Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Love Affair and Vermicelli

I was happily married to Maggi....till vegetable vermicelli lured me into an extramarital affair!

No matter how much the advertising gurus fool us, each time I eat a bowl of ready to eat noodles, my health conscious heart says, "Get a life dude!"x

The love affair began soon after my son was born, and the bond has gone deeper and deeper ever since!

The advantages are many - easy way to include vegetables, the goodness of durum wheat vermicelli, no preservatives and most importantly, the ease of preparation. In fact, a night before I delivered my daughter, I wanted to eat something spicy but was feeling too lazy to cook, so it took me 10 minutes to prepare this vegetable vermicelli. Its the best alternative to preservative laden ready to cook stuff, and can make up for a quick, healthy breakfast, snack or solution to a midnight hunger pang!

Ingredients
For preparing 2 plates of vegetable vermicelli, you need
Roasted vermicelli - 2 small katori/1 cup
Onion - 1 medium, sliced
Tomatoes - 2 medium, finely chopped
Capsicum - 1 medium, coarsely chopped
Potato - 1 small, cut into small thin pieces
Carrot - 1 chopped
Peas - 1 fistful
Green chillies - 2 
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry Leaves - 3-4
Red chilli powder - 1tsp
Salt - to taste
Vegetable/Oilve oil - 1tbsp

Lets get started!

Method 

Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Enjoy the spluttering for a minute
Add sliced onion and saute till golden brown
Add the potatoes, peas and capsicum
Add the chopped carrots and tomatoes
Add salt and red chilli powder. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes or till the vegetables are tender
Add water just to cover the vegetables and increase the flame to high. Adjust seasoning
Add the roasted vermicelli and mix well. Cover and cook on low flame for 3-4 minutes
Veggie vermicelli is ready!!!








Thursday, 7 September 2017

Vijeta (1982)

Genre - Drama
Director – Govind Nihlani
Duration – 151 minutes
Cast – Shashi Kapoor, Rekha, Amrish Puri, Om Puri, Kunal Kapoor, Supriya Pathak, K.K. Raina, Raja Bundela, Shafi Inamdar 
Music –Ajit Vaman (Songs), Surinder Sodhi (Background Score)

My View 
Long time ago, before the confused Hrithik Roshan of the movie Lakshya found his true calling in the Army, there lived a boy named Angad who was dealing with the same confusion. 

Vijeta was one of the movies that I saw on Doordarshan as a child however, never understood, perhaps because back then the depth in the dialogues would have flown several feet high above the mind of a 6 year old. However, all I remembered is liking this particular song, since I was in awe of Rekha singing in a white and red saree with a tanpura for company. 


A few days ago, I was looking for interesting movies from the 80s and I suddenly remembered this movie which had been much appreciated by my sister.

Vijeta is the story of Angad (Kunal Kapoor) from a boy to a man. The only child of a Punjabi father Nihal (Shashi Kapoor) and Maharashtrian mother, Nilima (Rekha), Angad was raised as a Sikh by his family. Nihal, a cut Surd had faced the brutality of partition in which he escaped to India with his Beeji (Dina Pathak) and had built up his life again from the scratch. The struggle had while given him a comfortable life, it also made him a very crude and bitter person, which reflected in his day to day communication with his family. This bitterness nurtured antipathy in Angad's heart towards his father. So, Angad ensured he went East if Nihal desired west. Nilima was their only bridge.

The constant tension between his parents coupled with Nihal's frequent sarcasm fills sense of insecurity, fear and confusion in Angad's mind. In an age where boys of his age make plans of a bright future, Angad was harbouring suicidal feelings in his heart. A meeting with his maternal uncle Arvind (Om Puri) comes across as a defining moment in Angad's life, as he feels motivated to join the defence services. Nihal's overprotective reaction and discouragement only strengthens Angad's determination, as he is automatically drawn to pursue something against his father's wishes. There was also a burning desire in Angad's heart to prove himself as worthwhile to his father.

The next few years not only transform Angad into a bright Air Force pilot, but also magically mend the father son relationship. The scene where Angad writes his maiden letter to his father describing his maiden solo flight would make any father emotional. Air force also gives Angad many good friends and the love of his life, Ana. Back home, as Angad's life is finally running on track, the relationship between his parents is also improving. 

The movie is about the many battles in one's life and how with determination one can emerge a winner. Each character is seen fighting his own battles. Nihal, with his cracking relations with his wife and son, Angad with his fears and Nilima with the father son differences. 

