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Eid Mubarak

4 Oct

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

 

 

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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

A broken wheat and lentil soup and what I learnt from my father

27 Aug

Each time I meet my father, I am astonished. At the age of 68, he seems to be exuding more vitality than me or my husband or anyone considerably younger.  The last three months were a ball. I had my parents visiting us and that gave us ample amount of time to spend with each other. My father spent hours playing with my 4-year-old every single day and at times it was difficult to figure out who was having more fun. He was the one who took her out to the park and ran around with her for hours in this high heat- humidity situation in Bahrain. Where did he draw that kind of energy from?

I always knew my father was energetic and had tremendous zeal for life. I have never seen him pull covers over his head and sleep until late in the mornings. He is always up at the crack of dawn and some times even before that and by the time we wake up, he is already done with his morning rituals and could be seen chanting the Saraswati Sahasranama. Post which, he would have his breakfast and was ready to  ‘carpe diem’.

Muthashan and Mimi

Muthashan and Mimi

Of all that I know about my father, there is this youthfulness about him that I admire the most.  Oftentimes, I have wondered how he managed to not let life sap this from his being. We all know how life just slowly sucks away our enthusiasm even without us noticing and suddenly we are caught in a moment while looking up our picture on Facebook, wondering – When and how did I change so much!

In one such similar moment, I thought about this and found several insights into my father’s personality and his view on life.

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So these are few secrets to how he manages to remain youthful and energetic:

1. Be creative – My father, who is a Pisces, has a natural inclination to being creative. Be it writing emails, to ironing clothes ( yes! he is very handy around the house), to keep the house clean and in order or even his conversations radiate with his creative genius. He finds more efficient and interesting ways to do banal things in life to keep it exciting. The loveliest trait about him is he always encourages everyone around him to be creative –  to be the best possible versions of themselves. Easy as it may sound, it is quite difficult. But I have seen him practice being creative and over years it has become a habit. He is retired now but when he was an employee of a large and an esteemed organization, he was known for his creative approach to everything in his Department.

Nourish your creative side to stay young

2. Appreciate beauty- Usually in life, we get carried way by the routine and forget to appreciate the beauty around us. Somehow, most of us are not even gifted with good observation skills unlike my father. My father is very aware of everything around him and is quick to appreciate its unique beauty. How beautiful and grand do the date palms look swaying in the wind, especially when laden with ripe dates, how beautiful do the crottons look and how the building’s reception with its black marble looks majestic and so on. This is stuff that I pass by every single day of my life but I never have the intention, inclination or the time to appreciate it. Beautiful people, beautiful things, flowers, gardens, fountains, beautiful buildings and the list is endless – fascinate my father.

Appreciate beauty to stay young

3. Connect with people- It has been a year since we moved this building complex but I haven’t had the chance or the interest to know my neighbours or make friends around the building. In three months time, my father managed to make more friends just by going to the park with my daughter. He knows the names of the attendants in the supermarket below our building and also the names of the plumber, repairman, the water guy to list a few. I see him giving them personalized attention and taking care to ask them about their lives. They are ever so happy to serve him.

Connect with people and try to bring smiles to their face to stay young

4. Maintain a child – like wonder – Even at 68 years, my father is intrigued about everything. He reads up a lot and follows anything that is trending – be in music, news and opinions, culture etc. Lately he was asking me about Timbaland and a few recommendations that I could give him about the tracks that he has composed and sung. He is genuinely curious and that shows in the way he explores the books that my brother and I read. He has a soft spot for young adult’s fantasy fiction as well.

Be genuinely curious about the world around you to stay young

5. Be addicted to the idea of being in love – Being in love is a feeling different from all others. It gives you that spring in your step, that colour to your cheeks and you feel like you are walking on clouds. Well, that is the feeling we should have in our hearts all the time. Unfortunately, it seems so difficult in this fast paced life to feel that light – hearted,  and enjoy the finer moments of life. My father, an eternal romantic at heart, always seems to be joking and having a time of his life. He seems to be addicted to the idea of being in love – no not with any person as such except, of course his wife, my mother – but generally in love with the feeling of love.

