Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Friendship and a Cup of Tea

Every time I make a cup of tea, I think of my two best friends Sanaya and Vidhi. And of course, our crazy families. Since my morning cup of tea is how I best start my day, I start my day with amazing memories of a friendship that's been around for 12 years.



Thinking of Sanaya when I make a cup of tea is a no-brainer. After all it was she (and daddy, her father) who got me hooked to tea. I still remember the day like it was yesterday. It was my first trip to Sanaya's bungalow in Matheran in the summer vacation of 2005. We'd taken the 6 kilometer long hike from Dasturi to the bungalow (and it was the first time for me). When we got there, Sanaya and daddy immediately expressed (in their very endearing way) their want (it was more like a need, really) for afternoon tea! While making tea, daddy took out a cup for me too and asked me how I'd like mine. I was a little scared and shy as I told him almost apologetically, "I don't have tea, uncle." You should've seen the way Sanaya and daddy whirled around to get an eyeful of me. It was almost like a Hindi movie, where you'd expect daddy to drop the plate in his hand with a loud crash and cover his ears with both his palms. While that (almost) didn't happen, I did get an exasperated "She DOESN'T drink tea?!" from daddy. Then he and Sanaya with their sense of humour and gentle coaxing convinced me to have a cup of the mint tea with lots of sugar (for my Gujju preferences) and without milk (daddy grudgingly caving into my intolerance of it). And till date, it's the best cup of tea I've ever had. Every time I have mint tea, I always think of this first cup (and their whirling!).

Sanu's and daddy's love for tea can be seen in the way how their days are planned around tea. Like when we'd walked through the market halfway between Dasturi and home, Sanaya had already asked daddy to buy some mint for afternoon tea. Then of course there always was the way Sanu, with her very Parsi sweet tooth, would plan what to buy for tea wherever we'd go. If we were at Colaba Causeway then it was Theobroma's, if we were at Churchgate, it as Gaylords, if we were around college, it was Kyani's or Paris bakery, RTI near Fountain, or Parsi General for their lemon tarts, or if we were near Malabar hills, it was Country of Origin. I have some very interesting memories of shopping with her for 'something sweet for tea'. We'd have all our other shopping in one hand and we'd be balancing the very delicate box of pastries, or biscuits, or tiramisu. And then there were those days we'd try to get into a crowded bus to get home. I believe a lot of my flexibility has come from delivering these 'sweets' for tea in one piece.

There are always the great number of teas we've had around the table at Sanu's home. We'd always time our stays  and visits so we could have tea together. There would be at least 4-5 people. And somehow the 3-chairs-on-one-side sized table (pushed up to the wall on one side) always managed to accommodate all of us comfortably. Uncle, Sanaya or me would put up a large 'tapeli' (there is no other word in my mind for it except the way Sanu and daddy call it tapeli) to boil the water. Then we'd ask the question, "How do you want your tea" and the chaos would unleash! Every one had their preferences, which also changed after hearing someone else's preference, or the choice of tea available, or the food that was there, or just simply because of a change of mind. Then there was the preference of sweetener (sugar or honey) and it's amount, other additions like milk or lemon and so on and so forth. Of course there was convincing people who generally did not drink tea to have some with us. This was accompanied by loud talking, general teasing (it was the boys who usually got it from us girls), demands for food (mostly from me or Sanu because we'd always be hungry), stories of the day, western classical music, discussions of books and movies, sarcastic comments, and hugs and love; all of which were freely available around the table. And when the cups of teas were poured, they simply joined the conversation.

Tea with Vidhi was always a new experience. In her well-travelled panache she'd always have a new tea to share with me. The first one I have to talk about is the one that will always be 'our' tea: the smoky Lapsang Souchong with it's fragrance like the fragrance of the dry earth after the first rains (I know the word for it is petrichor, but somehow it's doesn't sound poetic enough to me). Both of us hoard our stocks of good Lapsang Souchong. And when we are having one of 'those' days where we miss 'us' we'll make ourselves a cup of beautiful Lapsang and comfort ourselves. Then there is her obsession with Russian Caravan. Every time she hears of a rare place in Mumbai that serves Russian Caravan, she HAS to rush there (with me in tow, of course) and have a cup of it. How can I also forget running around with her to stock up on her always depleting stock of Typhoo's Orange Spicer every time she travels back home from Indonesia. And there is always going to be the very local (I swear to you looks like it has all the parts of tea plant including barks in it) Indonesian jasmine tea that she has introduced me to as a Christmas and now she keeps filling my stock of it. She travels, travels well and introduces me to so many new teas that keep my love for it going.

