Tag Archives: India

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.

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.

I have been getting on..

26 Apr

.. and getting myself into more things than I can manage. This year has been very exciting but its not all hunky dory. Everyday there is something new that life throws at me but I am not complaining. The last 3-4 months have weathered me well. Lessons have been learnt but I have been getting on. The most amazing bit that has happened in all this chaos and confusion is clarity of thought has emerged. A pristine clarity of thought which is not only such a relief but also great for bolstering my shaky confidence.

In the coming months a lot would have changed in my life and I pray to God it should be for the best.

(source: google image search)

(source: google image search)

In the meantime I have a few interesting updates to share.

1. I went to my bestie’s (Namit ) wedding in Mumbai and it was so much fun dressing up, getting henna done,  dancing and meeting people. The bride looked absolutely stunning with all the elaborate jewellery and garments. If you have been following me on instagram, you’d know! If you haven’t been, here’s your chance @sliceofmylyfe

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2. Mimi made me this lovely mother’s day gift which I cannot get over

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3. Attended a social media workshop for professionals conduct by the Social Media Club of Bahrain ( @SMCBahrain on twitter). Here I learnt about how important it is to project a consistent brand image throughout. The speaker, Ernesto Verdugo also emphasized on the various social media tools and tricks to use to make life easy.

 

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4. My baby can make her own cake!

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5. Couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to attend a arts and crafts exhibition. It was conducted my La Creation who host series of workshops for anybody who is interested in learning crafts like quilting, painting, baking and such. In a place like Bahrain where if you are new to the island it can get quite lonely. Groups such as this are such a wonderful way to get in touch with the community whilst being creative. This exhibition was a treasure cove of hand made lovelies such dream catchers, necklaces, household decoration pieces, trinkets, quilts, paintings and what not! Here, I share with you some pictures from the event.

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The next post, I shall share a wonderfully healthy oats and egg white uttapam recipe which I love so much! Until then, have a good week ahead people!

{friendship series} Bedmi Puri – An Uttar Pradesh specialty

28 Feb

As a continuation to my last week’s post, I have featured Ankur’s very own Bedmi Puri recipe. For the uninitiated, Puris are Indian flatbreads that are deep fried in oil and they take a puffed up appearance. Bedmi Puri is a Uttar Pradesh specialty ( a state in the north of India) which uses a unique blend of spices and urad dal.

Urad dal /www.foodsubs.com

Generally, I avoid making deep fried food at home but Bedmi puri is an exception. On days when I am feeling generous and happy such as some work -free weekends, I do make a lavish spread of bedmi puri, dum aloo and kheer ( rice pudding) for my family.

Post this heavenly lunch, we all take a much needed afternoon siesta until it is time to head out for an evening full of social hobnobbing.  Life is good in Bahrain but I still cannot help but feel that familiar longing for my old friends. This post is again about Ankur because I am not done talking about her. When I talk about Ankur, I cannot do so with talking about Deepa.  I write this post from India where I have come down for a short trip to attend a relative’s wedding. Being back in the old space – Delhi/ Noida, brings back a bucket full of memories of Deepa and Ankur. On this trip, I happened to read this beautiful book called “Sister of my Heart” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and I miss both of them even more. I feel compelled to constantly compare the two protagonists – Basudha and Anjali with Deepa and Ankur. If you are fond of beautiful, touching writing that evokes emotions that rise like tides on a full moon, you should read this book.

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Deepa also worked with us ( Ankur and me ) in the same organization and I found her as someone who could charm through the coldest of hearts with her enticing smile. I met her at a time when career-wise it was possibly the worst period and I wasn’t in the best of moods to be friendly. But Deepa danced and sang her way through my coldness. Publicly known for her dislike for the culinary arts, Deepa never felt the strong emotions that Ankur and I felt towards food and cooking. But there were other passions that we bonded over such as shopping from thrift shops, office -pantry singing and late night partying.

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This post gave me a chance to look back at my life – the carefree life with fewer responsibilities. I took this opportunity to go through all my old albums where I reminisced about our last Goa trip, the trip to Binsar, many a late night dinners and late evening coffees at Cafe Coffee Day and Barista in Noida. Ankur, Deepa and I have way too many memories and even if I try and jot all of them it will take very, many posts. I am afraid, I will only fall short of words reminding me that certain emotions are better remembered and felt. Putting them down in words can never do justice.