Be in love to feel young

These are his five strategies that contribute towards his youth-like demeanour. I think, there may more but I may take some time to explore them and eventually imbibe them.

BLS2This recipe here is not my father’s favourite by any means but it is my way of showing how I have begun to learn all his secrets to staying young. Over and above his secrets, I am trying to develop a few strategies of my own such as eating healthy and exercising well. The diet- exercise combination keeps in a good mood and hence productive. When I feel productive, I know I am on a creative pursuit and that leads me to be curious. I do have to work on my ‘connect with people’ area where my skills are tremendously deficient. And  feeling light – hearted, like being in love is still a work-in- progress.

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This light and hearty soup made of broken wheat and brown lentils is a complete meal. I feel completely satisfied after having this for lunch (preferable) as I find that my cravings are reduced drastically. I have had this soup, 3 days in a row for lunch and did not get tired of it – it is that good! It also got featured in a Dubai based culinary magazine called “The Chef’s Special” for their Ramadan special issue along with my Falooda recipe. I wrote about how Ramadan, when planned properly can be an enjoyable experience by finding the balance between fasting and feasting.

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Do try this soup and if you do, please let me know how you enjoyed it! The recipe is as under:

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Here’s wishing everyone a fantastic few days of the working week and a wonderful weekend!

{Restaurant Review} Jim’s Restaurant, Adliya – Good old Jim’s is back!

22 Aug

Three years ago, I completed a project. No, it wasn’t of any national interest but it was important for me as a food blogger and a restaurant reviewer.It was called the Restaurant Review project  on the blog, where I had taken up the task of reviewing 24 restaurants in Bahrain in  6 months time in 2010. Many obstacles came my way, but I did finally finish it, not it 6 months but it took me 12-14 months to finish. Today, I have nearly 29 restaurants reviewed on my blog and you can check them out here. The very first restaurant I reviewed was Jim’s Restaurant in Adliya.  It was a great evening with friends and family and I went home from Jim’s Restaurant feeling wonderful from all the good food.  In between now and the first time at Jim’s Restaurant, I did pay it a visit a couple of times, but was disappointed by the food and the service. It was then I got to know Jim’s has changed hands twice and the new team wasn’t able to create the ‘ Old Jim’s magic’. I decided to avoid Jim’s until now, when I was invited to review them two weeks back. I was reluctant but then the new management at Jim’s were really persuasive.  The new management of Jim’s Restaurant informed that their old Chef Firdaus is back and with him the restaurant is back to being the ‘good old Jim’s’ 

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Jim’s Restaurant in Adliya was always known to be a fun place for a great night with friend’s on a weekend. With food that draws inspiration from Anglo- Irish to Indo- Persian cuisine, Jim’s Restaurant has always promised it’s diners a sumptuous meal in a fine yet casual set up.

I was quite intrigued to see if I would witness the old charm of Jim’s Restaurant after 3 years.

Upon entering the restaurant on a Thursday late evening, after a hard day’s work, I only had one thing on my mind – relaxation. I wanted go to a place where I could put my feet up and feel the casual vibe around me. It seemed that my wish might just come true when we were welcomed inside the  restaurant by the restaurant’s staff  with broad smiles. We ordered our drinks as it was extremely hot and humid that evening. The chilled and refreshing drinks provided the much needed succor. It was a matter of time that I felt very relaxed and was genuinely looking forward to my dinner at Jim’s. We ordered some starters which I realized were the same that I had ordered three years ago. It is funny how our memory points us to migrate to everything that is familiar and comfortable. My taste bud memories immediately got to work and I recalled the contrasting tastes of the salty brie against the tangy sweetness of the blueberry coulis. The Deep fried brie wedges in blueberry coulis was everything that my taste buds remembered and loved. I was nearly convinced that I could forget the past and imagine that good old Jim’s was really back. Now I was very excited to see how the other courses turned out.

