Sunday, November 30, 2014

Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad With Tamarind and Mint Chutney

As soon as I stepped out of the airplane, the humid, sticky air paved through my hair. I wondered if I should have infact had dinner on the plane, it was 2 a.m. and spending time to find any restaurant in this murky weather could be disastrous. To my relief, we sailed through the customs and airport procedures which admittedly is always the case at the Ahmedabad airport, the largest city of the North Western State - Gujarat . But I could hear my stomach growling increasingly and to break to my father who was receiving me, that I hadn't had my dinner, specially so because I was pregnant, would create a very stark reaction from Papa. It wasn't as if I didn't try, I did but I couldn't help feeling like I would throw up, really.

Our hired driver, who was going to drive us for next 6 hours to our home in Udaipur was confident about the hygiene of this particular South Indian restaurant. Talking about the hot crispy paper dosas, and dunking fairy white idlis in spicy broth of lentils called sambar created such sparkle in his eyes, it's the kind of thing only one foodie sees in another. He escorted us to the dingy staircase to the restaurant, the walls on both sides of the staircase filled with posters of Gods, the bollywood actors along side - who of course are no less than God. The spare lighting and the curved staircase created an illusion of a cave, where 'Anita loves Amit' and countless other lovers engraved their love on whatever was remaining of the wall. The driver assured us as Papa ran his handkerchief over his forehead - 'There is air conditioner inside.'


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Smashed Thyme Potatoes With Garlic and Lemon Sauce

My small counter space is overcrowded with pots and pans, produce and spices while I make a saucy chicken for dinner. My pyjama top is leached in turmeric, along with stains of ghee.  There are hints of cayenne or perhaps it is spats of tomato juices, and then there is garam masala, sprinkled like scant pepper from a miller. If you looked close enough, you'll also find last week's beetroot and chocolate cake masked by the fragrance of detergents but the red hue filtering through the wash. A few more wears and it might require trashing for most people, I though will hold onto it a little longer.

One could argue, there is apron for a reason, but my occasional bouts of intense cooking are fuelled by carrying those stains, spices and aromas like a badge of reminder of the end result and often times inspire food with 'connected flavours'. Let me explain; they say sniffing coffee clears your nostrils to distinguish between flavours, in which I think spices and the aromas seem to connect flavours. Laces of floral and citrusy mace and headiness of nutmeg, always drive my senses to apple and orange pudding Ammi makes, which in essence has no jaiphal (nutmeg) or javitri (mace). Nor, Ammi would ever approve of such an addition I reckon. 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Baklava Pistachio Sandwich Ice cream

The ice cream peddler in his Ottoman-esque costume of golden vest and red fez, teased the customers with the metal pole he used for stirring the Turkish ice cream. The ice cream was so stretchy, it dangled on the pole without falling off, much to the amusement of passersby. He further taunts by offering the cone and grabbing it back, tossing it in the air, inverting the cone just when you think the order is ready. Occasionally, you are party to the drama by getting a lick off the ice cream. We watched in bewilderment, despite having witnessed it nearly everyday of our 5 day stay in Istanbul. On this day though, we had decided to put our affair with the pistachio ice cream with hazelnut aside and find our way to Karaoke gulluoglu, a baklava parlour. As we navigated through the narrow by lanes for a good hour, it was tough not to pull up a chair and sit in any one of the countless baklava shops in the same area. But we resisted for the promise of having the best baklava with the best kaymak (rich Turkish buffalo clotted cream) in town.

Once we reached, we realised looking around at other tables that baklava here wasn't just a pastry on go or a dessert to have a slice off. It was to be devoured over golden hued warm tea, over conservation that lasted for hours, with friends that schemed of how is the perfect way to go about a relationship. So despite, having stuffed ourselves with the best kind of freshly grilled mackerel sandwich just outside of the shop, we decided to order one of each type of baklava we could lay eyes on.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Apple and Almond Halwa With Orange Whipped Cream

One of the first sounds I would wake up to in our town house, was an intense conversation between Gita Bai, the vegetable hawker and Ammi on life and such.

Gita Bai, the hawker who got the freshest produce in town made her first stop at our house. She would talk about her sons and daughters, their lives and miseries, the son who has ran away to the city, the daughter who has not been able to conceive a male child yet and the crops that are not doing well.  She would explain how she quickly, which I suppose was quite relative, wants to finish selling the vegetables so she could attend the road construction. Yes, attend, so she could get her name on the list of workers of the day, just so she could get paid but didn't necessarily have to work on the road. Ammi would listen, often losing her debate on what's really the right thing to do against Gita's theories of survival, being the only earning member in the family.

Sometimes I would sit next to Ammi, pick up the pea pods from a wooden weaved basket that was lined with floral but rugged cloth. Opening the tender bright green pods and discovering how many little balls would come out of it kept me amused and entertained. They were always sweet, the ones Gita Bai would pick up and hand me that is.

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