Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Microwave Chicken Curry

I have a sister in Hongkong who hankers for home-cooking. It’s not as if she cannot rustle up a gourmet Indian meal, but that she finds the whole process from chopping to searing very tedious indeed. And the mountains of receptacles piling up in the kitchen sink cause her to wrinkle her Grecian nose in despair. The better alternative is to eat out – and that is what she does, most of the time.
On her pre Diwali visit home, she asked me, a trifle tentatively, if there was some way in which she could put her microwave to better use than just warming up the victuals. This recipe is for her!
Chicken 500g
Yoghurt ½ cup (after hanging to drain out some of the liquid)
Oil 1 tablespoon
Ginger- Garlic paste 1½ tablespoons
Green chillie paste, to taste
Chillie powder
Onions chopped, 100g
Tomatoes chopped, 1 large
Turmeric ½ teaspoon
Garam Masala ½ teaspoon
Coriander powder 1 teaspoon
Kasoori methi 1 tablespoon, optional
Coriander leaves, chopped, to garnish
Modus Operandi
1.       Marinate chicken in yoghurt, ginger-garlic paste, green chillie paste, salt and chillie powder for at least 2 hours or more.
2.       Heat oil in a microwave safe dish for 30 seconds. Remove.
3.       Add onions to hot oil and return to oven for about 2 minutes. Remove. Stir to mix. Return to oven for another 2 or 3 minutes. Remove
4.       Add tomato, turmeric, coriander powder, garam masala to the onions. Mix well. Return to oven for 4 minutes, removing to stir once in between. Remove.
5.       Mix in the marinated chicken along with the marinade. Coat well with the fried spices.
6.       Cover the dish with a perforated lid to prevent splattering and return to the oven for 8 minutes. Remove. Check to see if the chicken is tender. If not, return it to the oven for another couple of minutes before proceeding to the next step which is optional, but recommended.
7.       Stir in methi, and microwave for another one or two minutes.
8.       Serve, garnished with coriander leaves.
The gravy for this recipe is a fairly compact one. If runnier gravy is required, add a cup of water or buttermilk at the point where you check to see that the chicken is tender. Mix it in well, adjust the salt, and return to the oven for 2 minutes or thereabouts to allow it to homogenize with the spices. Then proceed as directed.
Ren, I hope you actually do try this, after the trouble I have taken getting it across to you! This is for all the rest of you too, who balk at home cooking when the help is not around!

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Biggest Apple

Steve Jobs’ passing on has left a deep void in hearts that did not even know him. The tributes and accolades continue to flow as the entire world, cutting across international divides, mourns his loss. Even those who shrugged their shoulders, it was reported, did so in a way compatible with his ‘i’ range of products – an idon’t care.
What is it about this man and an apple? While Adam was derided for his bite into its flesh, Jobs took the world by storm by redefining its role in the history of mankind. His apples shrunk the world for us to hold in our palms.
He was just a man – a two legged homo sapien like us – but infinitely more sapient than the best of his educators, on whom he turned his back. It was his vision that impelled him forward, driven by insatiable curiosity and bundles of energy. Many of us have those qualities, but perhaps not all of them together in equal measure. While we mark time among the milling throng, occasionally rising a full head and shoulders above it and patting ourselves on the back for those rare moments of glory, he took a vertical leap all the while respecting that other apple, the law of gravity, that kept him earthed in reality.
Many callisthenic gurus take vertical leaps and sit cross legged six feet off the ground. But what do they achieve, even for themselves? Ironically Jobs himself, it is said, sought the counsel of gurujis at one stage of his life, but it is very apparent that he saw through them – or that he used their skill at sharpening the intellect and the soul to hone his own, but for the greater good of mankind; and so became the greatest guru of them all.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


