May
25

X-Men : Days of the Future Past

I’m terrible at maintaining this blog regularly – I realise it even more when I get down to pen a post and realise that I have not written about these loves on the blog before. Well better late than never right. As a kid the only superhero comics I read and watched were Superman, Spiderman and Batman – and even those were not read as extensively as some of my friends did. They know every dialogue written by heart! X-Men only caught my fascination once the movies were released. Since then the fandom for this set of superheroes has grown exponentially and I have to admit that the star cast has been a huge factor.

Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart , Halle Berry and if those were not enough in the first 3 movies, they went and cast McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult and Lawrence as the younger lot! And then they felt this too was not quite enough; so they got all of them together in the recent instalment and had Bryan Singer direct them. These were enough reasons to expect a cracker of a movie after the awesomeness that was witnessed in X-Men First Class. I must say this one did not disappoint; in fact it was way beyond my expectations; though I must add I did have one minor disappointment.  The director did not give enough meat to Mystique’s role – yes she was the focus of the film but somehow I felt that Jennifer Lawrence did not get enough scope to prove her stellar acting prowess. She surely has oodles of talent to take Mystique’s character to the heights of popularity that the other characters in the series have achieved. As Charles, Eric and Tsark admit – she is special and unique and probably the most powerful of the lot. Also Jennifer Lawrence is a far superior actress to Rebecca Romijn who had essayed the role in the trilogy and I hope the next part does justice to her acting talents.

Now before I  go to the movie and the scenes that left me spell bound let me get this out of the way – there was Fassbender, McAvoy and Jackman on the screen together; that is criminal – I mean how are we ladies to focus on the movie and the story and the rest of the cast with so much hotness on the screen! Ok that’s the fangirl talking – ignore that and let’s stick to the movie.

The movie is a brilliant example of how movie making techniques and the technology used have evolved over years to bring to life on screen the scenes that go beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. After watching the Magneto-Submarine scene in X-Men First Class I was convinced no other scene would come close to it and it probably topped my favourite movie scene list until I saw the QuickSilver Slow Motion Prison scene yesterday. A glimpse in the trailer below.

Brilliant is a mild word for this scene. You have to be a whacky genius to first conceptualize it and then go ahead and execute it to perfection! I can assure you that The QuickSilver SlowMotion scene in the movie will blow your mind off. It is what they call cinematic genius and magic all combined into one. I can’t wait for the DVD/BluRay to hit the market soon so that I can watch it a million times and I know the more I watch it the more I will crave for it. It is intoxicating to mildly put it.

The scene was shot to this lovely song (don’t forget to read the quicksilver related comments on the song; brilliance is oozing all over – ripple effect of the movie) and it has been stuck in my head since last night in a loop!

 

Then there is Hugh Jackman , who is what he does best – Being Wolverine –  Sarcastic, Angry, Impatient and now entrusted with dealing with a depressed , drowning in self-pithy and self-loathing Xavier portrayed by McAvoy (flawless again!) and getting him on track to ensure the future of the mutants is in safe hands. In the process befriending Beast, getting QuickSilver to help Magneto escape from the heavily guarded prison in Pentagon so that the duo Charles and Eric can find Raven(Mystique) and ensure the murder that changes the fate of the mutant community is averted.

However the man who is the real star of the movie, the one who steals the limelight from an array of stars present in the movie has other plans. He does an U-turn on the team and goes about setting the future as he deems it should rightfully be. If Ian McKellen immortalized the Evil Magneto, to me Michael Fassbender takes the evil genius to a different level in this movie – an act that is going to be tough to beat. We saw glimpses of it in X-Men First Class but then there was the whole sympathy angle and him being good turning into evil bit. In this movie though , he is just a pure cold-hearted, unapologetic , unforgiving, conniving, evil genius that you love to hate. Magneto plays around with the weapons that were meant to destroy his clan like they were his toys. The railway tracks scene is the one where you sit on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next . You don’t quite figure out the master stroke until the last scene of the movie where Magneto single-handedly holds the entire US government at ransom. The scene though where i almost fell of my chair was seeing him execute so much style and panache in a one minute scene where he walks into the Pentagon to retrieve his prized possession (the helmet)– Did you not notice the glasses, the hat , the suit and his uber cool poise?

X-Men Days of the Future Past is a delightful entertainer for us X-men buffs but to me the enticing bit is with the future having been completely reset the movie makers can take some serious liberty to reignite the franchise and twist the stories around. The whole prospect is now making me delirious and 2 years seems like an eternity by when XMen – Apocalypse will hit the screens! Now waiting for the next instalment with bated breath – Damn you Bryan Singer!

