Sundaying

Well hellooo Sunday!

It’s too hot to go outside and a perfect day to eat an insane amount of chocolate (which, make no mistake, I am going to do), I am also going to take exactly fifteen minutes to marinate some chicken for Chicken Masala. Fifteen minutes and that’s it.

I really wanted to give you a recipe today, believe me. But I feel a nap coming on already, so I’ll leave you with this photograph instead along with a list of stuff that I’ve been drooling at lately. I hope you find orchids pretty.

orchids

This article on writing exercises that help when you’re stuck in a rut with the words. The second and the fourth ones are particularly effective. I have written many a post on this blog, starting with a comment I made on someone else’s.

Just bought this. One more bright spot in my cloudy cloudy days. Apparently I’m trying to attract bees to make it seem like Spring again.

The last time I made panna cotta was during a breezy 2009 summer in Mumbai. It had vanilla and mint in it and it turned out in two very distinct layers, sweet, grainy and inedible. It probably wouldn’t have gone this wrong if this was around. Or this. Don’t go around making panna cottas without reading those.

Kate Christensen and the latest from her. I want briny oysters in mignonette and cocktail sauce now. Like right now. And I want a ‘Boat Day’ too.

Elissa Altman talks of toast and gluten-free biscuits. She makes me want to talk about toast all day. Her writing is stuff I like to spend Sunday afternoons with. Or any afternoon.

Happy Sundaying y’all.

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lately

I like lists. They make me feel like I’m all grown-up. Even when I never seem to able to follow them to a tee or most of my wishes just stay wishes. Here’s what I’ve been loving lately.

– Breakfasting with my brother. Try the eggplant and tomato hash or the tuna and potato salad.

– Homemade ginger wine for sweltering summer days. For those who are equipped.

– Someday I want to own a community kitchen and host community dinners. Someday. So far I have this for inspiration.

– Bengalis have a particular soft corner for bone marrows. On my to-try list.

– Milk bottle measuring cups from Anthropologie. How cute are they?!

– This bag from Saskia Diez. Repeat after me. Synthetic.Paper.Bag.

– My current crush – Lillie from Butter Me Up Brooklyn.

Have a happy day people!

blue hair, black lipstick, crab crostini and lots of dancing

This is not exactly appropriate behaviour expected from 27-year olds, especially those who’ve relatively been scarce in the nightclub circuit so far. Although I’ve had my share (fair or not) of hip-swinging action at loud, obviously dimly lit, smoky discotheques, I’ve never actually warmed to the idea. If I decide to dance, I will need room, I’m allergic to most kinds of smoke, and, music does not have to be all that loud. Hence, I try and restrict nightclubbing for special occasions, for e.g., milestone birthdays, dancing away heartbreaks and New Year celebrations, of course.

So this year, instead of battling the crowds tonight, we decided to get it over with yesterday. And untrue to my real colours, on a whimsy, I inadvertently agreed to sitting under the hairdresser’s mercy as he stuck blue extensions to my curls and stretched them straight. And then I slathered my lips with black lipstick. I didn’t think I had it in me.

The night was a blur. Pretty much a regular routine with a few tequila shots more than I’d like to admit to. The only exception was a good-looking man, probably in his mid-thirties, with visibly thinning hair who raised his glass at me from a nearby couch. In return, I gifted him with a tight-lipped smile which might or might not have made me look slightly constipated.

Its a little after noon right now, and I’m sitting munching on crostinis with my hair slathered in coconut oil and wrapped up in a hot towel, trying to get rid of residual glue. Hopefully everything will return to normal before the dinner party tonight. Yes I enjoyed blue hair, marginally less than the time when my head faintly resembled the inside of a purple potato. But, I honestly don’t think that the black lipstick is going to come out of my beaded purse anytime soon.  Nightclubbing, however, is definitely not off the list. Come next year, the next calorie-loaded birthday or the next man with heartache on his wake, I’ll be ready to shimmy again. Meanwhile, let’s just eat already.

Have a happy new year folks!

Crab and Tomato Crostini

Generally sandwiches for breakfast are preferred over crostinis where I’m from. But this one plays off of what we had for our Christmas dinner. I had frozen fish-sticks in my freezer which I’ve used here, but feel free to use fresh or tinned crab meat, which, would probably taste better. Also if you’re using tinned crab, drain off the liquid before cooking.

Slices of French or Italian baguette
1 tbsp unsalted butter + enough to butter both sides of each baguette slice
1 tbsp olive oil + enough to drizzle some extra on the finished crostini
250gm of fresh or tinned crab meat
2 tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp of dried thyme
Salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
Tabasco sauce, if you like it hot
Freshly chopped coriander leaves, to garnish

Heat the butter and oil in a non-stick skillet. Add the garlic when the butter melts. Stir till it starts turning colour. Add the tomatoes, crab meat, Worcestershire sauce and thyme. Stir well and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Keep aside to cool.

Heat a griddle pan. Butter both sides of each baguette slice. When the griddle pan is hot enough, plop the pieces on the pan. Each side would need about a minute or minute and half to brown up at the edges. There is no need to continuously flip the slices. Flipping them once is enough. Transfer on to a plate.