The ritual of making tea at Vidhi's home is always a private thing between the two of us even when the whole family would be there. Vidhu's mom, the quintessential Indian host, would leave her kitchen to us when it came to making tea with an exasperated, "I don't know how to make your tea, you girls make it yourself". It was a symbol of her 'give up' on trying to understand us in general. The last time I went to Vidhu's place was the morning of her engagement. Her aunt and mom were running around making sure the whole family was having tea and breakfast while still getting ready. And then when she saw me (one of her 'vavajhodu' or typhoon in Gujarati), she smiled fondly and told me, "go make it". It will always be the great bond between us that she loves us even though she never will fully understand us.

Tea and Vidhi are so many places. The seating by the window in her home that overlooks the small patch of greenery with the background noise of the school next door. Or the couch at Tea Trails at Viviana Mall where we'd grab a peaceful cup of tea before we'd rush to shop for whatever she needed shop for before she flew out. The window by the bed of my parents' old home or the balcony of our new home with conversations about food and menu planning, baking, Sanskrit literature, Hindi literature, books to read, growing up and travel, silliest board games, missing the three of us. We are at our happiest when we sit with each other with a cup of tea warming our hands and conversations warming our hearts.

Every cup of tea is a walk down memory lane for me, because tea is Sanu and Vidhu. Each cup of tea is a precious memory that makes me smile or sigh. Each cup of tea is friendship in all it's simple ever-presence.

Friendship and a Cup of Tea

Every time I make a cup of tea, I think of my two best friends Sanaya and Vidhi. And of course, our crazy families. Since my morning cup of tea is how I best start my day, I start my day with amazing memories of a friendship that's been around for 12 years.



Thinking of Sanaya when I make a cup of tea is no brainer. After all it was she (and daddy, her father) who got me hooked to tea. I still remember the day it was yesterday. It was my first trip to Sanaya's bungalow in Matheran in the summer vacation of 2005. We'd taken the 6 kilometer long hike from Dasturi to the bungalow (and it was the first time for me). When we got there, Sanaya and daddy immediately expressed in their endearing way their want (it was more like a need, really) for afternoon tea! While making tea, daddy took out a cup for me too and asked me how I'd like mine. I was a little scared and shy as I told him almost apologetically, "I don't have tea, uncle." You should've seen the way Sanaya and daddy whirled around to get an eyeful of me. It was almost like a Hindi movie, where you'd expect daddy to drop the plate in his hand with a loud crash and cover his ears with both his palms. While that almost didn't happen, I did get an exasperated "She DOESN'T drink tea?!" from daddy. Then he and Sanaya with their sense of humour and gentle coaxing convinced me to have a cup of the mint tea with lots of sugar (for my Gujju preferences) and without milk (daddy grudgingly caving into my intolerance of it). And till date, it's the best cup of tea I've ever had. Every time I have mint tea, I always think of this first cup (and their whirling!).

Sanu's and daddy's love for tea can be seen in the way how their days are planned around tea. Like when we'd walked through the market halfway between Dasturi and home, Sanaya had already asked daddy to buy some mint for afternoon tea. Then of course there always was the way Sanu with her very Parsi sweet tooth would plan what to buy for tea wherever we'd go. If we were at Colaba Causeway then it was Theobroma's, if we were at Churchgate, it as Gaylords, if we were around college, it was Kyani's or Paris bakery, RTI near Fountain or Parsi General for their lemon tarts, or if we were near Malabar hills, it was Country of Origin. I have some very interesting memories of shopping with her for 'something sweet for tea'. We'd have all our other shopping in one hand and we'd be balancing the very delicate box of pastries, or biscuits, or tiramisu. And then there were those days we'd try to get into a crowded bus to get home. I believe a lot of my flexibility has come from delivering these 'sweets' for tea in one piece.