After struggling with his inner demons, Angad is seen emerging victorious over his fears. The movie gives a very strong message that no matter how tough the enemy, true winner is the one who gets up and gets going despite each fall and who never gives up come what may. 

Watch this movie for

  • Such a realistic portrayal of the Air Force. There are only two movies who by far get full marks for portraying the defence life the way it is - Prahar and Vijeta. The scenes shot in the Air Force Academy and the base are a viewer's delight

  • The actors have played their roles with such sincerity that an Amrish Puri seems like a seasoned Air Force instructor. Even Angad's buddies in the Air Force don't look like they are actors. 

  • The movie doesn't hurry up to draw the curtains nor drags the story. The pace is just right to relish the story.
  • Though the story is spaced around the Indo-Pak war, it doesn't sound outdated even 37 years later.

Oops
Ironically, the character that disappoints the most in the movie is Angad himself. While the continuous lost expression on his face looks in sync with the first half of the story, when the same persist despite the character's transformation from a boy to man, one feels like telling the director "Yaar, I could have done better acting than this." It is so sad to see him placed with veterans like Rekha, Shashi Kapoor, Amrish Puri and Om Puri. Even the supporting cast have given better performances. Oh, did I forget to tell you that the movie was produced by his father?

My Rating 
2.5/5 (Kunal Kapoor's disappointing effortless performance took away the stars from an otherwise great movie)

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The lazy chef's quick Misal Pao

After my first encounter with Misal Pao, I was sure I would never ever eat it, leave apart preparing it someday and blogging about it!

A day after we landed up in Mumbai, I ate Misal Pao in the breakfast buffet of the hotel we were staying at. My first impression was - something watery with just few lentils for the sake of formality and lot of namkeen and onions compensating for the lack of lentils. The next time I tried my luck was  during snacks time at the office cafeteria and needless to say, I was equally disappointed. "This dish is not meant for the Dilliwalla" I concluded and wrote it off. 

However, I often wondered what is so good about Misal Pao that my Mumbaikar friends can't stop going gaga over it. So much that a friend of mine has named her blog after the dish!

Anyway, the ice breaking happened few days ago, when Mr. Hubby declared that he had developed the taste for the dish. Now let me tell you, he is thousand times more finicky about food than me. So, when he appreciates a dish, I do pause and take notice. "It's about the preparation. If it is prepared well, it tastes awesome!" Apparently one of his friend's wife is a pro at the dish. 

Few days back, I was at a restaurant near my office for a quick bite and as I was glancing through the options that they could serve me within the next 5 minutes, my eyes fell on Misal Pao. My scepticism was obvious, considering my earlier experiences. But, being the typical Indian wife, how could I not decode the mystery of Misal Pao! So I ordered one plate and to my utter surprise, it tasted so good! The humble sprouts added to the body while the crispy farsan and the chopped onions played sporty. The right dash of lemon juice added well to the romance! Perhaps it was indeed about the preparation style!

Now the only milestone left was to prepare it better than his friend's wife, and going by his reaction to my maiden attempt, I am sure it was a job well done! 

Since I am a lazy cook, here's a simpler version of the recipe that I managed in 15-20 minutes while the toddler was enjoying his afternoon siesta!

Ingredients (Serve 4)

Mixed Sprouts - 250g (The main advantage of this dish is that it makes it easy to feed protein rich sprouts to otherwise fussy eaters!)

Onion (chopped) - 2 medium,

Green chillies (chopped)- 4
Tomatoes (chopped) - 3 large

Dried Coconut, grated - 1/2

Oil - 1 tbsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Whole cumin seeds - 2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Turmeric powder - 1tsp
Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1tsp
Misal Pao masala - 2-3tsp (The most important ingredient!)
Water - 2-3 cups
Namkeen
Lemon juice
Pao

Method
While most recipes I saw on Youtube involved preparing the sprouts and gravy separately, I have decided to play quick and easy by cooking everything together in my pressure Handi. However, to each his own!

1. Heat oil in a pressure handi. Add asafoetida, cumin seeds. 

2. When the seeds splutter, add chopped onions and green chillies. 

3. When the onions turn pink, add the grated coconut and cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, salt and Misal Pao masala. Cook on low flame for 1-2 minutes till the spices are cooked.



5. Add the chopped tomatoes and mix well. If the masala sticks to the surface, you can add a bit water at this stage. Cook the masala till it leaves oil on sides.