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Food and memories are central to my blog. Being blessed with terrible memory, this blog is my only rescue. Through words, I greedily try and capture all possible memories which time is hastily trying to erase. On 24th of Feb, this blog completed 4 years. It just slipped past unnoticed – ofcourse only I remembered because like a mother who can never forget her children’s birthdays, I cannot forget my blog’s birthday too. This blog has been my loyal companion for 4 years, changing and moulding itself into any shape that I gave it over these 4 years. I had planned  a lot of things for my blog – a new look, a giveaway etc. but none of it materialized due to the lack  of time which is such a mundane excuse that I cringe as I write it. I know I haven’t shown as much affection to the blog as it has and yet it serves me uncomplainingly. I am determined to change that going forward.

Now for the recipe of the Bedmi Puri that Ankur shared with me – thank you Ankur! Miss you and Deepa a lot.

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{friendship series} A terrific Dum Aloo recipe

21 Feb

Two years back I badgered some of my closest friends to share their favourite recipes with me. Soon enough I collected a good number of their favorite recipes for the ” Friendship Series”. Now that I have tried their recipes and I think each of them is absolutely stunning and worthy of all the praises that I can possibly shower. Apart from the agenda that included collecting of recipes, I wanted to capture the essence of my relationship with all these beautiful people. In this post, I share a wonderful recipe of Dum Aloo that my dear friend Ankur shared with me.

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I met Ankur in 2005 as a colleague with the first company I worked for after completing my Masters. My first impression of her was that she was extremely fastidious and diligent as far as her work was concerned. Also, I noticed she laughed a lot. A lot. Her infectious laughter drew me to her and we started interacting a lot more. She admired the way I could put my eye liner in a few strong strokes while I tried to absorb her indefatigable zest for life. We bonded over office gossip, short lived crushes and conversations about food and cooking.

BedmiPuri9Ankur has always been a good sounding board and even after we moved countries with our respective spouses and (now) children, we never lost touch. An occasional email, a quick phone call or chats on gmail have been ways that we have kept in touch. Sharing recipes. pictures of our children helps us keep track of what’s going on in each other’s lives. Recently, Ankur has taken to baking like a fish takes to water and it is amazing how quickly she is churning out one baked treat after the other.

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Some of my favourite moments with Ankur have been on our all-friends trip to Goa. It was once in a life time kind of carefree trip where we roamed on bikes far and wide on the roads of Goa.

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Ankur is a terrific  cook and it is no surprise that I turn back to her recipes time and again. This Dum Aloo recipe uses next to zilch amount of oil and is so quick to prep and whip up. This has become my go-to recipe whenever I have guests to entertain. As a brilliant accompaniment, I serve this dum aloo with Ankur’s very own”Bedmi Puri” recipe which I will include in the next post. 

Sneak peek at the luscious Bedmi Puri ( next post)

Sneak peek at the luscious Bedmi Puri ( next post)

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My friendship stories with Ankur will continue in the next post with her luscious “Bedmi Puri” Recipe which is a western U.P. specialty.

Until then, a brilliant weekend to one and all.

P.S. If you are interested in reading some exciting fantasy fiction, you can head over to my other blog to catch up with a book I had written last year for a competition. I am posting chapter by chapter, once every week.

On why there is no need to lead a deficient life & a healthy Vegetable Couscous recipe

15 Feb

Now if all the Valentines gifts have been unwrapped and the chocolate puddings have been licked off the spoon, can we talk about something serious today? Not serious as much as important. Have you been feeling a little under the weather lately? For the past lets say one or two or three months or even more than a year? When I say under the weather, I mean a few aches and pains in the body, wee bit tiredness to chronic fatigue and mild depression even on a sunny day. Well then it is something you should not simply sit upon and do nothing about.

I started experiencing these symptoms for as long as I can remember. A year or two years perhaps but I attributed it to the fact that I was prone to depression from time to time. But lately for the past several months I began to experience chronic fatigue. The inability to get up from my bed to do normal chores and to go about my hectic day made me feel terrible. I suspected it had something to do with the new work-out routine or a change in diet perhaps. I respected my body’s wishes and didn’t push myself and waited for it to reach back to me with refilled buckets of energy. Unfortunately it did not happen. This lack of energy, a general lassitude and mild every-day depression began to affect me and the people that I love the most in my life. It was during a rigourous interval training session with my trainer that I confided feeling low and he remarked that I wasn’t giving my best to the routine. He then suggested to get my blood checked for Vitamin D deficiency and Thyroid. I got my tests done and found out that I had a Vitamin D deficiency. I was prescribed Vitamin D3 along with Calcium by the doctor.  It has been two weeks since I have started with the medication and I feel better already. I feel energized or perhaps these are my normal energy levels that are being restored. My moods aren’t dark and gloomy and I look forward to each day with renewed optimism.

