Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lemon Poppy Seed Whipped Cream Cake

I was once conned into eating what I now know as the 'Whipped Cream Cake' by Rose Levy Beranbaum.


You see, there was this time a few years ago when I decided to go on a diet - nothing too drastic, all I was trying to do was stay away from desserts. 


"Come off your diet nonsense and have a small slice," my friend ordered at a coffee morning she was hosting. The cake looked very moist and had a tender crumb and my no dessert resolve was getting a little weak. "Oh and by the way, it doesn't have any oil or butter," she added. That clinched it. I happily dug into the cake.


"How did you manage such a moist cake without using any oil or butter?" I asked her, my curiosity thoroughly piqued.


"Oh, sweetie, but this cake uses fresh cream. 40% fat," she said very nonchalantly.


I could have strangled her, but settled for the recipe instead. Months passed and I eventually forgot about the cake till recently when I started seeing this cake all over my FB wall.






High time I made it myself, I thought. So, I pulled out the recipe and set to work.


But how does the 'lemon poppy seed' part come into the picture, you might wonder. It might sound a little silly but after having lived the past almost 9 years in countries that have banned poppy seeds, I had made up my mind that whenever I moved to a country where poppy seeds where sold in grocery stores, the first cake I would bake would have poppy seeds in it. (In fact, a packet of poppy seeds was one of the first things I purchased when we moved to Johannesburg). 


So that is how the Lemon Poppy Seed Whipped Cream Cake happened. 





Lemon Poppy Seed Whipped Cream Cake


Ingredients:

Heavy Cream : 1 ½ cups

(Rose recommends 40% fat for a more tender crumb, this cream is not readily available off supermarket shelves and needs to be procured from speciality stores/restaurants or bakeries; mine had 34%)


Eggs: 3 (150 gms)
Superfine sugar: 1 cup + 2 tbsps
Vanilla essence: 1 tsp


Cake flour:  2 ¼ cups (or 2 cups All purpose flour)
Baking powder: 2 tsps
Salt: ¾ tsp
Poppy seeds: 2 tbsps
Lemon zest: 1 tbsp


Oil: 1 1/2 tbsp, optional (I used oil to compensate for the lower fat % in the cream )
Lemon juice: 2 tsps


Method:

Pre-heat the oven at 375 deg F or 190 deg C ( 350 deg F or 150 deg C if using a dark pan) for 20 minutes.

Grease and dust a 10 cup metal fluted pan (I don't have one and used a bundt pan instead).

Whisk together the eggs and the vanilla essence until combined. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the poppy seeds and the lemon zest into the sifted flour, set aside.


Whip the cream till it thickens and forms stiff peaks.
With the beaters still running, pour the eggs mixture into the cream. The mixture will emulsify into a mayonnaise like consistency.


Next, beat the sugar into the mixture.


Fold the flour in 2 batches. Mix well until no streaks of flour are visible.


Finally, mix the oil and the lemon juice.


Bake for about 25-30 or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. (It took me about 40 minutes to bake the cake, but that could well be my oven).







For the lemon glaze:


Icing sugar: 1 ¼ cup
Lemon juice: 2 tbsps
Water: ½ tbsp


Mix together the icing sugar, lemon juice and water till smooth. Pour it over the cooled cake and let it rest until it sets, about 10 minutes.







Soft and moist, a slight crunch from the poppy seeds and a delicate lemony fragrance and taste, this is the perfect slice to have with your evening cup of tea. Enjoy!









Monday, November 21, 2011

Announcing Back to Basics: Basic Desserts

In my last post, I mentioned how blogging had made me stretch my boundaries in the kitchen and pushed me into making things that I would otherwise never have attempted before.


While that statement would largely refer to things such as baking bread, making the baklava, or kouign-amann, one of the things that blogging has made me do is revisit the simple, easy things that I had hitherto  not ever made at home. Things I always went into a grocery store and purchased. Things as easy as spice blends, butter and cheese, jams and sauces. I have now realised that making my own pantry staples is not just healthier but a lot cheaper too.



