Madness

It feels like I’m about start leaking marbles from my ears. Can you see it? Can you see the veins against my temples starting to split at their seams? In a moment, I’ll leak and be declared insane.

You, darling reader, would be happy to know, that I have survived a meltdown. Of elephantine proportions. There is a chance I’m exaggerating, but allow me this. Saying that I have “been busy” would be an understatement. You already know that I have been in this state of busyness, for a while. But last week was it for me.

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Seriously…

It started two months ago with a small idea of reviving the “book”. Which in hindsight has proven to be a bigger task that I have ever come across, but we all know that I’m prone to biting off more than I can chew. The “book” has been on and off for the last ten years. Even before I graduated from college. Back then, it was mostly about friends and the comic heights of being a student of architecture. It then moved on to life inn Mumbai, graduate studies in Nottingham and then finally London.

I’d write pieces. Stow some away. Some I would use and put them in the blog here, mostly the ones related to food. The others would just sit quietly in the vastness of Google Drive. Right after we traveled back from our SE Asian holiday, an ad-man friend, Richard — who comes as a complete set with the sculpted beard and curled up mustache — asked me to review a short story he had written and was thinking about submitting it to a literary magazine (!!!!). As expected, the piece was brilliant. But more inspiring than anything.

“Do you think you can take it on?” I found Priya asking me, a week later. We were discussing Richard’s piece over Skype, and how I felt hungry and tempted to fire up that old Google Drive account and retrieve all my forgotten stories.

“You know where we are with the company,” she continued. I did know. I do know.

We have a Bali retreat coming up (in a week’s time!) and in my anxiety I have chewed off all my finger nails. Priya’s daily routine now includes rocking back and forth on her office chair, every morning, for two hours, imagining all organisational disasters that could possibly happen during the retreat. There’s an Egypt trip coming up in December, which adds to the frenzy. We’re about to announce our 2018 dates. The website is being pricked and prodded and torn apart by an SEO expert. The Indian banking system is a nightmare to navigate. We’re rapidly running out of money we had set aside for marketing. The affiliates’ program is about to be launched. Bloggers and influencers rule the world. Our tech guys are more scholars than executors.

Continue reading Madness

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A chicken masala you need in your life.

with old recipe journals.

You guys deserve much better than what I give you here.

I’m almost always smothering you with chocolate. Cake. Pie. Maybe some bread. I hardly give you any veg. And even less fruit. I can literally see my future. I’m obviously going to turn out to be one of those mothers who pack potato crisps and sugary drinks for their kid’s lunch, instead of something healthy and supremely boring like boiled carrot sticks. I break out into cold sweats at night, just thinking of what to feed you or how not to fail at taking care of my imaginary children. I open the door to my freezer and peer in at cling-film wrapped pieces of chocolate cake, realizing that I don’t really have anything to whip up lunch with. I’m not saying that you can’t have chocolate cake for lunch. Gasp! Who said that?! But if I’m ever going to grow up into an adult and learn to nourish children or learn to pack a suitcase decently, then I’ll have to do more than just frozen cake.

Enter Arpi.

Continue reading A chicken masala you need in your life.

OK, so…

…we’re well into the new year. 3 and a half months to be precise.

And here I am, yet again, standing shame-faced in front of you, fiddling with an egg beater and shuffling my feet.

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I know what you’re expecting.

You’re expecting great news. You’re expecting life-changing acts.

You’re wondering if I’ve changed jobs, changed cities.

You’re expecting me to spill the beans on some new man in my life. You’re wondering if you’re about to hear wedding bells. You’re thinking that it may all be bad news.

But….alas. The truth is that I’ve been up to nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing. I have been working till 10 at night. Does that qualify as “paying my dues”?

I have baked a lot and got a promotion at work. Neither of which are related to either.

I have lost about 10 pounds…give or take a few and the loss of which has made, I’m sad to say, absolutely no difference to my appearance.

I have turned 28 and am well on my way to facing a crisis-filled 30th Birthday bash.

I have survived a Nigella-Lawson’s Christmas-cake-filled Christmas and my soul sister’s wedding on 12.12.12.

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My blog inbox dolefully reminds me that I have 1200 unread emails. Apparently I’ve led some people to believe that something horrible has happened to me.

It’s just that all I seem to do lately, is work. That’s it. That is simply it.