The rains spill over into September as an earthquake wells up from within and sends hilly North India into turmoil. A small shower can cascade a mountain slope – we’ve encountered scores of landslides, fortunately post the actual calamity. They cause so much terror, heartbreak and destruction.
Simultaneously in Gujarat, Modi fasted; and along with him were two counter-fasts. Several fasts too many for a slow moving behemoth of a country like ours. Bureaucracy and red tape never need to rear their ugly heads here because they are perennially upright for downright corrupt reasons.
The best thing that I’ve heard in a long time is that we are breasting the finishing tape of Kalyug, and Satyug is just around the corner – a giant leap from the Iron Age to the Golden Age. This point in time is apparently a Sangam of the two yugs, where we purportedly cast off the yoke of a decidedly seamy age and embrace an unblighted future.
You guessed correctly that we, Child included, completed the meditation or Rajyoga course at a Kolkata centre of the Brahma Kumaris close to our house. It was not so much meditation that we learned from our designated teacher, but a clear and almost facile enlightenment of our true selves. It’s a course worth attending for it actually awakens you to the possibilities that exist within you. I don’t think I will ever feel the need to lose my shirt or criticize another being after this course. The implications are just not worth it for me.
For those not enthused by more awakening in the name of religion, I must add that the teaching is totally secular and compatible with any faith across the globe.
Child is in baking mode. Like the Medicare advertisements for tackling lice, she bakes ‘Sunday to Sunday’. Then she photographs her confectionary to mail to her long list of drooling fans, chiefly her brother whose Sunday evening conversations these days are peppered with ‘wow’, ‘awesome’, and, occasionally, ‘I want to come home...!!’
Spouse and Child are now gymnocrats so the gateaux have no effect on their corporeal frames; but it is an entirely different kettle of fish as far as yours truly is concerned for she also serves those who don’t watch their weight!!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


We were physically drawn to the Brahma Kumari centre near us by a large hoarding bearing the proclamation that Rajyoga was taught there. Both my husband and I were keen to learn yoga, and this seemed a bonafide place to go to. On actually visiting the centre, however, we were met by an elderly lady who said that the yoga referred to was mental yoga, or meditation. Yoga, she said, meant ‘connection’, and Raj referred to the supreme force or Parmahatma – the highest soul in the Universe.
The centre, she added, conducted a free seven day course on the art and act of meditation beginning every Monday. The duration was for an hour, between 5.30 and 6.30pm every day, for the week. A smart young lady clad in jeans and tee shirt explained to us the concept of the Universe in a simple and lay manner, and she looked so pleased with life and the act of being alive, that we feel compelled to join the course in the near future.
Meditation is indeed an art. Most of us, yours truly included, have a tendency to balk at such cerebral talk. Thoughts are so random that the idea of collecting and collating them even for short spells sends us into spasms of agony. Our minds jump on to their own rails and steer off on auto pilot at breakneck speed, catapulting simultaneously into different directions, carrying their proprietors away with them!
At other times, when the outer eyes close to begin meditating, all other senses join in the shutdown and we find ourselves blissfully asleep! This happened recently to a friend of my student from Japan. Keen to learn all aspects and forms of yoga while in India, she began to meditate in her guru’s classroom only to find herself rudely awakened by her own snores!
However, we do want to delve into the realm of the unknown, and sooner rather than later we will join the course to explore our inner selves, our souls, the core of our being. Child has agreed to come with us too, surprisingly without duress. I hope we find ourselves in the metaphysical world and learn to shape ourselves into better human beings, thus enriching ourselves and our karmas, and the lives of those around us.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Wedding of the Dolls

The house was only a stone’s throw away from our own, but it felt a lot further trotting there on my little legs. It was a hotbed of girls, a kind of sorority, vibrant, sparkling and full of beans. Four femme fatales were aunts, two married and two very young bachelor-girls, and the rest a bevy of girl cousins.
I lucidly remember an afternoon party at the house, arranged by the two youngest aunts, Badi and Chhoti. It was, purportedly, a wedding between my beautiful, buxom and blonde Angela, and Kiko, Cousin Raju’s large baby doll with rubbery curls embossed on his skull.
Clearly decorated as a venue for a wedding, there was a priest and a miniscule fire around which the nuptials were to be solemnized. Hordes of underage wedding guests milled around, bearing gifts and clutching glasses of ‘sherbet’; and a banquet of sorts was laid on the large dining table.
Raju and I took our places around the fire as mothers of the dolls as the wedding got underway. It was so real and so fantastic!
As the guests began to troop out with little farewell gifts after the revelry, Badi and Chhoti produced two identical packages for Raju and me. These were supposedly gifts from our fictional fiancé-brothers, Sunil and Sagar. Sagar, always portrayed as steady and earnest by the aunts, had gifted Raju, senior to me by two years, a beautiful piece of jewellery.
The illusory Sunil was apparently another kettle of fish altogether, so I should actually have known what to expect when I excitedly tore the wrapping from the box and flung it open. Nestling within the expensive tissue was a larger than life cockroach – in plastic, thank God.
The mother of the bride, in classic, time-honoured tradition, sobbed all the way home....!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Good Book