May
13

Prawn Chettinad Pepper Curry

I get bored of making same old prawn curries that I know so I hunted on the internet to try something new. I found my love for south indian non-veg cuisine in Dubai and was quite craving the good old curries from Simran Appa Kadai and Calicut Paragon that we had so often when we lived there.

I found this easy and quick recipe – and I made a little bit of my own variations. I added some more curry leaves, sautéed the onions till they were dark brown, a bit more pepper and bit more water to have more medium rather than thick gravy. The one on the link looks scrumptious too and next time will attempt to maintain the thickness and red chilly colour. Here is the one I landed up making based on the above recipe. I garnished it with coriander and boiled egg slices. Try it – I love curry leaves and pepper taste and South India has some lip-smacking, finger-licking meat and seafood recipes!

Prawns Chettinad Pepper Fry

May
13

Lamb Chops Masala

We all have our favourite dishes – mine are any that have mutton and it really drives me mad when folks equate mutton and lamb. The one thing I’m missing after moving to London is not finding mutton in meat shops around. Guess I will have to venture out a bit far to find it here. So to overcome my psychological barrier with respect to lamb, we finally got lamb chops from the butcher near our place and with some tips from my friends who are cooking experts at different cuisines and have cooked lamb often; I ventured out experimenting my mutton chop masala recipe with some variations.

Ingredients:

Marination

  • Lamb Chops – 4 pieces (total weight 500 gms)
  • Turmeric – 1 teaspoon
  • Red chilly powder – 2 tablespoons
  • Ginger-Garlic paste – 3 tablespoons
  • Mixed spices dry masala : Dry roast the following ingredients and then grind into a fine dry powder – 4-5 whole peppercorns, 4-5 cloves, 3-4 cms long cinnamon stick, 2 black cardamoms, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 1 star anise, 1 dry Kashmiri chilly.
  • Curd – 3-4 tablespoons
  • Salt as per taste

Marinate the lamb chops with the above ingredients. Since I was cooking lamb for first time I let it marinate for 24 hours.

Gravy

I made the gravy directly in a pressure cooker. Add 3-4 tablespoons of oil , add 3 medium sized finely chopped onions and sauté on medium flame till they turn brown. Once the oil starts oozing out from the sides, add the marinated chops and mix well. Place a lid for few minutes and let it cook for 5-10 minutes. Then add 3-4 cups of boiling water such that it is enough to boil the chops in the pressure cooker. Shut the gas off after 3 whistles and let it simmer. Once the steam is gone, open the lid, and check if the meat has cooked well. If not, you may need to put the lid on for couple more whistles. When I attempted, the meat cooked perfectly with 3 whistles of the cooker. Garnish it with coriander and serve with hot parathas/rotis and rice.

Enjoy your lamb chops masala

lambs chop masala

Apr
07

Stuffed Egg Masala

Every kid is biased towards his/hers mom’s cooking but in my family the bias is not just from my side as everyone agrees unanimously how awesome her dishes are; especially this one. She completely owns this recipe. I have not had this dish anywhere – neither at friends/cousins’ homes nor not seen it in hotels or restaurants that I have been too prepared in the manner that she does.

Finally my home is set-up in London and most important part – the kitchen is now fully functional. Now with no luxuries of the cook – I have to think of a new dish everyday as more than MDH it is me who gets tired of eating the same dishes every other day. So here goes mumma’s famous stuffed egg masala that I managed to prepare last week.

Ingredients:

Eggs – 4

Onions – 2 medium size (finely chopped)

Ginger-garlic paste – 1 teaspoon

Turmeric – 1/2 teaspoon

Kala (Black) Masala – 3-4 tablespoons. This is a Maharashtrian masala which is easily available in stores and mainly used for all non-veg curries.

Coconut Paste: 2-3 tablespoons. ( This is the common paste we use in our non-veg curries and usal (pulse gravy) preparations).

Salt to taste

Coriander – Finely chopped to garnish

Oil – 1 tablespoon

Method

Boil the eggs and peel of the shell. Then slice 4 cuts evenly into the egg – keeping the base intact and the cuts good enough to insert the stuffing.