Deep fried brie wedges with blueberry coulees

Deep fried brie wedges with blueberry coulees

To accompany the starter, we also ordered for an appetizing oriental chicken salad.  The salad was refreshing because it was made from all the seasonal and local produce such a locally sourced chicken, cucumbers, beetroot, crispy lettuce, onions and coriander leaves. The satay style marinated chicken was delicious while the tangy peanut dressing made it very addictive. I had many helpings of this salad which I found genuinely filling and would recommend it just as highly as I would the deep fried brie wedges with coulis.

Oriental chicken salad

Oriental chicken saladR

The main course seemed unnecessary but my gluttonous nature got better of me. We ordered for a spinach, brie, mushroom stuffed chicken and a vegetable quiche – again both main courses were the same from our first time at Jim’s Restaurant.  The hearty spinach, brie and mushroom stuffed chicken was accompanied by mashed potatoes,  garlic cream sauce and buttered vegetables while the vegetable quiche had a salad side to it – every bit scrumptious and hearty.

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Spinach, brie and mushroom stuffed chicken

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Vegetable Quiche

By the time, we finished our main courses, we were in food heaven. The portions were fantastic and it really felt like we were back at the old Jim’s Restaurant. Jim’s is lucky to have chef Firdaus back and it was his magic that was helping his patrons relive old Jim’s Restaurant memories. All in all, I sensed that this is a chef who knows exactly what he’s reaching for, a chef whose ultimate goal is simply to make his patrons and new customers happy.  And this is just the beginning and Jim’s Restaurant has some hard work to put in before they can have all their old customers back. I have no doubt in my mind, that Jim’s will be very successful like it used to be once. I missed eating the dessert because I was too full from all the tasty food. The next time, I go to Jim’s Restaurant, I will start with dessert first.

If this review has made you hungry, you can check out Jim’s menu here

This is a sponsored post but the views expressed are solely mine.

Chocolate Chocolate Cookies and a note about lost things

15 Aug

Tinkerbell is a collector of lost things. With these lost things she made the most useful inventions which helped make the life of the fairies of Neverland better. Mimi and I love Tinkerbell. She is our favourite fairy.

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When Mimi was younger, she had this incredible talent of finding lost things too. When she was a toddler, she would bound about around the house and find stuff that we would have given up for good. My favourite clip from under the bed, hoards of pens stuck in between the sofa crevices, abandoned restaurant bills which are the only evidence of the good times we had with friends.  Finding them, looking at them creates their own separate memories. That is the beauty of finding lost things. Today Mimi is 4 years old, soon to be 5. She still retrieves her Ammamma’s glasses from wherever she last left them. That is the uncanny ability that children have. We grown ups are hopeless like that. We lose things that then forget that we lost them. That is how I am. What’s gone, its gone forever. New things take the place of lost things. But today, I feel a little different.

Because I lost a poem.

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I wrote it on a whim with the excitement of a child for having seen a beautiful cookie. That cookie was my muse and it made me write a poem. I never write poems because they are not for me. I read and enjoy poems written by others. But I never write one.

This cookie is special. It forced me think like a poet and express like one. It was actually quite nice, is what my friends and family told me. But no one saved it and neither did I. So I have lost it forever and I can’t seem to recreate it. The cookie is still inspiring and that is why I am sharing it today in this blog post. But the poet in me, is silent. I depend on Mimi to write one and bring it back to me, like she has always done by finding lost things and bringing it back to me. That will make a separate memory.

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This is the chocolate chocolate recipe that Mimi baked like a dream and it made it into a magazine. The Bahrain Confidential featured me as the blogger of the month. Check out their beautiful, brand new website and their digital edition here. Thank you.. Melissa!

Bloggers Bytes BC August 2014

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The recipe is simple and uses very few ingredients. It is gluten – free, dairy – free and nut – free though, that was not intentional. I tried it, because I thought it would make for some amazing cookies. It uses enormous about of icing sugar but let that not scare you. The recipe is as follows:

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Here’s wishing all my Indian readers, a very happy Independence day today! Cheers.