Back to Basics, started by Desi Soccer Mom, is an event that celebrates these very simple and basic cooking techniques. In its new form, the event now looks at a distinct theme every month.


Now, I've had these moments, I am sure you've had them too. That moment when you feel like having something sweet - mind you, it is not a craving for a dessert. Just that sweet something which would make your meal that much more satisfying. Sometimes, I simply mix in some jaggery with a bit of ghee and eat it with a roti. Sometimes,  I reach out for a bottle of strawberry preserve and smear it over a slice of bread. 


So, this month, let's look at quick and easy to make jams, jellies and preserves. That something which you can make and keep in your pantry and then eat when the craving strikes.


Here's what you need to do:


Post your recipe of an easy to make jam or jelly or preserve, then link it post to this post and to the Back to Basics event page.


Older posts qualify as long as they are linked to this event announcement and Jaya's event page.


If you don't have a blog, just email me your recipe for a favourite jam, jelly or preserve and I will include it in the round-up.



Send me your entries mentioning Back to Basics : Basic Sweets in the subject line on aquadaze(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com


Last date for sending your entries is December 20, 2011. I will post the round up in the first week of January.







Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kouign - Amann

Imagine this: a freshly baked loaf of bread. Close your eyes, take a deep breath. Inhale the aroma. Hmmm.....wonderful, isn't it? To my mind, there is no other culinary aroma quite as enticing as the aroma of a freshly baked loaf of bread.

Now, slather some butter on a slice. Oh, and sprinkle some sugar on it. Eat. There is nothing quite as satisfying as a slice of bread with some butter and sugar.

Or is there?

Meet the Kouign- Amann.



The what? Yes, I hear you, for I had pretty much the same reaction when I first heard about the Kouign - Amann.

“There is a new bakery close to you house,” my daughter’s paediatrician excitedly informed me during one of our visits to her clinic, “and  they sell the Kouign - Amann.”

“The what?” I asked her.

“Kweeneen Ahmann. It is a French bread. Lots of butter. Lots of sugar. Sinfully good. You'll love it!,” she told me, writing down the name of the said bakery and the bread.

Back home, I was googling away ‘Kouign Amann’ on the net.




Kouign-amann is a Breton cake. It is a round crusty cake, made with a dough akin to bread dough with sugar sprinkled between layers. The resulting cake is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough (resulting in the layered aspect of it) and the sugar caramelizes. The name derives from the Breton words for cake ("kouign") and butter ("amann"). Kouign-amann is a speciality of the town Douarnenez in Finistere, in the west of France, where it originated in 1865. (source: wikipedia)


The inimitable David Lebovitz has a recipe for Kouign Amann; why buy what you can make at home? So I rolled up my sleeves and got my fingers deep into the dough.

The first time, I followed his recipe to the letter. The second time, I used cinnamon sugar instead of caster sugar, which makes it a not so authentic Kouign Amann, but believe me when I say it, Kouign - Amann with cinnamon tastes heavenly, especially when had with a cup of strong, unsweetened black coffee.

The pictures, however, are from the first time and so you don’t see any cinnamon sugar in the pictures.



Ingredients:

Dried Yeast: 1 tbsp
Warm water: ¾ cup (I needed about a couple of tablespoons more)
All purpose flour: 2 cups
Sugar: 1 cup +1/3 cup
(to make cinnamon sugar, add 3 tbsp of powdered cinnamon to 1 cup of sugar)
SALTED Butter: 125 gms + 3 tbsps melted butter
Sea salt: 1/2 tsp


Method:

Cut the butter into cubes and let it chill.
Dissolve the yeast in a couple of tbsps of water with a tsp of sugar. Set aside till the yeast is foamy.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture and mix it into the flour.

Add the remaining water in a thin stream till the flour comes together into a soft but not sticky dough.  (If the dough feels too sticky, add some flour, a tbsp at a time. If too hard, add water, again a tbsp at a time. The second time, I needed to add some water).