Coconut Paste:

Roast dry grated coconut – 1 cup till medium brown in a pan. Then dry roast 1 chopped onion and 1-2 garlic petals in a pan. Roast till the mixture turns light brown. Then grind all 3 ingredients into a thick paste. The paste should be smooth and you should not be able to feel the coconut particles. You can make this paste in bulk and the same is used in chicken/mutton gravies as well as various pulses commonly made in Marathi household

Stuffing:

Heat oil in a small wok (kadhai as we say) and add finely chopped onions. Once the onions are brown in colour, add turmeric, ginger-garlic paste , kala masala, salt and sauté for 5-10 minutes. Then add the coconut paste and little water so that it cooks well. Ensure the stuffing remains dry and not too watery else it will be difficult to fill it into the eggs. Add some coriander and mix well.

Let the mixture cool down, then with a small spoon fill each egg with the stuffing taking care that eggs do not break. Use very light pressure in the hands to fill this stuffing. Then ensure that the stuffing is smoothened out evenly on all sides and place these eggs back into the wok. Heat the wok, and turn the eggs on all sides delicately.

Serve with parathas – tastes delicious and can serve as starters or even main course ( your choice)

egg masala

Jan
27

The Shift

I haven’t had an evening to myself since 10th of September. So much has happened in the last 4 months – I have not had a moment to sit down, relax, fall back, think, smile, laugh, get tensed, get worried, freak out, breathe in breathe out, assess, fret, get mad, get angry, shout out loud, scream , be happy , be sad, reflect  -  the last 4 months have flown by like they were 4 days, actually 4 hours, no forget probably 4 minutes.

Jan 2013 – MDH and I kept wondering where life was heading and we both felt we needed a change – professionally or personally this year. This year. We had got comfortable and eased out in Dubai – our home for last 7 years and over the last year I was somehow getting the feeling that I was done with the place. We had to move out – either back home to India or to another land. We felt this was the year we had to make it happen; of course if life had decided otherwise and taken a different turn we would have thought of making the move few years later.

You can’t predict what life holds for you but you can sure make an effort to turn it your way. And so we both tried, whoever got the first break the other would follow we decided.

London – I fell in love with this city when I first came here as a tourist in 2007 and I came back twice later once on work and again on a holiday ; and every time I came back I realised how much I was fond of this place. I realized I would love working and staying here and when the opportunity came at work I took the chance, we took the risk and we moved here in Dec.

People ask us if leaving Dubai was an easy decision – it was in fact a no-brainer for me from a career perspective but not easy personally. All the right and wrong reasons will need another post. Don’t get me wrong – I liked the city, I will definitely miss my house a lot and more importantly I will miss my wonderful friends there who were my family away from India. At the back of our minds we always knew this place was going to be short term;by staying 7 years we had probably overshot our stay more than what we had planned to when we first came here.

The last 4 months have flown by – relocation is not easy, I have no clue how people shift homes and countries every few years! Paperwork, paperwork and paperwork – it is endless. Exiting a country and entering a new country – we were lucky that my company was in charge of most things but settling into a new place is not easy however familiar you may think you are with it. After getting to London, everyday is a new learning and if anyone needs guidance on moving here just drop me a note!

It is always mixed feelings when you leave and move on and when I find some time to breathe again I will do a post on my Dubai journey – what a rollercoaster ride it was for us. We left with wonderful memories of wonderful people – I’m not sure how much I will miss the place as years pass by but I will miss those wonderful folks and the relationships – will savour them for a lifetime.

London – you will be a different experience altogether – if I did not love you so much I would have torn my hair apart by now thinking how difficult you have been to settle into for a newcomer coming into the country . Your warmth though has had the most calming effect  on us (yes even though we have come in winter) – I’m amazed by your acceptance and ability to embrace. Stay this wonderful for as long as we decide to be here.

A new life begins – still not settled in, but things are slowly falling in place. The tube travel, the DIY for almost everything, relying on yourself and no one else, the challenges at work, a whole new culture to embrace. We feel ready and it feels right. I haven’t been so excited and thrilled and tensed together in a long, long time.

The shift has happened, now to soak it in!

Nov
04

Cristina and Meredith

Grey’s Anatomy Season 10 has been pretty mediocre so far – not one episode has been gripping or held my attention for long. However last night when catching up on the last 3 episodes that we had missed out – two scenes from episode 5 stayed with me.

I get Cristina – I always have. Many of you may not – but I do. She is my favourite character in the series. She often speaks out loud what most of us women don’t want to hear even though we know she is right; such as this scene when she reasons out with Meredith why she did not give her the surgery.

