of massages and iced coffee

Sometimes a Sunday can start out bright and promising and then go horribly horribly wrong in the middle and then end on a magnificently wonderful high.
One of those days in which Karmathe eternal b**** – lies to you, teaches you a lesson and then decides compensate you for all your troubles.

It started with a craving for pie which, as you must know, is difficult and sacrilegious to ignore. And my mind wasn’t hovering around just any ordinary pie. I wanted a cheek-puckering lemon tart and for additional gratification a chocolate shortcrust. I deliberately won’t go into the details because promising a tart like that and then refusing to share the recipe is gastronomically painful. I wouldn’t do that to you, dear readers.

*Also, the photograph above is not really the Sunday I wanted you to see. It’s of the last time a little setting sunlight came in through my apartment window…and that was last summer.

All I would say is that the tart wasn’t worth it. The lime curd was disappointingly too sweet – usually that’s a good thing where I’m concerned, but not when it comes to lime tarts. And the pastry was disastrous. It was laid on uncharacteristically thick. It dried out within five minutes of spending time in the oven when I tried to blind bake it. And then it turned soggy as I filled it with curd and tried to bake it into settling. I then went a step further to spoil the damn thing – by adding cracked black pepper on top. Which, to be honest, would have tasted great if the curd hadn’t curdled.

There’s a lesson to be learnt here. More precisely, there’s a lesson that I learnt here. Don’t try baking with dry skin and a broken back. Two things I’ve been ignoring for the last couple of months.

Let me elaborate.

Unlike the versatile skin conditions of most Indians anywhere in the world, my skin has only one job to do. Be dry. Stretchy, pull-y, parched as ash, floor-of-the-Gobi-dessert type dry. As you can imagine, my mother wisely instilled in me the importance of moisturizer in my life from a very young age. And now a little less than half my monthly salary during the winter months go into buying the best skin rehydrating products there are.  As a result I adopt a heart-breaking yearly routine – eating frugally during winter. I may not sit here with a full stomach after a great meal, but I will have the most gorgeous skin you’ve ever seen.

And then comes my broken back – a by-product of my choice of profession. Hours spent bending over drafting boards and building models. Nights spent crammed onto a University-Issue single bed with four other girls trying to catch a few winks before a presentation. And now, days spent either sitting in front of a computer or traipsing around a construction site. Gives new meaning to the mostly American phrase “can’t catch a break”.

At times like these one needs closure from all this pie-baking-back-breaking-skin-scratching nonsense and take my word for it, a traditional Swedish massage does the trick.
One of my colleagues, a German girl with a crown of curly blonde hair and the gift of making mind-blowing Simnel cakes once gabbed about SPA London. And while she was all about their facial treatments, I decided on the massage and promptly made arrangements for Aru, Polia and myself. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. After walking into a serene waiting lobby we were each assigned a therapist and then whisked off to a shared parlor. A mere hour later we walked out of the spa shiny-skinned and overcome with bliss, fully functional backs and with considerably lighter wallets.

The day ended early in the evening with pizza and iced-coffee. I went to sleep with that coffee on my mind. And we all know how I feel about coffee.

Iced coffee is a fairly simple concept. Its deeply brewed coffee with sweetened milk over ice cubes. But this fairly simple concept isn’t always the success it promises to be. More often than not I’ve ended up with watery coffee with a few floating ice cubes. There are times when the milk is just too sweet or the coffee’s not strong enough. And the worst of them all comes in two vivid layers of milky coffee and icy water.

I knew that Ree Drummond has a recipe for iced coffee on her blog The Pioneer Woman. I’m sure you already know this but I have to say it – that woman has her game down pat. She talks of watery iced coffee and goes on to adopt a method covered by Imbibe magazine. The recipe uses ground coffee, steeped in room-temp water and strained over cheesecloth. The result can be dispensed as required, and in any amount required, over a glass stuffed with ice cubes. To be taken with sugar and milk or condensed milk ala Vietnamese ca phe sua da.

I knew I had a Vietnamese coffee filter somewhere in my utensils cupboard, a farewell gift from Hana, my ex-housemate, when I was leaving Nottingham for the last time. But the bag of ground coffee that had accompanied it had been dumped long ago past its expiration date. Given that I had just come back from a sleep-inducing experience like a Swedish massage I was going to need a lot of convincing to hunt for a coffee filter hidden behind years of accumulated kitchen junk. So instead, I settled for the stir-plain-instant-coffee-in-mug version. Its a hybrid really. The recipe uses room-temp water, a scant quantity compared to the amount of instant coffee granules, condensed milk or sugar and ice. Then, if you prefer, you may spoon some milk over the ice cubes.

I have a piece of advice for you readers: the next time you slip and trip on the kitchen front, just make iced coffee. Also get a Swedish massage, but that is optional really.

Pamper-Yourself Iced Coffee

The amounts of ingredients used in this recipe depends completely on your taste and preferences. Even though I have included measurements, you’d be better off using this as a guide rather than following it word to word. Condensed milk can easily be replaced by sugar. In which case, add about 2 tbsp of sugar and increase the amount of whole-milk to 5 tbsp. This recipe makes one small tumbler – single serving – and can easily be multiplied as much as you want.

1/4 cup of water, at room temperature
2 1/2 tbsp instant coffee , because I like it strong
2 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk
3 tbsp of whole milk
Ice cubes

In the serving glass, stir water and coffee together till the mixture is smooth. Fill the glass to the brim with ice cubes. Spoon condensed milk and whole milk from the top. Give everything a stir with a straw or the back-end of a spoon and you’re done. The photograph above shows my undisturbed and unstirred pot of iced-coffee, so don’t panic – it won’t layer like that when you’ve stirred it.