Eid Mubarak and my family’s favourite Kheer recipe

3 Aug

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Here, in Bahrain, we are still reeling from our longish yet blink and you miss kinda  Eid Holidays. My kitchen still smells of butter and chocolate and spice from plenty of baking expeditions that Mimi and I carried out. My instagram account is filled with pictures of my moreish banana breads ( will blog about it soon), Nigella’s Orange and chocolate cake and almond biscotti. As an expat and a non- Muslim in Bahrain, being around during Eid celebrations is a special experience each year. As an outsider and an observer, the festivities marked by a long holiday and the Muslim community getting together to celebrate after a month of fasting and prayers, have always left me with a feeling of longing for my family back in my own home country. There is a spark in everybody’s eyes as they go shopping for gifts and traditional sweets. To feel close to it all, I too, go for shopping for traditional sweets and gifts for friends and my family.The other major attraction during Eid would be to go to the Grand Mosque which is a unique experience and this year my parents would be visiting the Grand Mosque for the first time. It would be interesting to see the Mosque once again through their eyes. The Ministry of culture has come up with a great line up of performances from all over the world as a part of the Bahrain Summer Festival 2014. I can’t wait to attend some of them which sound every bit delightful. At home, I try to create a festive atmosphere by preparing some delicacies like the Shir Korma and  Biryani. I call friends home and do our own little Eid party with cheese sampling and such. Eid, on the whole, leaves me feeling festive and I look forward to this festival like I would, Deepawali, while I lived in India.

So that was a bit about how we spent the holidays. I would also like to share a few interesting updates. I couldn’t have imagined on that sultry afternoon of 23rd February, 2010 that my blog would come this far. The innumerable opportunities that my blog has provided have helped me explore my own potential as a food writer and a food photographer. I still have a long way to go but every opportunity is a divine gift that I shall treasure.

I had the opportunity to share a recipe, picture and a write up of the famous Thalassery Biryani with the readers of Bombay times. It is a small mention but for me a big milestone to be featured in the supplement of the Times Group. In this article, I talk a bit about its origin and the interesting history behind the Thalassery Biryani. The recipe is pretty amazing too.

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The other update includes a chocolate cookie recipe that Mimi and I shared with the readers of a Bahrain based magazine – Bahrain Confidential. Here, I discuss why baking is such a fruitful exercise with children especially during their summer holidays. I shall share a detailed post on the cookie recipe, soon.

Bloggers Bytes BC August 2014

Now that the updates are out of the way, let me share with you my simple, yet absolutely delicious Kheer ( rice pudding) recipe which I made to celebrate Eid.  Just with a few ingredients it is possible to create something so magical that it unites your family at the dining table even if they have vastly varied tastes for other foods.

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Most of my cooking that I do at home is instinctive and I never take the pains of jotting down the recipe. But during these Eid holidays, I thought better and wrote down the recipe for Kheer as I made it. It is a favourite with my family especially my daughter and my husband. They enjoy a cupfull of this in its warm and chilled forms.

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While it uses few ingredients, its taste blooms because it is cooked slowly on low flame. To speed up the process would mean cooking it at high temperatures but then it would completely kill the taste. I know of several other methods of making Kheer like cooking it in the pressure cooker etc but these short cut methods do not do it for me. I like the traditional way of cooking it slowing and allow the flavours of the reduced milk to merge with the cardamom, sugar and the ghee-fried raisins and cashews.  This recipe gives atleast 8 servings.

Wishing everybody a great week ahead!