I’m working before I get to work. I’m working on my way to work. And I’m working even on my off days. And yes, I know that a burn-out is looming up somewhere in my near future. My way of preparing for it is to bake at least a dozen spinach and bacon quiches, whip up as many magic chocolate cakes as possible, blitz up a few gallons of mocha frappés and freeze them all in batches, ready till the time they’re needed. I have also been training my mother to serve me the right amount of pie and frappé when I finally do fizzle out. And I have also stocked the drinks cabinet with Bacardi and cheap port.

Am I sounding too much like a pessimist? Well, at least I’m planning to go out on a full-belly.

Meanwhile its been sweltering out here, considering the fact that India always seems to be one season ahead than anywhere else. My colleagues in London are gushing about spring while we wipe sweat off the back of our necks and turn the air-conditioning on at full blast. Rain does come. In a stingy, stuck-up, Scrooge-ish manner.

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And amidst all the bottles of chilled water, lemon squashes and sweat-soaked tank tops I decided to come visit you and come clean about what’s been going on. I do hope you understand. I do hope you’ve missed me and I do hope I’m able to come back pretty soon again. Between all the embarrassing shuffling of feet I’m offering you my sincerest apologies……and a glass of mocha frappé.

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Mocha Frappé for when you’ve been working too hard

What you need:

1 tsp and a half of good-quality instant coffee (I realize that that’s an oxymoron, but humour me)
1 tbsp of white rum
3/4 cup of whole milk
1 tsp of unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 tbsp of granulated sugar (or like me, you could use 2 tbsp of runny honey)
Ice cubes

Method:

Seriously?
Oh well. Pop everything, including a couple of ice-cubes in the blender and whiz for about a minute. Pour into a glass and listen to the froth on top fizz and sputter before drinking it.

to the sailor, on his 57th

Dear readers,

It’s been three weeks and I’ve missed you. And although this post is sorely outdated, I thought maybe you’d like to read it.

I think I was about two years old.

Yeah about that much, when I went into my parents’ room and found my father sitting on the floor next to a towering wooden cupboard. The cupboard was stacked top to bottom with his collection of music. The room was dimly lit and my mother lay on the bed reading a book by the light of bedside lamp. I waddled over to my father and promptly climbed into his lap. He pulled me up and made me sit straight. Then he took the headphones off himself and put them over my ears. The headphones were bright orange in colour and bigger than my whole head. They not only covered my ears, they completely covered my eyes as well. That was probably my first experience with the phenomenon that is Pink Floyd.

As you can tell…I looked mostly like a boy for the first ten years of my life.

Pink Floyd was one of the few firsts of my life with my dad around. He wasn’t there for a lot of other firsts.

He’s a sailor, you see.

According to my mother, that profession should come with a disclaimer notice.

He wasn’t around for my PTA meetings. Always a no-show for my dance recitals. My brother learnt to play cricket from what his friends’ dads taught him. I missed him on birthdays. My mother missed him everyday they were not together.

The part that I hated the most was when after I’d been particularly naughty, my teachers would demand to see my dad for a your-child-did-this and your-child-did-that session. And every time, I had to stand red-faced in front of them explaining to them for the umpteenth time that it would be close to a miracle if they could contact him while he was floating on an iron prison in the middle of some sea some where. Life was somewhat difficult given the standards of a fourth grader.

But it wasn’t really. As much as you would like to complain about your father not being there for your first basketball match, it’s not possible to do so if he makes it up to you by being there when you bake your first cake.

He was there when I baked my first cake. Vanilla pound. With atta instead of flour. As rabid as we Indians are using atta for everything from rotis to naans, atta’s a complete no-no when it comes to cakes and at 18, I didn’t know that. Its got something to do with the hard gluten content of atta. The cake came out of the oven resembling a polished rock, the kind of stuff jawbreakers are made of.

As it sat abandoned on the cooling rack sometime late afternoon, I found my father with a steak knife trying to cut into the cake. He’d set the cake up sideways like a wheel and was hand-thumping the back of the knife into the cake so that a piece could be carved out. Carved out. Not cut out. That’s how bad it was. I didn’t want him to break his teeth so I hurried over to him in a state of panic with a “Don’t eat that! That’s awful!” He just smiled at me and said, “You made it ma. How can I go without eating it!!”