Transfer the dough on a lightly dusted countertop and knead the dough till it feels soft and elastic and doesn't cling to your fingers or stick to the countertop.

Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover and let it rest for about an hour.

Lightly dust the countertop with some flour and roll the dough into a rectangle 12”x18” (the 12” side should be on your left and right, the top and bottom of the rectangle should be about 18” - mine was not as big, though I didn't measure the exact dimensions).

Place the butter cubes in the centre of the dough and sprinkle ¼ cup of the cinnamon sugar over the butter. Fold the left side of the dough over the centre of the dough, do so with the right end of the dough as well.



Now sprinkle ¼ cup of cinnamon sugar over the length of the folded dough and fold the dough once again into three.


Wrap the dough into a plastic wrap and chill for an hour. (I chilled mine for over 2 hours).

Wipe the counter top clean and then sprinkle it with 1/3 cup of PLAIN caster sugar. Slide the chilled dough on the sugar covered countertop and press ¼ cup cinnamon sugar into the top of the dough.

                  (drowned in sugar, my entry to Susan's Black and White Wednesday)

Roll the dough into a rectangle once again (of similar dimensions as before). I found the dough more difficult to work with at this stage and so I rolled it for a bit and then finally stretched it with my hands.

Fold it into thirds, wrap it in a cling wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for about an hour.
(the first time, I made three small loaves. If you wish to do the same, divide the dough into 3 at this stage).

Pre-heat the oven to 425 deg F or 220 deg C (I thought 200 deg C worked better, I thought my cakes were a bit dry when I baked them at 220 deg C) and butter a 9” pie plate.

Open the cling wrap and shape the chilled dough into a disc to fit your pie plate. Lift the cling wrap and invert it over the pie plate. Sprinkle the last ¼ cup of cinnamon sugar over the top and drizzle with 1 tbsp melted butter.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the top is caramelised. Let it rest for a couple of minutes, slide onto a wire rack and cool for about 10-15 minute.

Taste it. Melted butter oozing out and mingling with caramelised sugar…..oh, utter bliss. The Kouign-Amann has been Yeastspotted, hosted by Hefe and Mehr.




It is customary to post something sweet, something decadent especially when marking blog anniversaries. This Kouign- amann celebrates my third blog anniversary. It is a very special recipe to me, because had it not been for blogging, I would never have attempted making something that isn’t pronounced the way it is written! Blogging has made me stretch my own limits in the kitchen and how!

I know I am not as regular as I’d like to be in posting recipes or in responding to comments, but I want to thank each and everyone of you for visiting my blog over the last three years, leaving me your comments and trying out my recipes.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Indian Omelet


One of the best feedback I have ever received about myself was from a colleague who I have since lost touch with and who I have never been able to thank.


“If you don’t mind, I want to tell you something,” he told me, just as he was on his way out of the office on his last day at work.

“Sure,” I told him.  He worked in another department and I hadn’t interacted too much with him, so I really didn’t know what to expect. 

“You cannot take compliments,” he told me flatly. “I have been observing this for almost a year now. Every single time, someone compliments you, you make excuses for yourself. You may not realise it, but it is rather putting off, you know. Anyway, you take care,” he said, hurrying out of the door before I could even recover from what he had said and thank him.

Later that evening, I was at a small get together at a friend’s house. Lots of booze, different varieties of chips and enough packets of cigarettes – we were all set to have a great evening. The music blared and the conversation flowed.

However, my mind was far away, brooding over what the colleague had said.  Was that really true? Did I really have this habit of brushing off compliments? How long had been doing this, putting off friends and well wishers in the process, without even being aware of it? And how was I going to learn to accept compliments 'gracefully'?

Late into the night - it was almost dawn, actually -  we all wanted something more substantial than chips to eat. A quick search of the fridge revealed lots of eggs, some chillies and some wilted coriander leaves and I offered to make some omelets for everyone.




His mouth stuffed with a huge bite of omelet and bread, a friend declared that this was the best omelet he had ever eaten. I started to say that it was not him, but the alcohol talking (which, in all probability, was the case). I almost said that there was no big deal in making omelets, that anyone could make great omelets (which is very much the case). But I stopped myself and just mumbled a “thank you."

