Friday, November 30, 2012

Life of P(a)i

Ever notice how it is the little things in life that give us the most pleasure? 

  • Snuggling up with a good book on a rainy afternoon.
  • Sniffing at the aroma of just baked bread, cakes and other goodies
  • Walking hand in hand in a leaf strewn park
  • Laaaazzzzing in bed on a Saturday morning
  • Sharing a glass of wine with someone you love
  • Inhaling the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee
  • Laughing your guts out at a silly joke
  • Enjoying a cool, refreshing nimbu paani under a sweltering sun
  • Listening to “Silent Night” at midnight on Christmas
  • Melting a pat of butter on a steaming paratha
  • Looking forward to a long planned holiday
  • Unwrapping a surprise gift
  • Losing yourself in the comfort of best friends.....

     Well, I could go on and on.  I certainly don't want to sound all preachy and talk about how we all let the rat-race consume us totally, and how we should not lose sight of what's important and all that jazz.  But what I'd like to share in this post is a glimpse of a life simply lived. 

   My parents have a little weekend home in a place called Khardi.  This is located off the Mumbai – Nasik route, just before Igatpuri.  A and I go there sometimes just to unwind and re-energize ourselves.  We often take different sets of friends to experience a bucolic weekend, and once a year we also get together there as a family especially when my sis, brother-in-law and niece come to Mumbai.  A had once written a piece about his favourite getaway... here's the link

A walk in the Khardi woods
      The picture that you see in the newspaper article is a rain-washed village road not too far from my parents' home, taken by A.  The best thing about Khardi is that there is nothing to do there but chill out.  Go for long walks.  Listen to birdsong.  And enjoy simple food.  Mr and Mrs Pai, a Mumbai couple set up home in Khardi over a decade ago.  They cater meals for lazy city dwellers like us, hiring local help when the demand gets heavy especially on long weekends.  Nothing fancy, mind you, just simple, rustic fare that satiates the appetite and warms the heart.  We both love Mrs. Pai's Kachryaas or Kaap, as some folk call them – potato and brinjal roundels, dusted with spices and flour and then shallow fried on an iron griddle.  A is also partial to her Tomato Saar.  It tastes quite like Rasam, but has coconut milk added to it. 

      Another endearing quality of the Pais is that they open their home to all the strays around.... dogs, cats, cows, calves, monkeys, goats, chickens, rabbits... you name it and they're around.  In fact, the local villagers always bring any injured animal to the Pais, knowing that the poor creature will get all the TLC it needs.

      In keeping with the theme of simple living, today's recipe features an everyday staple – good ol' daal.  Last night, I rustled up Lasooni Daal Paalak using leftover daal from the previous day.  I'm sending this post to Vardhini of Cook'sJoy, who is hosting the November edition of Dish It Out.  



Lasooni Daal Paalak


Leftover daal - 4 cups
Spinach – 1 bunch
Onions – 1 large, thinly sliced
Tomatoes – 1 large, finely chopped
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tbsps, heaped
Green chillies – 1, finely chopped
Turmeric, red chilli, coriander-cumin, sambhar powders – about a tsp each
Lemon juice – ½ a lemon
Salt – to taste
Coriander leaves – finely chopped for garnishing

For Tempering

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Garlic – 10 cloves, thinly sliced
Hing – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs, roughly torn


1.       Heat a spoon of oil and add onions, green chilli and ginger-garlic paste.
2.      Cook well till onions start browning.  Add salt to quicken the process.
3.      Next add all the dry masalas and mix well.
4.      Tip in the tomatoes and cook till well done.
5.      Add spinach and cook till wilted and done.
6.    Pour in the daal and simmer on low fire till it boils and all the flavours are well mixed.
7.      Squeeze in the lemon juice.
8.     Prepare the tempering in a separate vessel and pour it over the prepared daal.
9.      Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Birthday Memories

There's something about birthdays that evokes both fond memories and reality checks in equal measure.  Memories in the form of childhood days days brimming with fun, laughter, and playtime that seemed to last forever.  Birthday parties replete with friends, party games and a fancy cake.  I vividly remember the parties my parents hosted for both my sis and me when we were in school, right upto the time we made it to double digit years.  Honestly, those memories are so precious, like treasured jewels taken out once in a while to pleasure the mind & soul, before being tucked back into a warm corner of your heart even as you turn to face real life crashing into you like a ton of bricks.   Now I feel my birthday serves more as a reality check to remind me of the never-ending list of things on my bucket list (which I shall reserve for another post).

A few days ago, A's cousin celebrated her birthday, happily coinciding with a creative spell that I was experiencing.  Here’s what I came up with as a gift idea for her – Cashew Candy Jewels.

This recipe was adapted from a post on Indian Curries.  I did not use saffron or cardamom, as mentioned in the recipe, but replaced these with food grade colouring to achieve a jewelled look on the finished pieces.  The next time around, I shall also try and use different flavours as well.

The packaging was a recycled box, which I covered with gift wrapping paper to conceal the original design which had long since peeled off.  I placed the candies in multi-coloured paper cases and spruced up the box-lid with some brightly coloured ribbon.  
Cashew Candy Jewels
(makes about 60 pieces)


Cashew nuts (unsalted) - 1 cup
Milk powder - 1 cup
Icing sugar - 2 cups
Milk – a few spoons
Food colour – a few drops


  1. Grind the cashew nuts into a fine powder in the mixer.
  2. Empty into a large bowl and add the icing sugar and milk powder. 
  3. Mix well and knead into a firm dough using milk, as required.
  4. Divide the dough into as many portions as you have food colours.
  5. Add a few drops of colour to each portion and continue kneading till the colour spreads evenly throughout.
  6. Take small lumps of the coloured dough and mould them into desired shapes.
Happy Birthday, Neetu!

1.    While grinding the cashew nuts, be careful to run the blender only till such time that the cashews turn to a dry powder.  Any more whirring and the cashews will start releasing their oils and turn the powder into a paste.  While your final product will still taste great, your dough will be of a very sticky consistency making it difficult to shape and mould. 

2.   Don’t fret in case the colour is not spreading evenly while kneading the dough.  It does get a little difficult.  An uneven spread will simply result in a speckled look, which is just as pretty!

What is your favourite birthday memory?  Are you in the habit of making birthday resolutions?  Are you able to achieve them?  What about your personal bucket list?  I'd love to hear about all these, if you feel like sharing them in the comments section.