Over the years he’s been around for the important parts. Always. He sat at the dining table with me poring over college applications. Waited patiently in the lobby to take me out to lunch on the first day of work. Over the years we’ve spent unaccounted hours watching Pink Floyd videos over handfuls of dates and walnuts. He’s the only who can pacify my mother and I when we’re in the middle of an argument. His was the first face I saw when I walked down the podium with my degree. Ruddy, bearded, brimming with tears and he kept on clapping like a maniac. And he turned 57 this year.

Happy Birthday Babai.

Walnut, Date and Olive Oil Cake

1 cup of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of chopped walnuts
2 tsps baking powder
1 pinch of salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of boiled water
1 cup of pitted dates
Whipped cream or frosting of choice, to serve

Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C. Grease and line a 8-9″ baking tin with parchment paper. Grease the paper as well. In a bowl combine flour, walnuts, baking powder and salt and mix with a fork. In a larger bowl whisk the eggs till light and fluffy, for about 3 minutes. Add in the sugar gradually, whisking continuously.  Pour in oil and boiled water, fold in the flour mix with a whisk till just combined. Do not overwork the batter. Pour the batter into the greased tin. Place the dates in a layer on top and bake for 30-40 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is firm and springy to touch. Cool completely on the rack.

The cake is fine just by itself, but you could spread a bit of frosting on top or serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

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!

I’ve been thinking

We’ve had quite a mellow week. I love weeks like that. They start amicably and end weary, but happily. The weeks that start with the rustle of newspapers, a simple bowlful of cucumber and tomato salad or mayo sandwiches. And then goes on to a lunch of plain – and sometimes under-seasoned – lasagna at the office cafeteria.

Weeks that don’t come with the threat of deadlines and that end with a warm eggplant hash for dinner. Instead, they come with laundry that needs to be done and put out to hang till dry. And then for good measure we’ll pull out an umbrella and keep it within arm’s reach, just in case the city decided to pull an 8th April.

These weeks are sometimes likely to be punctuated with a soft cake and glasses of cheap port. Weeks like these call for spending time with your mother over out-of-season cocoa and introducing her to things like Touch and a salad that uses tinned mackerel.

These are seven days that end with happiness, food, family and with you. I would like to mention here that I’m trying to act all dignified and grown-up right now, but its difficult to hide your excitement and to stop flapping arms when you know people like reading about [or maybe even making?] the food you eat.

A quick shout out to Jeannie of Jeannie Richard and Esti of Coffee Camera Love who think I deserve the Versatile Blogger Award [gasp!]. Thank you! You guys really know how to make my day.

I know I keep coming back here to talk to you about food. And it doesn’t even begin to quantify the amount of food-oriented thinking I do throughout the day. I think of sandwiches and yet I haven’t told you anything about them. We love sandwiches here.

I try my hand at pastry but when I look back at it, I feel like I haven’t cooked anything real. For starters, I haven’t baked bread yet [!]. I haven’t yet made homemade ricotta. And even though I make sure I know where my chicken is coming from, I haven’t ever spatchcocked any. I understand that many of my readers may have done all that already and that makes me bite my lips and look at my feet.

Now that I’m typing this I’ve just realized that I’m a dabbler. A dabbler who doesn’t know how to bone a duck or is too chicken to make puff pastry from scratch. I have been happy to look and salivate at a pork terrine for the last two years but haven’t even had the guts to attempt one. But this is about to change. At least, I hope it is. If I ever have the chance to give my 23 year-old self a piece of my mind, I’d tell her to suck it up and dive into making a three-tier wedding cake instead of dilly-dallying with watery tomato soup.

I will see you next week. And it will be good.

Have a happy weekend you lot.

P.S.:- the photographs were taken with my dad’s old Yashica that I’ve been tinkering with. And those trees below are what my folks see when they wake up every morning. When on earth is that going to happen to me?

this week: olives for breakfast and superbly ruined eggs

All this time that I’ve been supposedly taking it easy in the heat, the truth is I’ve actually been holding out on you.

I have been eating. And eating quite a lot. By day I’m a glorified blue-print maker, design researcher, building material hunter and client pacifier. By night I’m too exhausted to even butter my own toast or air out my wet shoes. Or stow away my duvet, which is overdue. I have so far ended up with messed up eggs on toast, really wet shoes and a very dry throat courtesy of mild snoring habits.

For now, I’ll leave you with a few photographs from the last two days.

Oh, and I’ve also discovered that bowls of olives with spicy mayo make perfectly fantastic breakfasts. Honest.