 

But for first time while watching this series I loved Meredith’s response – and I get her too.

 

She is right – the reason we stop connecting with folks we thought were once friends  is this one simple fact :

“You don’t have time for me now because you don’t have time for people who want things that you don’t want”

Sep
06

Malvani Crab Masala

Crabs are so dear to everyone in my family and I’m the odd one out to not eat them. I have tried crab cakes or crab mince but not been able to develop a taste for the typical Malvani Crab Curry as my mother makes it. MDH is a foodie (you already know that by now if you have been reading this blog) and crabs are way way close to his heart (or rather stomach) . I wanted to learn how to cook this curry and after having done so I can proudly claim it turns out quite super – so here is the recipe for you all.

Ingredients:

1 Kg crabs – cleaned and if large have them cut into halves to separate the claws and the main body.

Onions – 6 medium sized fine chopped

Turmeric powder– 2 tea spoons

Ginger Garlic Paste – 2 table spoons

Kala Masala (Black masala) – 4-6 tablespoons depending on how spicy you want to make the curry. My recommendation the spicier the curry the better the taste.  The Kala Masala is a Maharashtrian masala which is easily available in stores and mainly used for all non-veg curries.

Coconut Paste – 3-4 table spoons

Salt to Taste

Preparation:

Clean the crabs well and apply little salt and set them aside.

Heat oil in pan, about 3-4 tablespoons and add finely chopped onions to it. Sauté till the onions are dark brown and the oil begins to ooze out from the sides.

kajuchi bhaaji

Add ginger garlic paste and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add turmeric powder and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Then add the Kala Masala powder in the given proportion and salt to taste.

Add the crab pieces and mix well. Add  3-4 cups of boiling water and let the curry cook on medium flame.

While the onions are turning dark brown and the crabs are getting cooked – prepare the coconut paste on the side as below.

Roast dry grated coconut – 1 cup till medium brown in a pan and set aside. Then dry roast 1 chopped onion and 1-2 garlic petals in a pan. Roast till the mixture turns light brown. Then grind all 3 ingredients into a thick paste. The paste should be smooth and you should not be able to feel the coconut particles. You can make this paste in bulk and the same is used in chicken/mutton gravies as well as various pulses commonly made in Marathi households.

kajuchi bhaaji

Once the crabs are 3/4th cooked in the curry add the coconut paste (3-4 tablespoons) and let the mixture cook on low flame. Keep stirring the mixture every 10 minutes. Add boiling water depending on how thick/thin curry you wish to have. We prefer thick curry. Crabs take time to cook and let the gravy cook for 20-30 minutes on low flame. Once the colour of the shells of the crab legs turns orange/reddish you know the crabs are done.

PicsArt_1378491943810crab 2

 

Add little lime juice and garnish the gravy with fresh coriander leaves fine chopped and serve it with Chapattis or what we Maharashtrians love – Tandalachi Bhakri ( Rice Roti)

crab 1crab 5

Enjoy your crab curry – try it out and let me know how it turned out.

Aug
25

The Key

3 days had passed and I continued to ignore her loss. She has always been around, must be hiding somewhere and playing her cat and mouse game with my memory again. Yesterday despite my repeated attempts to recollect where I had last left her I simply could not remember where she had hidden herself.

I checked all the places at home where I tend to carelessly leave her , hunted every corner of the drawers and she was still not to be found.

I had almost given up hope of finding her and the only solution I could see was replacing her. I would have to reset all connections – between the new her and me – between the new her and my home.

I don’t lose my possessions easily – almost never have. And she is an important one. In one last attempt before I could accept that I had misplaced her; I emptied the handbag and still found nothing; and then I caught her in my hands but I still could not see her. A small hole in the inside pocket of the purse and the house key had slipped in between the gaps. I finally managed to take her out from her hiding space and I sensed a huge relief in my mind.

She reminded me of the relationships I often take for granted, even if they disappear for a few days I still don’t go looking for them , I know they will be around. And when they don’t turn up as I expect them to, it puts me in a frantic state of mind. I find myself chasing them and wondering what I did wrong, what is it that I had said, what is it that I had done, what is it that I had forgot.

I can’t lose them – the similarity to my house key ends there, if I lose my key, I’ll replace her and enter my house, but what about those relationships I lost? Will I be able to replace them and move on?  And I already know the answer – I cannot. They are inseparable from me – and I won’t be the same person without them.