We had to read a synopsis to understand the movie, despite being riveted to our seats watching Angelina Jolie execute dangerous stunts on high rises, down elevator shafts, and on trains and buses amongst other things. The write-up reported that she actually doubled up as her own stunt man – plucky girl.
The movie was ‘Salt’, and it won or, at the very least was nominated for, several Academy awards. We were totally confused as to which side of the Cold War she was batting for. I guess that testifies to the brilliance of the narrative, if not the brilliance of our little gray cells!
Today is one of those days when I want to watch a really good courtroom drama of the Perry Mason ilk, or a who-dun-it like Castle; but the idiot box is not in an obliging mood. Neither can the abundant multiplexes around satisfy this craving.
Or maybe a good book.
Can anyone recommend a good monsoon read seasoned with family drama, plots and sub-plots, twists and turns?
Would that my younger sibling , who claims to be suffering from writer’s block, hear my plea and write a saga to complement her cache of three books? She can delve into family history and unearth the skeletons of the black sheep that lie buried in the ancestral vaults – the charlatans, the buccaneers, the roués and cads of yore! Or were we always a morally highbrow family??

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Juno’s 1st birthday

Yet another day gone by with nary a word from our cook. I was free today, so I rolled up my sleeves and rustled up egg sandwiches for breakfast, liberally lashed with butter, mustard, pepper and cilantro. The simplest food gives the greatest joy – and here I allude not to the creation of the sandwich, but the eating of it!
Child of course wailed at being given an egg for the second day running, but I would have none of it. Methinks she single-handedly keeps Kellogg’s in business in India. The latest love is Chocos and she downs the cereal as breakfast and an all-day snack, with or without milk.
I rolled the sleeves even higher and set out to craft a gourmet lunch for the both of us, spouse having gone off on his travels to the south of the country. The last two days he has been treated to meals created by Joseph, originally chef of a senior tea executive’s bungalow in South India, whose family are very dear friends. The now retired planter’s wife gaped in disbelief when she heard my spouse speak of him (the chef, not the retired planter!) in a telephone call with her! Tears sprung to her eyes as she recounted his skills with the skillet and the ladle!
Tears spring to my eyes too, when I recall those days of 5 course meals outstandingly created by our cooks at home. Forgive me if I sound maudlin here. Press the ‘Back to the Beginning’ button on your computer and re read the first sentence of this blog...!
The microwave oven is an infallible companion on days like these, but I still prefer the good old fashioned gas stove and the roomy stand-alone convection oven any day. I spent countless afternoons, especially monsoon or overcast ones, creating confectionary extraordinaire for my appreciative first-born and his dog! Swiss rolls that actually scrolled, chocolate éclairs, Viennese biscuits sandwiched with chocolate butter cream, quiches and tarts among other delectables rolled out with military precision in those younger days, quite untouched by new waves or microwaves! Having a full-time cook gives you the time to indulge in crafts and hobbies, and mine was baking – therapeutic!
I remember the 8th of February 1985. I had just extracted a freshly baked cake sans embellishments from the oven. My young son, just short of 3, laboriously punctured it with a brightly coloured candle. We carried it out into the lawn and had barely lit the candle when a beautiful yellow Labrador, all of one year old that day, leapt to claim what was rightly hers, lighted candle and all! One swoop and it was all gone, leaving us, human parents and brother, clapping and singing ‘Happy Birthday dear Juno’ while she continued searching for crumbs among the blades of grass! It's not hard to understand why no photographs exist of Juno's cake cutting ceremony!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