It wasn't difficult after all. I was learning, trying and starting to accept compliments gracefully.



Indian Omelet

This Indian version of the omelet almost makes eggs sexy! A generous dose of chillies, ginger and coriander leaves makes the eggs aromatic, and the onion adds a bit of sweetness and crunch.

Ingredients:

Eggs: 2
Onions: 1/2 small, or about 3 tbsps chopped
Chillies: 3-4, or as per your personal spice preference
Coriander leaves: 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Ginger: 1/3 tsp, chopped
Turmeric: 1/4 tsp
Milk: 1 tbsp
Salt, to taste
Butter or oil: 1 tbsp (I prefer butter as it browns the underside of the egg easily and quickly)


Method:

Whisk together the eggs and milk till the mixture almost doubles in volume.

(If you have the time, separate the whites, whisk them till frothy and doubled in volume. Mix together the yolks and milk and whisk together till smooth and then add it to the whites, whisk again for 2-3 mins. I almost never do this but it does make a very fluffy omelet).


Throw in the chopped onions, chillies, coriander leaves, ginger together into a bowl. Add the salt and turmeric powder and mix together with your fingers till the onions and the herbs start to release their juices. Add it to the beaten eggs.




In a non-stick frying pan, add the butter and once melted, spread it evenly all over the pan. Then pour the egg mixture into the pan. In about a minute, the eggs will start setting around the edges of the pan. Once that happens, turn down the heat to the lowest setting and cover the pan with a lid and cook the eggs for another 2-3 minutes or until they are completely set on the top.

(If you don't like to brown your eggs on the underside, cover the pan for about 2 minutes. Then flip the omelet over and cook uncovered for 1 minute).




When you make an Indian omelet, it is absolutely imperative to serve it with some tomato ketchup on the side. Everything else - grilled tomatoes, hash browns, even bread - is optional!



A few months ago, a Twitter conversation between @indianfoodrocks, @desisoccermom and @Soma_R about Indian Omelets led to posts on their respective blogs on how they make Indian Omelets. I am horribly late in posting mine, but I finally managed it. Here are the links to the other Indian Omelet posts:



Soma's Omelet

Omelet from Shulie’s Kitchen

Jaya’s Omelet

Sandeepa’s Omelet



Friday, October 7, 2011

Semiya Payasam



Growing up, I used to call semiya (or vermicelli, as it is known in English) 'worms'. Take a look at the picture -  the semiya strands do look like  (dried) worms, don't they?






So, much to my mom's dismay, I would never touch anything made of semiya. It was only when I was well into my teens and was forced to have it, out of courtesy, at a friend's place that I grew out of my rather brattish attitude to semiya.







Today, of all the payasams that I make - coconut milk payasam, rice payasam - semiya payasam reigns as  my favourite. A lot of it is, I think, to do with how easy and quick this payasam is to prepare. Toss the semiya in some ghee, simmer it milk, sweeten it, simmer some more and it is ready - in almost under 30 minutes.


It is no wonder then that semiya paysam features so often on my menu, especially on festive days.






Semiya Payasam


Ingredients:


Semiya/Vermicelli: 3/4 cup
Low Fat Milk: 2 cups
Low Fat Evaporated Milk: 1 tin/ 380 ml
Sugar: 1/2 cup (this amount works for us, adjust as per your taste buds)
Cardamom: 10 pods, crushed into a coarse powder
Assorted nuts (I use 1 tbsp each of almonds, cashewnuts and pistachios)
Ghee: 2 tbsps


Method:


Heat ghee in a wok and roast the vermicelli till it starts to change colour from translucent to white and brown. Keep tossing the vermicelli continuously around the wok, else it will burn.


Transfer the vermicelli into a colander and rinse it in warm water. This step is optional, but doing this will wash the ghee away and therefore, you won't have any ghee floating on top of the payasam. 