And it is almost like they read my mind. They are just testing me and they quietly slip back in the same place I knew I had left them and make me realize that without them I’d be lost.

They are still around, they will always be – in the one corner of my heart – they are the key to my existence – and they want me to seek them, to reach out to them like that little house key of mine hidden in the corner of my handbag.

Aug
10

Kajuchi Bhaaji (Cashewnut Veggie)

Don’t look surprised at the title of this dish. Kajuchi Bhaaji is an absolute delicacy in my family and even though cashew-nuts are very famous along the coastal line of Maharashtra and in Goa – this dish is not found easily. This is my mother’s speciality and I’m yet to master the taste her dish has but I guess I will never get to her level because as they say the magic of cooking rests in the hands of the cook.

Mom makes 3 varieties of this dish – in Marathi ”sukka” kalvan (dry gravy), the curry and the curry modified with the addition of egg. Today I’ll share the recipe of the sukka kalvan which is my favourite.

The cashewnuts are not the dry or salted ones that you will generally get in the market. These are taken fresh from the fruit and very popularly known as “Ole Kaju” (wet cashewnuts). They are dried in the sun along with the skin. You can store them in a cool storage for 5-6 months. They are available only for 2 months in April and May, so I pick up in bulk and stock them at home so that I can make the dish over the next 6 months.

Ingredients:

30-40 cashewnuts.

Onions – 4 medium sized fine chopped

Turmeric powder– 2 tea spoons

Kala Masala (Black masala) – 4 tablespoons. This is a Maharashtrian masala which is easily available in stores and mainly used for all non-veg curries.

Coconut Paste – 3-4 table spoons

Salt to Taste

Preparation:

Soak the cashewnuts in water for 8-10 hours (preferably overnight or in the morning if you plan to make the dish in the evening). Peel of the skin before making the dish. Split the cashewnuts from the top into 2 equal parts as shown

kajuchi bhaaji

Heat oil in pan, about 3-4 tablespoons and add finely chopped onions to it. Sauté till the onions are dark brown and the oil begins to ooze out from the sides.

kajuchi bhaaji

Add turmeric powder and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Then add the cashewnuts and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Then add the Kala Masala powder in the given proportion and salt to taste. Add  2 cups of boiling water and let the curry cook on medium flame.

While the onions are turning dark brown and the cashewnuts are getting cooked – prepare the coconut paste on the side as below.

Roast dry grated coconut – 1 cup till medium brown in a pan. Then dry roast 1 chopped onion and 1-2 garlic petals in a pan. Roast till the mixture turns light brown. Then grind all 3 ingredients into a thick paste. The paste should be smooth and you should not be able to feel the coconut particles. You can make this paste in bulk and the same is used in chicken/mutton gravies as well as various pulses commonly made in Marathi households.

kajuchi bhaaji

Once the cashewnuts are 3/4th cooked in the curry add the coconut paste (3-4 tablespoons) and let the mixture cook on low flame. Keep stirring the mixture every 10 minutes. Cashewnuts take a long time to cook – so let the gravy cook for half hour on low flame. Then check if the cashewnuts melt into the mouth, they should become really soft. Once you are sure they have, garnish the gravy with fresh coriander leaves fine chopped and served with Chapattis, Rotis or Naan or what we Maharashtrians love – Tandalachi Bhakri ( Rice Roti)

kajuchi bhaaji 1

Aug
10

Hasselback Potatoes

There are days at work when I’m completely drained out (and of late there have been too many much to my chagrin). The only thing that can get me refreshed is to cook up a good dish; and to my luck I chance upon recipes like this one shared on LifeHacker.

I did a bit of my own modification – I backed it for 30 minutes instead of 50 as mentioned in the link and at a temperature of 350 degree Celsius after having pre-heated the oven at 425 degree Celsius.

This one is very easy to make. Slice the potato as shown – try to make as thin slices as you can. The thinner the slices, the crispier they get at the ends. Grease the potato with olive oil (bare minimum), pepper and salt.

After 20 minutes of baking the potatoes -  I add some herbs such as parsley, rosemary and thyme. Not the fresh ones but the dried ones and sprinkled some parmesan cheese. Then baked the potatoes for another 10 minutes and the result was a scrumptious dinner for both of us given that these days I’m back to my light dinner diet.

hasselback potatoes

When I read up further on this recipe I found suggestions to add cheese slices, bacon etc to the potatoes and bake them. That is to be tried next time – I don’t eat bacon but am sure MDH would love to try it out.

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