6. Add the sprouts and mix well.

7. Add water generously. Mix well and adjust seasoning.

8. Cover the lid and cook it till 1 whistle. Allow the steam to escape and open the lid.

Serving
Add some lemon juice to a bowl of the Misal and garnish with namkeen and chopped onions. Your Misal is ready to romance the Pao!





Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Love Beyond Litti

I had never heard of Litti before marriage. Usually, after the wedding, once the guests are gone, it is time to catch up on sleep and give in to the laziness. But the word lazy and my mom in law are poles apart!

As if waiting for the guests to go, she immediately got in her Master chef avatar and whipped up Rajma Chawal that would give any five star hotel chef a run for his money!

Next came something I had never seen before! Litti! While Litti is traditionally enjoyed with Chokha, mummy serves it with her signature spicy Old dilli style alu tamatar is subzi. My first reaction was "Wow, u have prepared Kachoris!" to which, she smiled and introduced me to the amazing dish.

As I savored my Littis, mummy took me through snippets from her stint at Bihar, where my father in law was shortly posted and how she picked up the recipe from local ladies in the neighbourhood.

Being the loud mouth that I am, I told mummy how much I loved the Littis. However, I loved to have them like Kachoris (and I still prefer to eat them that ways, albeibeit with a generous dollop of desi ghee poured in the heart of the Litti). I requested her to save a few so that I could carry them as a quick snack for my Honeymoon.

Next morning, as we woke up early morning to catch our flight, mummy surprised me with a box of Laddoos and freshly made Littis! While I jumped with joy initially, the next moment the joy turned into guilt, as I realized she got up much before us, just to pamper her daughter in law to a box full of Littis.

As guilt took over, I asked her "I had asked u to save a few pieces for my holiday, why did u trouble yourself by waking up sooo early?" She replied, "I wanted to give you fresh Littis which would last 3-4 days." Her humble reply left me speechless and taught me a new meaning of motherhood!

Needless to say, the Littis gave me great company during early morning sight seeing sessions in the hills when no restaurant would be open for breakfast! Like a kid, I would call mummy everyday and tell her how much I was enjoying the Littis!

Sometimes, small gestures make a big difference. I fell in love with the hot Litis and my doting mom in law!

It was also a promo of my mom in law's amazing culinary skills. Having trained under her, I can now proudly boast of my culinary skills.

Sharing a pic of these amazing Littis mummy pampered me to on a lazy rainy afternoon.

And that's how, delicious hot meals often melt away the ice in relationships!



#mominlaw #love #food #foodie

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Of Sambhar and memories...

For us Delhiites, the very definition of South Indian food begins and ends with Sambhar. Be it Dosa, Idli, Vada or Utappam, we like to pamper ourselves with Sambhar. I remember during college days, me and my bestie Surbhi would often hang out at Madras Hotel in Connaught Place for some awesome Masala Dosa and Sambhar. The USP of the outlet was its "to die for" Sambhar. The servers or Anna as we called them would serve us generous helpings of Sambhar till our tummies would feel like gas balloons. I remember once we were so full (in the tummy, not in the heart) and sleepy after the meal that it was a tough walk from Madras Hotel to the bus stop from where we had to catch the bus to home (Delhi metro was non existent those days)!

My fondest memories of Sambhar are from my childhood, when my papa would prepare lip smacking sambhar with dosa. I still remember we had this special big tawa/griddle exclusively for preparing dosa. Even though kitchen was mom's baby, Sambhar Dosa was entirely papa's department. 

How Papa, an otherwise non cook material learnt to prepare the perfect Sambhar Dosa is also a very interesting story. Apparently, once during a long wait for bus at the bus stop, papa started chatting with a roadside Dosa stall owner. While the bus came way late, it gave papa enough time to learn the art of preparing the perfect Sambhar Dosa. So perfect is he with his dish that often his boss would drop by our place for savouring Dosa Sambhar. While mom would happily don the hat of an assistant that day, papa would be so full of zeal on being the head chef! Since we were a family of 6, the batter would be prepared in a large vessel in huge quantity. After the day long fermentation, it was time to savour the Dosa and Idli.  There was also a giant pressure cooker bought just to prepare enormous quantity of Sambhar.

Despite a Sambhar expert available at home, I never bothered to pick up the skill, being the lazy chef that I am! Even after marriage, Dosa Sambhar to me meant a visit to the popular Dosa joint in the WEA market in Karol Bagh and pampering myself to Dosa and unlimited Sambhar.

But, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention...

After we moved to Mumbai, the spicy North Indian style Sambhar became a luxury. I still remember the first time I had Sambhar in my office cafeteria. I walked up to the server and asked him if they put the sugar by mistake in Sambhar! Pat came his reply to my horror, "M'am that's how Sambhar is to be, how else?" Oh My God! For the Delhiite used to spicy Sambhar, this was nothing short of a cultural shock! Not willing to give up that easily, I tried my luck with few more joints so called "popular for their South Indian food" however, the ordeal repeated each time. 

At the cross roads, the foodie in me had just two options - either to forego the joy of relishing sambar or learn to prepare Sambhar as per our North Indian preference.

I decided to take things in my stride and became a pro at preparing Sambhar, thanks to my mom in law.

Sharing the simple and easy Sambhar that saves my day each time I have the craving to eat South Indian food.

Sambhar

Ingredients (for 4 portions)
  • Tuur/Arhar Dal - 150g (soaked for an hour) (I have learnt a simple measurement rule from my mom in law - a fistful dal per person)
  • Water
  • Vegetables (Bottle Guard, Pumpkin, Onions, Tomatoes, Potatos, carrot, french beans) - Diced in mouthful size pieces (Sambhar is the best way to use the leftover grocery in the fridge!)

  • Salt - to taste
  • Turmeric - 1tsp
  • Tamarind - to taste (deseeded and soaked in water for half and hour)
  • Sambhar Powder - 2-3tsp
  • Oil - 1tbsp
  • Onion - 2 chopped
  • Red Chilli Powder - 1tsp
  • Rai/Black mustard seeds - 1tsp
  • Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch (aids digestion)
  • Jeera/Cumin seeds - 1tsp
  • Curry leaves - few

Method -
Wash the soaked Arhar  Dal and drain out the water

In a pressure cooker, take all the diced vegetables, add the Arhar Dal and water. The water should be half index finger level above the vegetables.

Add turmeric powder and salt. Close the lid and pressure cook. 

After the first whistle, keep on low flame for 2-3 minutes and turn off the stove. Remove the lid and mash the vegetables a bit with the back of a round spoon (this will give a rich, thick Sambhar. You may skip the mashing if you like your Sambhar to be watery)

In a separate kadhai, heat oil. Add the asafoetida, rai, cumin seeds and curry leaves.

When the rai and cumin seeds begin to splutter, add the chopped onions and sauté.

When the onions turn golden brown, add the sambhar powder and sauté.

Next, add the red chilli powder and sauté till the mixture leaves oil on sides. 

Add the mashed vegetables and water and mix well. Finally, mash the soaked tamarind into a homogeneous paste (you may also choose to blend in a blender) and add to the Sambhar.

Give the mixture one nice boil. 

Tadaaa! Piping hot Sambhar is ready!

For the Onion Utappam
Ingredients
  • Dosa batter - I am a lazy cook and allow myself some shortcuts in the form of readymade Dosa batter from the South Indian store nearby!
  • Spring Onions - 2-3 chopped
  • Green chilies - 2-3 chopped
  • Salt - to taste
  • Asafoetida - a pinch
  • Oil - 1tbsp

Method 
Add a pinch salt and asafoetida to the readymade dosa batter for a good flavour and easy digestion.

Mix together the chopped spring onions and green chillies and keep aside.

In case the batter is too thick you may add a bit water to dilute else skip the step. The batter should be flowy for crisp Utappams.

Heat a tawa/griddle. Spread some oil.

Once the oil is smoky hot, with the help of a round spoon, spread some batter on the tawa. The technique is to pour a spoonful batter on the tawa and make circular motions with the round spoon, reading the batter from centre to edges.

Spread some onion chilli mixture evenly on the utappam. 

Smear oil and once the other side looks brown, change sides.

Once both sides are cooked, the Utappam is ready to be served with Sambhar.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Movie - A Dog's Purpose

Genre - Drama/Comedy
Duration - 1h 40min
Director - Lasse Hallström
Based On - A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
Cast - Josh Gad (narration), K.J. Apa, Dennis Quaid, Bryce Gheisar, Peggy Lipton, Juliet Rylance

My View
If you are a dog lover, keep a pack of tissues handy.

If you are not, don't bother watching for there is nothing the movie has to offer you.