There are always the great number of teas around the table at Sanu's home. We'd always time our stays  and visits so we could have tea together. There would be at least 4-5 people. And somehow the 3 chairs on one side sized table (pushed up to the wall on one side) always managed to accommodate all of us comfortably. Uncle, Sanaya or me would put up a large 'tapeli' (there is no other word in my mind for it except the way Sanu and daddy call it tapeli) to boil the water. Then we'd ask the question, "How do you want your tea" and the chaos would unleash! Every one had their preferences, which also changed after hearing someone else's preference, or the choice of tea available, or the food that was there, or just simply because of a change of mind. Then there was the preference of sweetener (sugar or honey) and it's amount, other additions like milk or lemon and so on and so forth. Of course there was convincing people who generally did not drink tea to have some with us. This was accompanied by loud talking, general teasing (it was the boys who usually got it from us girls), demands for food (mostly from me or Sanu because we'd always be hungry), stories of the day, western classical music, discussions of books and movies, sarcastic comments, and hugs and love; all of which were freely available around the table. And when the cups of teas were poured, they simply joined the conversation.

Tea with Vidhi was always a new experience. In her well-travelled panache she'd always have a new tea to share with me. The first one I have to talk about is the one that will always be 'our' tea: the smoky Lapsang Souchong with it's fragrance like the fragrance of the dry earth after the first rains (I know the word for it is petrichor, but somehow it's doesn't sound poetic enough to me). Both of us hoard our stocks of good Lapsang Souchong. And when we are having one of 'those' days where we miss 'us' we'll make ourselves a cup of beautiful Lapsang and comfort ourselves. Then there is her obsession with Russian Caravan. Every time she hears of a rare place in Mumbai that serves Russian Caravan, she HAS to rush there (with me in tow, of course) and have a cup of it. How can I also forget running around with her to stock up on her always depleting stock of Typhoo's Orange Spicer every time she travels back home from Indonesia. And there is always going to be the very local (I swear to you looks like it has all the parts of tea plant including barks in it) Indonesian jasmine tea that she has introduced me to as a Christmas and now she keeps filling my stock of it. She travels, travels well and introduces me to so many new teas that keep my love for it going.

The ritual of making tea at Vidhi's home is always a private thing between the two of us even when the whole family would be there. Vidhu's mom, the quintessential Indian host, would leave her kitchen to us when it came to making tea with an exasperated, "I don't know how to make your tea, you girls make it yourself". It was a symbol of her 'give up' on trying to understand us in general. The last time I went to Vidhu's place was the morning of her engagement. Her aunt and mom were running around making sure the whole family was having tea and breakfast while still getting ready. And then when she saw me (one of her 'vavajhodu' or typhoon in Gujarati), she smiled fondly and told me, "go make it". It will always be the great bond between us that she loves us even though she never will fully understand us.

Tea and Vidhi are so many places. The seating by the window in her home that overlooks the small patch of greenery with the background noise of the school next door. Or the couch at Tea Trails at Viviana Mall where we'd grab a peaceful cup of tea before we'd rush to shop for whatever she needed shop for before she flew out. The window by the bed of my parents' old home or the balcony of our new home with conversations about food and menu planning, baking, Sanskrit literature, Hindi literature, books to read, growing up and travel, silliest board games, missing the three of us. We are at our happiest when we sit with each other with a cup of tea warming our hands and conversations warming our hearts.

Every cup of tea is a walk down memory lane for me, because tea is Sanu and Vidhu. Each cup of tea is a precious memory that makes me smile or sigh. Each cup of tea is friendship in all it's simple ever-presence.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Food Writing Going Pro!

Hi All,

It's been some time since I've posted something. You know how life tends to interfere with things you love to do. Well, if what comes as 'life' are still things you love to do, then it's okay! That's what's (thankfully) been happening for me. 

So the good news is that I have taken my food writing to a pro level. I am now a freelance restaurant reviewer with Know Your Town a monthly magazine that's dedicated to the lovely town I grew up in: Thane. 

Here's a preview of what I have been doing! 


So if you live in and around Thane and want to read up more: you can go to the website knowyourtown.co.in and subscribe to the magazine. A few clicks and it will be at your doorstep every month! 



Monday, 4 July 2016

Indian Style Masala Omelette Recipe

In my mother's vegetarian kitchen, eggs were the only non-vegetarian treat we were allowed to make. Of course, there was the no non-veg rule on Tuesdays and Fridays and mom fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. Somehow, some auspicious day or the other always fell on the intervening Wednesday. Invariably, then, the only days of the week we were actually allowed to make eggs were the weekends. Hence, our Sunday evening dinners would end up being masala omelettes.