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Ramadan Kareem! Falooda Recipe and a Social Media Award for #SMDAY

4 Jul

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This is my 5th year and Bahrain is home now. The comfort and the familiarity makes me disown my expat status and feel like local. The food, the culture, the openness and the warmth are addictive which makes me wonder whether I would think about a time when I would feel like packing my bags and heading back to my home country, India. It is when I moved to Bahrain that I started writing and blogging and discovered that part of me which I never knew existed in the first place. Being a blogger allowed me to explore several avenues which otherwise would have been unapproachable. With these experiences, I gained confidence and started trusting my own abilities and after 4 + years of blogging, my efforts were recognized by the (@SMCBahrain) Social Media Club of Bahrain where my blog was awarded The Best Blog under the Kitchen and the Dining category. It makes me very happy because it was completely unexpected yet somewhere I feel fulfilled with the recognition that my blog got.

Interestingly, it is also a great time to be in this region when it is at the cusp of this amazing social media revolution. The region has begun to sit up and take notice of what social media platforms and bloggers can do and what an important part they form in the overall scheme of things. I extend my special thanks to the Social Media Club of Bahrain for taking steps towards encouraging us bloggers. This award makes us want to do more and better now.

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Bahrain opened my mind and my heart to the culture and its religious beliefs without ever imposing them. Ramadan is a very special time to be in the region as it provides an opportunity to witness a collective sentiment towards a common goal. It is almost like the entire island quietens down during the day and all you can hear is prayers that the winds carry with them. These years have taught me that if Ramadan is about fasting, it is in equal parts, also about feasting. Whether it is Iftar or Ghabgah, food is a the center of all discussion and a chance to sample a wide array of traditional and modern classics at all the grand buffets around the town. But most locals swear by the traditional food made at home that beats the tastiest meal in any restaurant.

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To celebrate my blog’s win and the blessed occasion of Ramadan, I was prompted to create this indulgent treat called Falooda. Most of my Indian friends would be very familiar with this dessert drink which perhaps might have also been a childhood favourite.

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This is an indulgent yet refreshing drink that pleases all the senses, instantly and together. A perfect summer dessert in a glass that is full of rose scented and flavoured milk, starchy- rice noodles, sabja seeds that make it look exotic and a dollop of kulfi flavoured icecream to give a greater depth of flavour.

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It is surprising, how unbelievably easy this is to whip up together. For all my Muslim friends who are fasting and want to eat at home, and aspire to indulge on a treat, this comes highly recommended. Primarily being only an assembling project, Falooda is delicious as it is filling after a day of fasting. It refreshes the mind and the spirit considering July is a very tough month with longer hours of fasting.

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With this I end my post on a sweet note and wish every body a wonderful weekend.

Ramadan Kareem to all the readers of Slice of my lyfe.

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Thank you again for reading my blog – it really pushes me to write my next post and to keep doing better.

On how important it is to be selfish and a healthy grilled chicken, quinoa, mango and wilted kale salad

23 May

Just yesterday I was invited to a colleague’s birthday lunch. It was great to catch up with my colleagues ( 8 women and 1 guy) and to say that the lunch was hearty, would be an understatement. In between the talk turned towards what the birthday girl was going to do in the evening. I was told that she had her celebratory birthday breakfast with her fiance, lunch with her favourite acquaintances and friends from work (that would be us) and evening would be devoted to another grand meal with her family of sisters and parents. To me that sounded absolutely perfect. A day planned around food!! What a perfect birthday indeed!

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The topic from there on turned towards how important it is to make sure that one enjoy’s her/his birthday to the  fullest. Birthday is one day where everybody is entitled to having  their wishes granted and being the center of attention. I nodded my head to all of it except to the one about being the center of attention. My modest and fiercely grounded upbringing and related conditioning refused to accept any claim that suggested being the center of attention was a good thing. It’s because being the center of attention was akin to being selfish and being selfish meant being a bad person. No way was I going to be a ‘bad person’. And if that meant, shunning attention and allowing the limelight to fall on someone else, so be it.