A Dog's Purpose was not one of the most popular choices for cinema lovers when I came to know about it. Blame it on Bahubali2 that is ruling all the theatres. But since I am not a part of the Bahubali brigade, the movie seemed like a nice weekend watch. The first thing that prompted me to go for the movie was the innocent face of a golden retriever in the promos. Isn't he adorable?

Dogs and emotions have become by now the USP of director  Lasse Hallström. His last movie Hachi:A Dog's Tale remains one of my favourite movie, for it spoke so much about Dog-man relationship. I had therefore, high expectations from his latest offering.

A Dog's Purpose is very different from Hachi:A Dog's Tale, or Marley & Me. While the latter speak about the life of a dog and his relationship with his master, A Dog's Purpose revolves around all that goes in the mind of a dog during his various lives. 

The major part of the movie is about Bailey (Josh Gad), a golden retriever, or rather an intelligent golden retriever who always has questions in his mind about his existence. What, why, who, where....Bailey is an inquisitive dog and sometimes one wonders this is a dog thinking and feeling like humans! From the lap of his mother to dog catchers, Bailey is on the move till he gets rescued by Ethan and his mom Elizabeth. Despite resistance from Ethan's father, who clearly comes across as a non pet lover, Bailey finds his place in the home and heart of Ethan and his mom. The first half is a treat for dog lovers as Bailey is seen to have a great time with Ethan in the 60's. Like a true buddy, he follows Ethan everywhere. True to epitomising friendship, Bailey ensures to be a part of all the important moments in Ethan's life. He shares Ethan's joy when he enjoys a baseball match; his happiness and excitement when Ethan meets his girlfriend Hannah; his sorrow when the family goes through a split. Surprisingly, Bailey also plays the cupid in Ethan's life which was kinda cute to watch. Bailey also is a true loyal, for he risks his life to protect Ethan and his mom when their house burns down. 


Ethan's life however, changes after the fire incident. Bailey moves with Ethan to his grandparents' house in the countryside. Ethan goes through tough times when he loses his scholarship and breaks up with Hannah. Bailey tries a lot to cheer Ethan up however, all his efforts go in vain. With Ethan leaving for college, Bailey loses the focal point of his life and soon succumbs to old age and illness.

While one wonders the story is over, Bailey surprises us with another incarnation as a female German Shepherd Ellie since he remembers each detail of his previous birth. In his short but adventurous life as Ellie, the police dog in the 70's, he discovers that the purpose of his life is to protect mankind. 

In his next incarnation as a corgi named Toni in the 80's, he learns that the purpose of his life is to bring happiness and remove loneliness in the life of Maya and helps her find true love. 

His last life however, is the most eventful one. Born as a Saint Bernard in the 90's, he has a short stint with an abusive family indicating so much about people who bring dogs home without thinking whether they are prepared to raise one. After the family abandons him, he goes through major coincidence. While in every life, he missed the warmth of his relationship with Ethan, a chance meeting with an old Hannah brings back all the smells afresh in his memory. He soon sets out in search of Ethan and finds an old and lonely Ethan in the same house. With Ethan back in his life, Bailey aka Buddy's life finally comes a full circle and he does best to bring happiness back into Ethan's life.

Although Bailey feels that his purpose in life is to live in the moment and spread happiness, I felt it was more about Bailey's love for Ethan and his homecoming. 

I guess, A Dog's Perspective could have been a more appropriate title!

Hits
  • The cute and innocent faces of pups would make you go Awww.
  • One sure shot way directors know to make the viewers go numb is putting generous dose of playful doggie moments. If you ever had a dog you will remember him each time you watch Bailey playing with Ethan. 
  • The director successfully triggers your tear glands. A pack of tissues will be helpful for you will see a dog dying multiple times in the movie.
  • The actors are skilled in their craft to invoke the right emotions in our hearts.
  • The most interesting part of the movie is the constant narration in the voice of Bailey that gives a dog's perspective on all that he sees. 



Misses

  • Despite the director trying his bring in the whole concept of purpose in a dog's life, by retaining Bailey's memory and his love for Ethan, it appeared more like Bailey's story and his homecoming. 
  • A strong story is the base for a good movie. Somehow, I found the story to be weak. The director seemed confused between depicting a dog-master affectionate relationship and various experiences in a dog's life, or rather multiple births.
  • Dunno how true this is, but a clip by TBZ went viral on internet showing cruelty to the German Shepherd during the shoot. Though, American Humane Association later concluded that the video was tweaked to mislead people, yet the incident led to a lot of negative publicity for the movie.



My Rating
3/5