Indian Style Masala Omelette Recipe
I still remember how much we'd look forward to these Sunday dinners. My mom absolutely refused to have anything to do with cooking eggs. So, dad would man the stove and make the omelettes. It was our family's version of the barbecue grill. My granny would chop up onions, green chillies and corriander. I got to help break the eggs. It was very satisfying to take a spoon or a fork and crack at the egg gently till it opened up and then whisk the yellow and white together till they became one yellow batter. Being able to help in my way in making our Sunday treat made me feel all grown up.

Indian Style Masala Omelette Recipe
We always ate the masala omelette with bread or pav and ketchup. My father and brother liked to put ketchup on one side of the pav or on one bread and make a sandwich out of it. I liked to make bite sized pieces of the bread, break a bite of the omelette with it and dip it in ketchup and eat it. You can also eat it rolled up in a paratha or roti. Any way you eat it, this little treat will not fail to satisfy your tastebuds!

Indian Style Masala Omelette Recipe

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 minutes per omelette

Makes: 4 omelettes

Ingredients:

4 eggs (6 eggs if you're using only the egg white)
1 tsp garam masala or chicken masala
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp finely chopped green chilly
1 tsp finely chopped fresh corriander
4 tsps vegetable oil/ ghee
Salt to taste

Method:

In a large bowl, crack open the eggs. 

Add in the salt and garam masala and mix till it forms a uniform mixture. Use a fork and whisk vigorously to remove any lumps the masala might make.

To this add the chopped onions, chillies and corriander. Mix well.

Heat oil on a shallow frying pan. 

Pour about 1/4th of the egg mixture and spread till it forms a thin layer. Cook till golden brown on one side. It will easily come off the pan when you put in the spatula if it's done. 

Flip and cook for 30 seconds.

Serve hot with bread/ pav and ketchup.


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Garlic Rosemary Roasted Potatoes Recipe

My potato-loving husband had a great time when we were travelling (and eating) through Europe last year. Every main course we ordered- be it fish or meat- had with it a side of potatoes. Roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, creamy potatoes, garlicky and herbed potatoes... ah potatoes!

Garlic Rosemary Roasted Potatoes Recipe
Roasted potatoes make for a great side dish with any continental dish. They take the dish to the next level and make a complete meal out of it.

Garlic Rosemary Roasted Potatoes Recipe

I always wanted to make roasted potatoes at home, but I was stumped by the lack of an oven. Yeah, well, moving on... I got over that when I got the new oven at home. I tried mixing up some rosemary and garlic with the traditional salt and olive oil tossed roasted potatoes. The results were just brilliant! And here I am typing away the recipe for all you lovely readers. Do try it at home, and let me know how it turns out for you!

Garlic Rosemary Roasted Potatoes Recipe

Garlic Rosemary Roasted Potatoes Recipe

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes


Serves: 2

Ingredients:

300 gms potatoes diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tbsps olive oil+ additional for greasing
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tsps dried rosemary
Salt to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius for 10-12 minutes.

In a bowl, mix the olive oil, salt, garlic and rosemary.

Put the diced potatoes in and toss them well with your hands. Make sure the potatoes are coated all over by the oil, garlic and herb mixture.

Grease a baking tray. Place the coated potatoes on it such that they form one across it.

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.

Serve as a side with grilled meats or pasta dishes.




Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A Letter to Papa

Papa,

I am writing this because I realised I have never said this: thank you for making me the cook and foodie I am today. I know you've never taught me how to cook. But all that you've done apart from that has made me what  I am in the kitchen today. 

Do you remember the first time I turned on the stove to cook by myself? I still remember it clearly. I must have been 11 or 12 years old. You had just come back from your site and were very tired. There was no one at home and I simply wanted to make tea for you. I don't remember how the tea turned out. It was probably not good. But I will always remember the joy I got out of making that tea for you. That joy was my first lesson in how wonderful it feels to cook for the people you love and care for. 

When I was learning how to cook, you've eaten some really terrible meals. I have lost count of the undercooked, overcooked, burnt, under-salted, very salty, bland and spicy meals I have cooked as a child. Or what I thought were 'creative' meals but were just disastrous experiments in cooking (remember the matar paneer at home with gravy of thin ketchup thickened with cornflour paste?) Mom would give me 'feedback'. Bhavya would simply look for alternatives to eat. But you ate each one of these meals quietly and finished what was on your plate without a  word. I've never said it, but that always gave me the encouragement to bounce back after a bad day. And to go on to planning the next meal. 