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There is no feeling bigger, greater than feeling like your own self. 

Couscous

Couscous

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Vitamin D deficiency occurs for the following reason:

  • Darker skin. The darker your skin the more sun you need to get the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person.
  • If you spend a lot of time indoors during the day.  I stay indoors in office most of the time and when I go home its quite late.
  • If you cover your skin all of the time. If you wear sunscreen or wear full sleeves clothes
  • If you have been a vegetarian all your life. Growing up I have had a vegetarian diet thereby excluding crucial Vitamin D food sources such as Fish, eggs (very sparingly) and liver.
  • You are obese. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells and people with body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.

And many more. You can look up for material on the internet to educate yourself on the causes of this deficiency.

Suffering from Vitamin D deficiency can have several implications:

  • Not having enough Vitamin D through food sources or the sun or supplements can lead to your body absorbing less calcium and there by affecting calcium metabolism in the body
  • The above reason would lead to the general aches and pains in the body
  • Not feeling enough sun is a common cause for depression as well
  • Above all the fatigue is killing.
  • Long term deficiencies lead to  increased risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, asthma in children and even cancer.

I am not a medical practitioner but since the time I got to know of my deficient levels which in turn made me live a deficient life, I educated myself about its implications and causes. Hence by all means you can question all the matter that has been included in the post but if you do feel any thing like I have felt in the past 1 year or so, its worth considering a blood test.

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Since good health is the topic for the day, I have included a healthy couscous recipe which is not only filling but also extremely healthy. The couscous that we get in a packet here is pre-cooked so all that is needed is soaking it in hot stock or simply boiling water. The coucous fluffs up beautifully absorbing the flavour of the liquid of choice. To this I added some stir fried vegetables such as broccoli, aubergines, beans, carrots, onions etc. Basically, you can add any vegetable that you like. I used up the lot that was in my vegetable tray for a week and couldn’t think of a better way of using them up.

It is one of my favourite recipes that is extremely easy to whip up and is delicious too. I alter the quantity of couscous and use more vegetables to make it healthier. You can reverse the equation and make it couscous heavy and less vegetables. The other option to make this dish rich is to add lightly fried paneer or even raisins and nuts. Eggs match well too. So the versatility of this recipe is boundless. You can use a vegetarian stock or a chicken stock and the couscous swells up beautifully to the chosen flavour.

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With this I come to the end of my post. My next post would be about a chocolate pistachio fudge which is beyond addcitive. I share my foodie life on Instagram at @sliceofmylyfe and if you like what I do on my blog, I am sure you would love my Instagram feed even more.Happy weekend everybody!

Celebrating Deepawali with Jalebis

1 Nov

Another one bites the dust!

Well, not literally.

These days I am obsessed about my culinary bucket-list and am focusing on getting them done before the year ends. I finished with the Pavlova and the bbq, done with the oysters too. Then I thought since its festival time, why not attempt jalebis and see how I fare. I googled plenty of recipes – with yeast and without yeast.  Finally I settled for a recipe on Showmethecurry site. If you haven’t seen this site before, you should definitely see what a treasure cove of video-recipes it is.

Jalebi is “made by deep frying maida (all purpose flour) batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup”

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A good jalebi depends on:

1. The consistency of the batter

2. The temperature at which it is deep fried

3. The sugar syrup’s richness and flavour ( cardamom /saffron)

I read about all the dos and the don’ts before attempting the recipe to be very sure about getting it right the first time. The only investment I made was in on an empty squeezy bottle ( the ones that you would use for filling up ketchup and mayo)

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Dipped in saffron infused sugar syrup

Just before I get on with the recipe and other formalities, I would love to wish each one of you a beautiful Deepawali. I hope this Deepawali ushers in light, joy, prosperity and luck to all your lives. Usually during Deepawali we are in Delhi where we celebrate it with my in laws and extended family. It is a wonderful time to have family get togethers, dinners, shopping, gifts and food. Delhi is a land of wonderful food and once you get a flavour of Delhi food, its difficult to love food anywhere else ( Ahmedabad comes a close second). This year we aren’t travelling to Delhi and we will miss the crackers, the sweets and all the family gatherings. Mimi will miss being with her cousins and bursting crackers.

But munching on this juicy, crunchy jalebis provides succor to our Delhi-Deepawali-deprived souls.

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Click on the image to view the recipe

Click on the image to view the recipe

The only hitch I thought was that the sugar syrup wasn’t enough. Otherwise the recipe is top notch.

 

Once again, a very happy Deepawali!!!

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