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One of colleagues, a young Bahraini girl – 20 something old, known for her love of celebrating her birthdays spoke up. I listened to her in rapt attention. She talked about how she put a countdown on her iPhone counting down days, hours, minutes and seconds to her birthday. Everyday she took pains to remind her family and friends about her up coming birthday, giving everybody enough time to plan something special for her. After all, family and friends were supposed to do something memorable on her birthday as they were in her life for a purpose which was to see her happy. She described with stars in her eyes about how excited she felt every year when it is her birthday month. Each year she saved up enough money to buy herself the gift of her choice. This year too, she had already bought herself, her own ‘surprise gift’!!!!!

GCQ5To me, all of it sounded preposterous. Attaching so much value to one day is equal to setting yourself up for disappointment. Yet I listened to her in fascination. She rambled on about her love for gadgets and precious stones, clothes and branded shoes and her father’s credit card. In my head, I was judging her against my will as someone who was so self – absorbed. I couldn’t ever be like her and  concluded  how different individuals we were. Suddenly the shine in her eyes, the unbridled happiness on her face drove me to think beyond the obvious. While I was this 30 -something, unexcited professional; she was this 2o – something, full of hope professional at the other of the table. What was so different that our worlds couldn’t meet? Why was I so resentful of her happiness which was self-generated and did not depend on anything external? Materialistic it might be, yet it was genuine.Truth be told, I envied her sitting on the other end of the table. I wanted to be enthusiastic like her about my own birthday, about my life and everything around me. I wanted to make each day count until it was my big day. I wanted  to celebrate. Growing up has cost me. It has taken away from me my enthusiasm for self – created small joys.

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No wonder I felt trapped between my contempt for her selfishness and my readiness to trade places with her and her attitude towards life.  What was that exact point in life where I lost my uncontainable curiosity and enthusiasm for life? Sitting there among all the chatter and immensely enjoying my chocolate lava cake, I tried to trace back the path in vain. The change had happened so slowly and in many ways, irreversibly. To watch this girl revel in her selfishness, was the takeaway for me that afternoon over good food and other interesting conversation. As women, after we get married and have children and  how soon we forget that we need to be selfish. The word feels abusive because as wives, mothers and hence caretakers, it has no business being around in our dictionary. But with that don’t we also forget to find joy from within us. Our children, our families become our sources of joy. Ofcourse they are. It is not debatable. But isn’t it important to find our own joy. Our self-generated joys such as gifting ourselves what we think we deserve or spending time doing things we love. For most of us, what we deserve is decided by what our family or children think we deserve.

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Just sit back and think hard. What do you really enjoy? Let that not include (for once) your child’s smile, his/her achievements, your spouse’s appreciation or your boss’s dependency on you for work. What do you as a person enjoy doing/thinking/creating? Make a list and take a positive step towards achieving it. I did my list which I define as my sources of self- generated joys. One of them is developing healthy and tasty recipes. The Salad pictures that you see interspersed along with all this ‘selfish’ monologue is my own creation.  I enjoyed creating it and executing it. Well to tell you the truth, I didn’t bother sharing this salad with any one else. I enjoyed it for lunch and felt good about it. May be I am being necessarily rebellious but this concept of finding my own joy for my own selfish reasons has taken root in my mind. The recipe is so simple that it shouldn’t take more than half hour to bring it all together.

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I would recommend that you use a sweet dressing for this salad as it complements the flavours of the tart mango, the delicious dullness of the wilted kale and the hearty goodness of the pepper crusted grilled chicken. The quinoa provides the much need foundation to hold all the flavours and gives it roundness of a complete meal.

Hope you enjoy this and spend some time contemplating selfishly about what makes you smile and your heart jump with joy.

In other news, my blog has been rated as one of the TOP 10 Blogs cooking blogs in India. Woohoo!! I am thrilled to bits. Check out the post here

Also, this is my 250th post on this blog. It is such a huge milestone for me personally because I cannot begin to explain how difficult it was at times to keep going – developing, creating content, taking pictures of food and presenting it in an interesting format each week. I am relentless about my blogs because perhaps because this is MY space and I am stubborn about not allowing it to wither away!

With this note, wish you all a happy weekend! Be creative.

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