I accessed the link recommended by a commentator on my last post. Thank you, Fishbowl! From your vantage position in a glass basin you get a 360 degree view of all aspects of life, as it were!
I am happy to inform you that the link was actually an eye-opener of sorts, very enlightening indeed. A will is so very necessary to ensure that your family members, progeny and dependents don’t spend the rest of their lives running in circles to inherit what is rightly theirs, while you blissfully R.I.P.!
The end of a long but eventually victorious chase to receive your just desserts, estates and family jewels does not actually induce you to pop champagne and release colourful helium balloons. Rather, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
Bitter taste reminds me of the truly awful tasting ‘chirayath’ that I used to force myself to swallow in the acne-scarred days of youth. It was a minimalist looking twiggy plant that had to be procured from the local bazaar at an embarrassingly low price.
Our cook used to pick it up for me daily with the small change left over from his vegetable shopping.  I used to soak it overnight in a glassful of water, before padding off to bed.
A distressingly early Ante Meridian hour would see me padding dolefully back to the kitchen, straining the murky green stock into a fresh glass, clutching my nose with one hand and the glass with the other, and draining down the contents thereof.
I’ve never been tempted to treat myself to a snifter of urine like an erudite ex PM of yore, but I’m very sure that 'chirayath’ beats it hollow in the ‘ugh’ department.
But yes, for whoever’s interested, it worked like magic on the acne!

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Depth of Love

Conversation veered towards mortality at lunch yesterday as one amongst our tribe raised the subject of ‘pind-daan’, the visitation to Gaya by offspring whose parents have ceased to be.
These have now assumed the characteristics of a package tour, with travel, hotel, meals and a complete itinerary included. What is not included in the package is the amount one pays to the priest who serves as the conduit between you and the Almighty as you pray for the souls of your dearly departed.
That amount is arbitrary, and almost entirely dependent on how much you can be coerced to spend to ensure a divine resting place for your forebears.
Also arbitrary is the length of the puja. This can range from thirty minutes to an eight-hour sitting with the priest. A couple of ‘C’ notes ensure that the prayer is kept to the minimum without in any way compromising on its intensity!
My children were all ears and very much avid participants in this conversation. They decided that while a fifteen minute puja would amply suffice for their ‘cool’ dad, they would invest no less than sixteen hours for me!
The reason proffered for this blatant discrimination twixt self and spouse lies apparently in the difference between our natures. A little over 24 hours ago I was informed that I was no ‘cool’ mom!
For example, they fear that if they don’t lay the table correctly or hang a picture askew on the wall, I could posthumously be propelled to set to rights their incorrigible wrongs by revisiting earth and doing it myself. Much as they love me, (they hastened to assure me) this would bring shivers down their spines! To that end, therefore, they intend to make doubly sure that I R.I.P.!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Monsoon

Rain of varying velocity has been pouring down upon the city since the past few days. A fine Scotch mist turns into a steady drizzle, then reverts to its Scottish origins before pelting cats and dogs upon the hapless populace. It’s the monsoon, so I can’t complain. Today I was very nearly drenched to the bone while waiting to catch a cab. I rather enjoyed it, I must admit! It reminded me of the carefree days of childhood, when one never concerned oneself with the list of ailments that could follow a good drenching.
When we were children, the smell of damp earth before a smart shower would draw us inexorably to the terrace where we would cavort gleefully, all eyes fixed skywards, to spot the first visible droplets of rain. That smell still stirs in me an atavistic hunger, an ache, an indefinable je ne sais quoi. If Dior, or any perfumier, could find a way to bottle that raw, earthy fragrance, he would have a winner on his hands.
The downside of a good monsoon, though, is the flooding that invariably accompanies any brisk shower in the city. It’s not so much the rainwater but what flows along with it that makes the bile rise. As a race, sadly, we are not known for our civic sense, most of our roads doubling up as spittoons and lavatories. Such droppings and debris may lap against your luckless ankles in the nether region, but the discomfort travels upwards at breakneck speed, manifesting itself as nausea in the jugular region of the torso.
To my memory, the monsoons were both an olfactory and visual treat viewed from the upstairs balcony of our bungalow in the Dooars.  The heady waft of scented soil and a vista of verdant earth, several shades of green, curtained by the mottled canopies of trees bearing newly burst leaf-buds soaking in the liquid haze pouring forth from the firmament as far as the eye could see.
 And another picture, a dearer one, of my little girl all kitted out in a pink raincoat, umbrella and gumboots, dancing and swirling waif-like with three gorgeous beasties, our now sainted Labradors, on the vast expanse of lawn under a swollen sky disgorging its molten angst.
That was heaven on earth for me!