In a deep, thick bottomed pan, mix together low fat milk and the evaporated milk and bring to a boil. Add the vermicelli to the milk. The uncooked vermicelli will sink to the bottom of the pan and so, give it a good stir occasionally till the vermicelli softens and cooks. Once cooked, the vermicelli will plump up.


After the vermicelli cooks, add sugar, chopped nuts and the cardamom powder and let the payasam simmer on low heat for about 15-20 minutes.


Garnish with chopped pistachios and serve hot. I personally prefer to let the payasam rest for at least a couple of hours in order to let the flavours mingle.



Of Chalks and Chopsticks: September was being hosted here; unfortunately, I haven't had any time to work on my story. So, for very selfish reasons, I am going to extend the deadline to October 31st. If you, like me, haven't worked on yours yet, do it now!




Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: Scattered





The picture above was not meant to look the way it does. I put the semiya (vermicelli) into a paper bag, planning to click a pile of vermicelli in a bag. But before I could click, the bag toppled over scattering the semiya on the board. Too lazy to put it back into the bag, I took pictures of the scattered semiya instead.



This picture is off to Susan's brilliant culinary photo event, Black and White Wednesday.



Monday, September 26, 2011

Gajar Halwa/ Indian Carrot Pudding


Pick any Bollywood movie of the 70s or 8os and in all probability, the script would have a long-suffering mother who has battled poverty and other evils and injustices to raise a son on whom she has  pinned all her hopes. And whenever that prodigal/recalcitrant/obedient/law-abiding (choose any one – just take your pick) but dutiful and mother-worshipping (absolutely necessary and essential qualities) would return from his studies in a boarding school/ a spell in the jail/ deputation at work (again, take your pick), this long-suffering and sometimes ailing mother would make some ‘halwa’ for her beloved son.


So what is 'halwa'? Halwa is originally an Arabic word meaning a sweet confection. Typically, it is made of either flour or nuts or fruits or even vegetables cooked in copious amounts of butter or ghee and sweetened with either sugar, jaggery or honey.


From Argentina to Ukraine, different countries have their own versions of halwa; in India, the more popular ones are sooji ka halwa (semolina halwa), moong dal halwa, atte ka halwa (whole wheat flour halwa), doodhi halwa (bottle gourd halwa) and gajar halwa (carrot halwa).


Coming back to Bollywood movies and halwa, I don't recall any movie ever mentioning what halwa the mother cooked for her son but I had this firm belief that the said halwa was none other than gajar ka halwa.


Probably because gajar ka halwa was, and still is, my favourite halwa.






You need all of 6 ingredients to make gajar ka halwa: carrots, milk, sugar, ghee, raisins and cardamom powder.


Oh and I forgot to mention - you also need plenty of elbow grease. After all, the carrots need to be grated. Well, yes. You need grated carrots. No, there are no short-cuts(unless you have a food processor, of course).






Gajar Halwa/ Indian Style Carrot Pudding


Ingredients:


Grated carrots: 4 cups
Low fat evaporated milk: 2 cups
Fresh milk: ½ cup
Sugar: ½ cup (adjust the quantity as per your taste and the sweetness of the carrots. Normally, this amount works for us)
Raisins: 1 tbsp
Cardamom pods: 10, powdered
Ghee: 1/3 cup


Method:


Melt 2 tbsps of the ghee in a wok. Add in the carrots and sauté in the ghee till they start to change colour. Then, pour in the milk (both evaporated and fresh milk) and simmer the carrots in the milk, stirring occasionally, till the milk almost (but not completely) evaporates.


Add the sugar, cardamom powder and the raisins and stir constantly (at this stage, you need to continuously stir the halwa, else it will stick to the bottom of the pan) till all the liquid dries up and the halwa starts to come off the sides of the pan. Taste and adjust the sweetness as per your palate preference.


Finally, add the remaining ghee and stir briskly for a minute.




Garnish with slivered almonds or pistachios.


Most people like to have gajar ka halwa hot, but I love to have it chilled. Have it any which way you please, but remember, thinking of diets when digging into the halwa is absolutely forbidden!


