sunbeams and sugardrops

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

I’ve recently moved to a new-old place. Very familiar from months spent in a happy surrender to self-discovery. And new because now I live here. Am no longer as transient as I thought and now have to be grounded in this place…be mundane when called for, responsible, real. And yet, I feel unhinged. Like I’ve been thrown in to the deep end without a lifesaver. And now I have to remember I knew how to swim. Quite well even. And loved it not too long ago. The strokes reminded me of my strength and ability and gave me pleasure. It’s a vague memory that I need to relearn and touch and hold again. Soon.

There is a world of things that need to be done. Inside and out. To who I am, what I do, where I live. So instead of what I usually do which is worry and then overcompensate by being utterly relaxed, this time I’m going to try this. Just simply doing. And doing another thing. And then doing it again. One step after another.

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(c) thebigdurian

Sometimes, especially when the skies are like lead and the rain just won’t let up, or other times when it feels like winter inside you, a shot of hot, dark, delicious chocolate sets the world in order. As the warmth pools in your stomach and begins to slowly radiate through to your fingertips, on its way warming your heart and un-furrowing that brow,  this is love and warmth and a hug in a mug.

And it tastes darned good too. Good enough that you really shouldn’t save it for a rainy day. Hot chocolate needs to be shared – on cozy evenings in, days spent planning a project, sharing nervous revelations, exhilarating secrets, tentative self-discovery, a reward at the end of a really hard piece of thinking, or a quiet moment to kickstart your mind. Really when is NOT the right moment for a cup of hot chocolate!

The point I’m making is this. Hot chocolate needs to be had. And man I had a good cup made for me a while back I just can’t get off my mind.

Now there is no one way to make it but to make it good, you’ve got to start with good things. Good chocolate, real milk and not water…really! And just a little care. This cup I’m talking about was actually a mug filled with about 20g of good chocolate, 2-3 pieces. I like my cocoa dark so I would use a dark, semi sweet chocolate. (Another version I liked used one mini Mr.Goodbar and a mini dark Hershey’s piece). And god as I write this, I think I’m going to try my hot chocolate with a splash of gran marnier tonight!

The chocolate was then melted. In a Microwave which isn’t romantic but it’s easy and quick. So choose what you’re feeling and go with stove-top or microwave accordingly. No one needs to know. Now this next bit is key. The chocolate was whisked! A pinch of salt was added and whisked in with that melted chocolate. Warm milk was poured over the chocolate and then whisked some more.  Because the cup lost some of its heat, another 30 seconds in the microwave warmed it up perfectly.  I’d top it off with a dash of cream if the mood demands it but my god that cup was good to go. Frothy, deep cocoa flavor, salt just making it lovely and satisfying.

Now I know I’ve just gone on and on about hot chocolate which is beyond simple to make and not the least bit insightful for most but really, me, a passionate lover of chocolate,  I had no clue how to do this. All my previous hot cocoa attempts were either too wimpy or far too rich to be anything but sinful. This cup was almost wholesome!

It’s that time of the year when even in Bombay, wintry feelings start to envelope you and ideas of roaring fireplaces and cozy razais start floating around in your head. So, with images of Christmas and holiday planning and Christmas carols everywhere, I think a few cups of hot chocolate are definitely called for.

YouTube – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Summertime


Except it really isn’t that easy. Bombay feels like the hottest it’s ever been – can’t go 20 minutes these days without a drink of cold water to stay sane. Can’t go 5 minutes out in the open without feeling like your skin is melting.

I remember another hot summer many years ago when we were making our way to Jodhpur and our flight was meant to make a stop in Jaipur before continuing on. But it got cancelled mid-way, leaving us stranded in a strange town.

During this memorable summer vacation where temperatures hit 49°C, my beautiful young mother with my baby brother and a pre-teen me in tow had to find a way to get to Jodhpur from Jaipur before dark and the whole thing felt a bit like an adventure, a little scary, a bit of the thrill of the unknown, but most of all – HOT! The only way to get to Jodhpur turned out to be a beat up old, un-air-conditioned Ambassador taxi with the curtains at the windows our only feeble defence against heat and dust.

We made our arduous way to Jodhpur, the 3 of us piled in the back of the Ambassador and to make things extra uncomfortable, in the interest of modesty my mother made me wear a shirt under my sleeveless dress and I remember feeling like I was being tortured. Like I was being wrapped in foil to be left out in the sun to roast.