Top the slices with the crab mixture. Sprinkle cracked black pepper on top. Drizzle with a few drops of Tabasco sauce and a generous doze of olive oil. Serve with a garnish of chopped coriander leaves.

29th december, 2011

When you’ve been surviving on Christmas leftovers for the last three days, you need a break from eating. Not that this break’s going to be a long one or an easy one, because honestly, I’m not very good at staying away from food. It is difficult concentrating on daily chores when all you can think of is what to stuff yourself with on New Year’s Eve.

And to top that, this is the time of year when whoever comes to visit, comes bearing boxes of fruit cake. We’ve had two big ones so far and four small ones, the size of mini-loaves. Although, none of them are particularly homemade, each look tempting with their fruit-doted, nut-stuffed disposition. I have to keep telling myself how badly I want to fit into my skinny jeans on New Year’s Day, so I can stay away from polishing off one of those mini-loaves. Life is hard.

Sitting in my new flats, with gold-painted nails, watching Chocolat, eating chou-fleur rôti and wondering if I should begin the new year on a diet.

on growing up at 27

I’m trying to get away from turning 27.

Yes, it was my birthday on the 6th, Tuesday. And like last year, it was a quiet one.

Now, in my circle, birthdays usually come with a butter-loaded cake, waves of tequila and lots of arse-to-arse dancing. But after my quarter-life crisis drama a couple of years back, I’ve tuned it down, choosing to hang out with my family for the whole day (much preferable, I might add). The craziness is reserved for the next day, when my friends take me out.

Note: the quarter-life crisis drama included freaking out on meeting this 22-yr old co-ed dating a 29-yr old doctor for whom I had the proverbial “hots”.

Yesterday started off with a breakfast-almost-brunch with family and family friends, at Flury’s — an eternal favourite and a classic symbol for Calcutta. A must-visit for anybody who steps foot in the city.

That led to a shopping spree with my folks. Now has always the perfect time to glam up for Christmas.

And against my better judgement, I went for flat shoes. Flat, sequined, ankle tie-backs from Metro. And that was a shocker for my mother, considering the fact that she has never seen me without high heeled shoes in the last 4-5 years. I may not wear the shortest skirts, my face may not be made up 24/7, I may not have the shoulders to carry off a sleek halter-neck, but I would literally sleep & run for errands, in my heels. And I have.

But, I saw these flats on the window and fell in love…more so with the half-suede half-satin ribbon ties than the sequined panels. I guess, I’m going to consider this as my ‘something different’ for this year. The other ‘something different’ would be my departure from red and wine coloured nail varnishes, that I have been faithful to all these years. I got myself some gold luxe.

This is suddenly starting to seem like the more older I grow, the more bling-iness I crave. Yeow.

Anyways, I think I can work these two as my Christmas pieces. For now, just have some sinfully dark brownies I made to start the day.

Under normal circumstances I would go for a rich Fondant Au Chocolat…but these brownies have been a keeper ever since the first gorgeous batch I made during a Slovenia vs England FIFA match last year. Their dense, overpowered with cocoa, with a shot of coffee, addictive and almost a comfort to an ageing 27-yr old.

Sinful Chocolate Brownies

160gm 70% cocoa powder
120gm all-purpose flour
240gm caster sugar
120gm unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tsp instant coffee powder
A big fat pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C. Prepare a 9″ x 9″ tin by greasing the bottom and sides with some butter. Sift the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat in the butter and eggs, till the lumps disappear and the mixture is thick and spreadable. Pour batter in the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 18-20 minutes or till the center is slightly greasy. Cool and cut into pieces.

a hair story

“These are you natural curls?”

“Yes!” I replied, while a total stranger, an Indian girl of about 20-21 years, poked at one of my curls with a finger. Her friend kept staring at my hair with wide eyes.

This is not the first time people have felt the need to tug or fluff my curls for no apparent reason. But this was the first time a stranger had done it. My mother & I were window-shopping in Westfield when I noticed them staring at me from a distance whispering urgently at each other, before they cautiously stepped in front of me and offered nervous smiles. And after paying a complement they somehow felt that it was perfectly appropriate to poke through my hair. It wasn’t that surprising considering how most of my friends had gotten their hair straightened right out of college, and had wasted no time in telling me how it was the best thing they had ever done to their hair.

“What do you use? Any special shampoo or…?”

“Oh no…just stuff from L’Oreal,” I replied. They looked at me with complete disbelief — obviously not believing a word and were pretty sure I was hiding my top-secret hair-care regime.

At their reaction, my mother smirked in amusement. And I knew why.

One constant source of despair during my otherwise highly content childhood, was my hair. I wasn’t allowed to keep long hair, since it required maintenance and serious looking-after. And my mother was absolutely sure I would not be able to commit, in spite of all my promises that I would do everything necessary to keep my hair looking beautiful.

“When you’re in college you can do whatever you want with your hair…colour it blue if you like, I don’t care…but as long as you’re in my house, you’ll keep it the way I want.” And that was her standard line for everything I objected to.

