings that went on forever and countless hours at the airport. My work as a business consultant took me to Doha for 3 sweet months where, there was only the work-face of Doha that I saw, understood and felt. But a month back, I was invited to see Doha with a fresh pair of eyes, of that of a tourist. The generous folks from the Qatar Tourism Authority invited me and two other bloggers to a 3 day visit to Doha. Of the 3 days, I was able to participate for a day but it was enough to give me the glimpse of the culturally vibrant and modern contemporary world-city that Doha is. I started this post with 3 interesting facts about Qatar just to put into perspective, how strongly Qatar is poised on the growth vector. Before I go into the beautiful stories I experienced in the single day I spent in Doha, I would like to mention a few things that were my biggest takeaway from the trip.

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

1. Primarily, known more for the work opportunities for immigrants,  Qatar is now shifting its energies towards making it a tourist – friendly nation in the lieu of the 2022 World Cup event;

2. Being a proud Islamic state and the one that really values its cultural integrity, Qatar has spent a lot of time planning and maintaining its cultural hubs such as the Souq Waqif etc.

3. Qatar knows it is a perfect confluence of the east and west and is not afraid to show it. This is very evident from the way its construction industry and other related industries are booming with government support.

The Qatar Tourism Authority ( QTA) made sure we were well taken care of and for that they arranged for us to stay at the most popular address in town. – The Ritz Carlton’s Sharq Village and Spa. Located by the their private beach and overlooking the spectacular Doha skyline, Sharq Village and Spa is luxury, redefined. We were lodged in independent villas with a sea-view which was such a delight to say the least.

Sharq Village and Spa

Sharq Village and Spa

Sharq Village and Spa/ room

Sharq Village and Spa/ room

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Sharq Village and spa

The spectacular Doha Skyline at dusk as photographed from the hotel

The spectacular Doha Skyline at dusk as photographed from the hotel

When you are in such a wonderfully encouraging and comforting environment, it automatically puts you at ease.  The night I landed, on the 15th of September,I met up with the other bloggers – Reem Taufiqi ( Bahraini blogger) and Anamika Arun ( food blogger from Dubai). We were ferried around the town by our enthusiastic guide Mr. Jamal.  The Doha tour was to begin next morning of the 16th of Septemer. That night, I slept like a baby and the next morning, I woke up feeling fresh and happy.

The falcon shop  at souq waqif

The falcon shop at souq waqif

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We set out on our excursion, after a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop was the Souq Waqif.

Fascinating stories from Souq Waqif:  A souq is a local market place and Doha’s Souq Wafiq  is special because it houses the poshest of restaurants in an Arabian Nights set up. As modern as its restaurants might be, the souq has some intriguing shops such as this Falcon Shop we visited. There is a great interest among Arab nationals to have Falcons as pets. There is a lot of science and money that goes behind having aFalcon as  pet. The shop had a whole line up of Falcons on display for customers to pick and choose. What is more, there were pretty leather and loom accessories that one could buy to adorn these majestic birds.

It is said that a Falcon needs to forget their previous owners otherwise they won’t accept the new ones. For that, they are made to wear eye patches covering both their eyes for 20 days which ensures they have no memories of the previous owner. The other reason why they have eye patches and are restrained by chains on their claws is they get overwhelmed when people come to the shop to buy them and risk flying and hurting themselves. Somewhere, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for them. Apparently, there seems to be a lot of preference for white Falcons from Russia and the bidders bid for amounts as high as  QAR 70,000 ( approx $ 19,220). What is more astonishing was that, there was a hospital for falcons! Not birds. Not animals.. but falcons alone. They had specialists who solved falcon ailments which goes on to show how much these birds are revered by the locals.

D2The Souq has its own police galloping around on their horses in traditional uniforms to keep up with the traditional flavour of the place. The Souq is a vibrant place with vendors selling different types of wares starting from Turkish lamps, to tiles, to clothes, shoes, bags, spices to name a few.

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Biryani spice

Biryani spice

souq waqif

There is a story behind why it is called the Souq Waqif. It has been in existence for the past 100 years or more and since those days, they had a traffic policeman directing traffic in the souq, standing on his feet, the whole day long. Waqif – that translates to ‘standing’ is what gives the souq its name. Quite fascinating how places get their names!

DSC_0526All these men you see in the picture are waiting for shoppers to come by to shop so that they can ferry their wares in these trolleys much like in the Memsahib era. No young man is allowed to take this job which these elderly gentlemen do, ensuring that this means of livelihood is not taken away from them.

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Architecture in the souq

Turkish lamps hanging from traditional ceilings; The Fanar- lighthouse

Turkish lamps hanging from traditional ceilings; The Fanar- lighthouse

While Jamal (our guide) kept us busy with all the beautiful anecdotes relating to the souq, he rounded us up to the AlDama Council in Souq Waqif . Dama that is played by two players was brought to Qatar from Turkey. It has taken the place of a traditional indoor board game which is now being promoted by the Government in their attempt to revive the popularity of  the game and encourage youngsters to take it up. Anybody can drop by the AlDama Council and play for free. I had quite a lovely time defeating my opponent who was an elderly Qatari gentleman.

Dama - board game

Dama – board game

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After the board game adventure, we travelled a bit around the souq, admiring the ornate doors, the rustic buildings, the pristine blue skies and trying once in a while to forget how hot it was.

We were then taken to meet the most incredible man ever – Saad Ismail – the oldest pearl diver in Qatar

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This septuagenarian, has seen and done it all. He has been touted the strongest man in Doha and a man incapable of feeling pain. He has tested his physical endurance by lying down on broken glass pieces and has deep dived into the sea with minimal equipment in the search of the most exotic pearls. He has met the Kings and the Queens of many lands and gifted them exquisite pearl ornaments as mementos. When you see him, you know Ismail has truly lived a full life that many of us can only dream of.

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Visiting the souq can be an eye- opener and an experience, I won’t forget in a hurry. There were many things, that I wanted to explore and take pictures if we weren’t so short of time. It was amazing to see how beautifully everything was preserved, restored and created to ensure that the souq’s sanctity was maintained. The first part of the day was spent reveling at the cultural history of Qatar. My sojourn in Doha was just beginning to get exciting when we headed next to Katara Village for lunch and an afternoon full of art and photography appreciation. But for that you will have to wait for my next post.

Eid Mubarak

4 Oct

Wishing all the readers of Slice of my Lyfe, a lovely Eid and happy holidays.

 

 

Slice of my lyfe poster (1)

 

 

I  intend to break this long blog silence with a beautiful, picture – heavy travel post which will include the glorious touristy details of my visit to Doha ( Qatar). Cheers

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