This journey was, in short, the most uncomfortably hot hours I’ve ever spent anywhere – parched, too many thick layers of clothing, no sleep and never ending!

This memory was very fresh last weekend as Bombay boiled over and my Thar Desert roots gave me a special appreciation for the cool comfort of air-conditioning and the need to stay hydrated.

So, in order to keep the dehydration at bay we’ve been eating fresh, crunchy salads or just plain fruit for dinner most nights. Now I’m not really a salad girl but it’s been a fun month of discovery and I loved what I did one night with a fresh pear, some grapes and cheese.

Fresh Pear Salad – Serves 2 for a very light dinner

1 fresh, crunchy pear sliced thinly

1/2 a small head of lettuce, roughly torn

Thin slices of Gouda or probably any cheese you have on hand

Handful of juicy, sweet and plump grapes, quartered

Vinaigrette:

2 slender spring onions, just the whites, minced

1 or 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Toss all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Pour dressing over salad and toss well.

And dig into the freshest, coolest, crunchiest salad that sings when the little grape pieces yield their sweet, cool juices in your mouth.

Cocoa OD

Over the last week I had baked and done my share in polishing off a lemon cheesecake and a banana loaf cake. Needless to say, the effects showed. I found myself looking in the mirror this Saturday morning and couldn’t help but notice that my cheeks looked rosier and fuller. While that description is lovely if you’re a 7 year old girl in an Enid Blyton book, it has rather the opposite effect in a girl of 27 (ok almost 28). So I wondered how all those food bloggers manage, what with all the delicious things they are constantly cooking up. And I promised myself that I wouldn’t bake again for at least 2 weeks. And I kept my promise too – technically.

A and I spent Sunday at his parents’ place and within 15 minutes of arriving, my sister-in-law and I were shortlisting cupcake AND cookie recipes. We figured since we were spending the day together, we’d make the most of it and be each others assistant. SO, we made Martha Stewarts one-bowl-chocolate-cupcakes with chocolate frosting AND Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace cookies via SmittenKitchen’s Deb.

I used my mom’s frosting recipe because I specifically asked her for it and it’s a recipe that I have licked out of bowls for many many many years. So many birthday cakes my mom made for us and for other kids had some variation of this frosting and it always tasted delicious and I ALWAYS got her to ‘test’ the shapes on my hand (I’m very helpful like that). And of course I always helped with the ‘cleaning’ of the bowls. Especially the chocolate version…the taste of that is sort of imprinted in my DNA now. I dream about her birthday cakes with her beautiful buttery frosting….oh but I digress.

I think I might have messed up the frosting – it was more sugary and less chocolatey than I wanted. But A liked it and I liked it the next day out of the fridge too. So I will stand by my love for this special frosting (the recipe for which is at the end of post).

The cupcakes weren’t spectacular but they were still satisfying. We’ll have to try out many other recipes which will be oh so difficult but it’s a sacrifice we will make in the hunt for the perfect cupcake. And the cookies were hard to cut so they weren’t nearly as neat as the ones on SmittenKitchen. But I felt good (though a little sugared up to be honest) by the end of that day. It was a day well spent. I made my first dainty little cupcake with pretty frosting. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but lack of time and equipment have gotten in the way. And I made those amazing cookies that turned out exactly as tasty as Deb promised BUT since we halved the recipe there were far too few and they are all gone now. They were good cookies and will be fondly remembered.

But oh… by the end of the day the smell of cocoa had taken up residence on me and in my nostrils and I couldn’t look another cookie in the face. After just one cupcake, I started to feel a chocolate OD coming on. I suspect that might have been the result of the non stop licking…I mean cleaning up!! involved in the cupcake frosting process.

Still…not a bad way to spend a weekend 🙂

Click here for the recipe

My brother & IMusic is a big part of our lives and most of us grow up listening to a great variety of music introduced to us by parents, grand parents, cool uncles and as we grow older, our friends.  As my parents were hardly exposed to western music before we were born, my brother and I grew up exclusively on Hindi film music and more significantly on Pop music.

Of all my childhood musical memories, Michael Jackson and Madonna are the strongest. And even since then, even after being exposed to a much wider world of music, these 2 artists and their music from my childhood have remained enduringly strong in my heart. Every single time I have gone out dancing, I never feel as ecstatic as I do when Like a Prayer comes on. I sing out loud and I dance the way one is meant to dance, by losing yourself in the music.