You've also made me the foodie I am today. You have always been someone who'd go to restaurants and try something different than what others of the group were eating.  My willingness to try new dishes comes from looking up to you and wanting to be like you. There were hits (Thai red curry at Moni's when they first introduced it in early 2000s) or misses (that bland white pasta we ordered at VS) but you were always my eating partner in these new dishes. 

And Rohan always tells everyone about how wonderful it was that despite being a Gujju you introduced me to eating egg and chicken. Trust me, he will always be grateful to you for that. Because he couldn't have married me na if I was a vegetarian! 

So thanks pappa for always being there for my love of cooking.

Love,
Disha

Monday, 9 May 2016

7 Quick Fix Meals for Hot Summer Afternoons

Summers are here. When I was a child, I really liked summers. They meant ripe mangoes, vacations, free time, playing all day, visits to my cousins and relatives and so much more. That perspective has cooking meals in a hot kitchen added to it now, and well things have changed.

Cooking  in Trichy, or even Thane (now that I am back home for the summers) in the afternoons is a real task! Hot weathers and then you spend hours cooking  in front of the gas with no fan. Nope, can't do it everyday. So I went back to my old recipes and tried to find a solution to this.

Background Image Courtesy: https://www.123rf.com/photo_26876245_fresh-ingredients-for-cooking-pasta-tomato-cucumber-mushroom-and-spices-over-wooden-table-background.html
Guess what? There are recipes I can use to make nutritious and wholesome meals for the family and me without literally sweating it out in the kitchen! Our mothers, grandmothers and even their mothers have been cooking in this summer heat for ages, and as always they've found solutions. I have taken them in, and added some modern twists to it.

1. Mixed Vegetable Thalipeeth

You can find the recipe here.

Mixed Vegetable Thalipeeth Recipe
 If there are only one or two people for a meal at home, then this is a great recipe to make. It takes literally 5-7 mins to grate the veggies and prepare the dough. And then about 3-5 minutes to make each thalipeeth. Loaded with veggies, these thalipeeths make for a complete meal. Serve with some yoghurt, and green chutney (recipe here), or til chutney (recipe here) or even this garlicky coconut chutney (recipe here).

2. Gujarati Osaman and Chhuti Dal


You can find the recipe here.


Osaman-Chhutti Dal- Bhaath Recipe
A one-bowl complete meal with rice. 15 minutes for the pressure cooker to cook the rice and dal and 10 minutes to flavour the osaman. Chop up some vegetables for a salad when the osaman is cooking and you have a complete meal that is flavourful, light and filling.

3. Fettucine in Pesto Sauce

You can find the recipe here.
Fettucine in Pesto Sauce Recipe



Italian is always a great option for summer. Light meals that cook quickly and are so flavourful without much ado. This recipe takes about 30 minutes end to end. Add in this light tomato and mozzarrella salad (recipe here) and you have a quick and complete meal.

4. Chicken Burger

You can find the recipe here.


Chicken Burger Recipe


A soft bun slathered with a mustard-mayo spread with a juicy chicken patty and crunchy lettuce. This amazingly quick-cooing burger is a delight for both children and adults.This burger only takes 10-15 minutes on the gas and the rest of the time, you can have the fan on as you assemble it! Add some more nutrients with this spiced lettuce, cherry tomato and olive salad (recipe here).


5.  Prawns in Thai Red Curry

You can find the recipe here.

Prawns in Thai Red Curry Recipe

Quick-cooking and tasty, prawns are another one of my summer favourite. This elegant and delicate curry of prawns is deceptive because it is absolutely simple and quick to cook. Grind the curry paste in 5 minutes and cook the prawns in another 10. Pair it with steamed rice and you have a winner. Try it and you'll love it!

6. Falafel Rolls

You can find the recipe here.

Falafel Rolls Recipe

Rolls are a great summer cooking option because once you cook the main filling, you can always assemble them out of the hot kitchen. Make them with rotis, add some vegetables for the crunch and some healthy sauces and you have one whole meal wrapped up!


7. Spicy Thai Rice Noodle Salad Recipe

You can find the recipe here.

Spicy Thai Rice Noodle Salad Recipe
If you like light meals like I do for summers, then this is a perfect dish for you. A delicious balance of spicy, salty, sweet, pungent and sour, this salad makes for a complete meal. I like pairing it with some soothing jasmine green tea. You can pair it with some lemon iced tea too (recipe here).