Every couple of months or so, she would literally drag me to the salon and hover over the hairdresser as she/he lopped off whatever little hair that had grown beyond the approved length. All I did, was sit and cry my eyes out. And this continued till I was 17.

When I was leaving for college, her ‘standard line’ seemed like the sweetest advice she’d ever given me. And I took it to heart. Five months into architecture school, I came home for autumn break, fitted with a pair of oversized jodhpuri pants, a T-shirt cut into half horizontally, eyes pasted over with dark make-up and a purple crop of overgrown hair.

It took my mom a whole day to get over everything, especially the fact that her well-dressed little girl had gone all sorts of crazy. It took her even more time to digest how I had cut all my silk shirts (that she had picked out for me lovingly) in half as well.

At the time, going through vodka, college seniors, drawings, building models and fried chicken seemed like the most important things in the world. And maintaining coloured hair seemed like a stupid thing to do. And anyway, I had absolutely no idea how to take care of long hair. For years all I had done was slap on coconut oil, wash it off with shampoo and run a comb through my boy-crop. And suddenly I had long locks which required my attention for more than two minutes. Who had that kind of time?

30 days of vacation, endless lectures from Mom, a high-protein diet, bottles after bottles of mayonnaise and ice-sold water worked their miracles. And I’ve stuck with all that since. Which is probably what I should have told them.

to watch!

No no no. I haven’t abandoned you. I’m just too lazy to get off my arse and log on to my computer.

I have been trapped in a mayhem of movie reruns, Chinese food and girl-time, and haven’t had time or inspiration to actually write anything.

In all honesty, I did try writing about Cosmopolitan India’s October 2011 cover featuring actor Kareena Kapoor. It landed on my lap as I watching an episode of Modern Family. I did log on to WordPress and click on ‘New Post’. But the next five minutes were spent with my fingers resting on the keyboard as I realized that I just couldn’t come up with anything.

Two days later, out of sheer rebellion against my everyday salmon and spinach lunch, I cooked up a pot of impromptu chicken biryani and even before I could dig into a plateful of it, I took photographs, religiously…even as drool stated to trickle down my chin. And yet I just didn’t feel like writing it up. I call this laziness, like I mentioned before….but let’s go with ‘writers’ block’ (it just sounds fancy).

Anyway. Let’s move on to the movies I’ve been feasting my eyes on. And since I’m good with lists, here goes:

5 Movies You Should Try Watching This Coming Weekend  (if you haven’t already):

1) The September Issue, 2009

Yes yes, some you you fashioncrazydoos have already seen it. But see it again. Watch how Anna Wintour’s chilly yet somehow enthusiastic feedback on styled spreads make her seem intimidating. The keyword here is “seem”, because if you’re from the world of architecture, you’ll agree that she is anything but intimidating….she’s a darling compared to the Professors, supervisors and bosses we’ve had over the years. At least she doesn’t tear the spreads into pieces with her nails.

Also watch it for how two totally different people work together for more than two decades with nothing but mutual respect for each other’s talent.The movie is always a good watch, especially if you’re looking for inspiration.

2) Luck by Chance, 2009

Yes OK, it’s a product of Bollywood.  And you would actually need to look a little harder to find a copy with English sub-titles. However, the movie is definitely worth a watch. It follows an ordinary Mumbai-based boy from a middle-class family trying his luck at the doorstep of the multi-crore Hindi cinema industry. He is just one tiny entity out of the thousands of youngsters that travel to Mumbai every day in hopes of making it in Bollywood. The direction is critically acclaimed, the acting is lack-lustre throughout the movie which is honestly, quite a let down. But the storyline and cinematography does make up for it.

More than anything, watch the movie for its one song Baawre Baawre. The song pictography and choreography make it a visual delight. It takes Indian folk and carnival performers, what they look like, what they wear, what they carry and takes it to a pronounced avant-garde. Right from a very Willy Wonka-ish Hrithik Roshan who is sharply dressed as a ringmaster in a suit more suited for Dr. Facilier to a very awkwardly pretty Isha Sharvani in a skin-tight sequined bodysuit.

3) The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn, 2011

Right. Before you smirk or guffaw at that, just stop. I know how most of you remember poring over Remi’s masterpiece as kids, and to be honest, the movie did keep me entertained through all the 109 minutes of it. Try watching the chase sequence through Bagghar without a grin on your face. I sat in the theatre and pointed out every similarity between the comic book and the scenes, much to the irritation of my fellow movie-goers. And that continued till the time the man sitting right in front of me turned around and said, “We know!” in the most exasperated way.

4) Rockstar, 2011

Another one fresh off Bollywood’s press. Director Imtiaz Ali has worked harder than ever over this one and you can tell from the way he tries to handle the film, but the story is mediocre at its best, and the acting is sadly, lack-lustre. But watch it for A. R. Rehman’s infallible compositions, inspiring and soulful. And the best reason would be to watch it for how designer Aki Narula dressed Ranbir Kapoor in an array of military-inspired jackets and harems bordering on patialas.

5) Tower Heist, 2011

I haven’t seen it yet. And Eddie Murphy’s back. Hence: its on my list for the weekend.

Enjoy, you folks!