My memories of Michael Jackson’s music are so inextricably linked with my memories of my baby brother that I have been finding it hard not to get choked up today. The first of his songs that I remember are from Bad when I was 6 and my brother was 4. I doubt he remembers any of this but we used to play this cassette tape on a little cassette player and sing along and we knew all the words and didn’t have a clue what a lot of them meant. I even have a vague memory of watching Moonwalker and being thrilled by the Smooth Criminal sequence.

As we grew older, our tastes in music diverged wildly but somehow, Michael Jackson remained a shared pleasure. My brother and I had grown apart when I went off to boarding school for about 4 years. Because he was just 6 when I left, he hardly had any memory of me when I moved back. I was like this almost-stranger person that he was supposed to love and be friends with.  Eventually we became really good friends again.

One of my favorite memories is of us going to school together on a grey and windy day and singing along to Man in the Mirror playing on our car stereo.
It’s a grey and windy day today and I miss my little brother and I know he’ll agree with me when I say that we’ve lost a little piece of our childhood today.

I hope everyone remembers the magic of Michael Jackson’s music for a long time to come.

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While the parched city waited for the weather to change, my body decided it wasn’t up to it. So while I coped with the flu and whined at A (The bum I’m married to) to my heart’s content, I also thought I’d make myself a really easy, and what I had hoped would be comforting, cake.

Since I’d been putting off eating some bananas for about 5 days, they’d started growing that mottled brown that usually means the bin. But this time, they were spared their sad fate. They came together with my desire for a warm gastronomic hug in the form of a delicious banana walnut loaf cake that was so easy to put together, even for a sick person.

And I found the perfect time to make it in…The silly T20 world cup finals which I was completely sick to death of courtesy A again (who watches pretty much all cricket and blogs about it rather well at outsideedge.wordpress.com) In any case…boring cricket = alone-time for both of us.

And that is when this warm banana cake took shape.

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Moist Banana Cake

2 cups flour

1 cup soft brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp Baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2/3 cup oil

3 eggs

3-4 over ripe bananas

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

2 tsp raisins

Pre-heat oven to 160°C (325°F). Prepare an 8” or 9” round cake tin or a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Add sifted flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and beat together till crumbly. Add the eggs and beat together till combined.

Meanwhile mash the bananas in a food processer, with a masher, with a fork – anything you like. I used a fork and made it pretty smushy. Throw in the chopped walnuts and raisins. Add this to the flour, oil, egg mix and beat till combined. Don’t worry too much about lumps.

Pour into your prepared tin and bake for an hour or until a skewer in the middle comes out clean. Let it cool in the pan for a while then turn it out on to a plate and let it cool further.

Or dig in when you please.

The loaf was wiped out in 3 days flat. We had it for breakfast, dessert after dinner, after-work snack. But we’re not all bad. I dropped off about half the cake at my mother-in-law’s place where it was rather well received. Even my sister-in-law and her anti-banana sentiments were pleasantly surprised by this winsome little thing.

The picture there is pretty much exactly how my cake looked – except the walnuts on top and the foil. Which brings me rather abruptly to my next point. Until I get better at taking pictures, I’m going to have to use images I find on the lovely internet. But I don’t know how I’m supposed to go about it. I definitely don’t want to seem like I’m stealing. I want to give credit for pictures I use, or ask permission for them before I use them. Or use pictures that no body minds my using without asking or telling. If anyone at all has tips on this, it would be brilliant.

Until then, this picture is a royalty-free image downloaded from Getty images where I couldn’t find any restrictions on downloading and using so I did and I am.

Good food, lots of laughs, a little alcohol, a sunny day and jazz – That’s my idea of a perfect Sunday.

Or one of my many ideas for a Sunday.

A rainy day spent indoors, snuggling on the sofa, reading, watching movies and baking….

A hot day spent shopping, finding the perfect bargains on the streets, a big salad and an ice cold cherry soda to cool off with…..

I’m in office on a bleak Wednesday morning dreaming about all the wonderful things I could be doing if it was a Sunday. Even the dull grey skies would look pretty on a Sunday because there would be that one beam of sunlight peaking out from behind the clouds falling just right on a lush green tree…and there you have it. A perfect Sunday feeling.

I want this blog to be about all the things that give me that blissed out, sunny feeling of a perfect, well-earned & well-spent weekend.  And I hope that I’m actually able to stick to that plan…

Here’s to shiny, happy weekends!


Sugar Droplets