Sending this to Raks who is hosting Nivedita's  Celebrate Sweets: Sweets/Desserts with Fruits and Vegetables


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tikshe Amshe (Spicy and Sour Curry)


Having moved out of Singapore, one of the things I miss most about the city is the wet market that I used to frequent - the Tekka Wet Market in Little India. Bursting with fruits, vegetables, herbs, meat and fish of almost every kind, a visit to the market would leave me feeling envigorated and energised.


















To me, the appeal of the market lay more in the experience - elbowing my way through the crowds, watching my step on the wet floor, chatting with the vendors, haggling on the price - just for the sake of it, sometimes sampling the fare....the entire experience of shopping there was magical!
Come to think of it, the sights and sounds of a bustling market can never be matched by the quiet and sometimes, antiseptic aisles in a supermarket.







  
                                                       fish heads*


Of course, the fact that I could find many things in the market that the more popular supermarkets didn't sell made the trip to the wet market even more worthwhile! One of the things that I would buy exclusively from Tekka was fish. Not only was it fresher and cheaper, the variety was mind boggling. And once I discovered Tikshe Amshe on Manisha's blog, my trips to the market became even more frequent. For, that was the only place where I could find the tongue - tickling mackerel.








Tikshe Amshe ( recipe from Indian Food Rocks)


Ideally, make tikshe amshe with bangda or mackerel. If you don't get mackerel, substitute with any other (oily) fish of your choice. The last time I made this, I used kingklip which was very nice too.


If you don't eat fish but the gravy appeals to you, substitute with boiled eggs or baby potatoes. If using potatoes, boil them till they are cooked but firm. Peel and cut into two. Heat oil in a pan and fry the potatoes till they are browned and crisp on one side. I regularly make this gravy with potatoes for my husband who is allergic to fish. I will always remain biased to fish, but believe me, tikshe amshe with potatoes is very delicious too.


The colour of the gravy will depend on the variety of dried chillies you use. Byagdi mirchi gives the gravy that beautiful and inviting fiery red colour. I got the fiery red colour you see in the pictures the first couple of times I made tikshe amshe but lately, the colour isn't quite what I'd like it to be, all thanks to the dried red chillies I am stuck with at the moment.






Ingredients

Mackarel - 4 nos
Dried red chillies -  20-25
Tamarind -  1 small ball, about the size of a small lemon
Sichuan peppercorns - 10-12 nos (original recipe uses 6-8 nos of tirphal)
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Grated coconut, optional - 1 tbsp
Garlic - 2 large cloves
Ginger - 1/2" piece
Curry leaves - 5-6 nos
Coconut oil - 2 tsps (or use any other cooking oil of your choice)
Coriander - for garnishing
Salt to taste



Method:


Soak the chillies in warm water for about 30 minutes to soften their skin.
Soak the tamarind in warm water for about 15 minutes and extract the pulp. Use very little water when soaking the tamarind in order to get a thick pulp.


Marinate the fish with the turmeric powder and a pinch of salt.


Coarsely crush the sichuan pepper and then soak them in 1/4 cup of water for about 15minutes.


Drain the chillies (don't throw away the water) and grind them together with the tamarind pulp, garlic cloves, ginger and grated coconut to get a smooth paste. Avoid using too much water; normally, the moisture from the grated coconut and the tamarind pulp should be enough.


Heat a tsp of oil in a wok and toss the marinated fish for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.


In the same wok, add another tsp of oil. When hot, add the curry leaves followed by the masala paste, salt and sichuan peppercorns alongwith the water they were soaking in. Also add the reserved water from the drained red chillies. Bring to a boil.


Add the fish and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, or until the fish is cooked.


Serve hot with steamed rice. This is a fiery and spicy gravy that is best washed down with some sol kadhi.



* Fish head curry is a very popular curry and is unique to Singapore. The origin of the dish is an ode to the multi cultural and multi ethnic country that Singapore is. Fish heads are not prized by Indians, but to the Chinese, they are a delicacy. An ingenuous cook made a South Indian style curry with the fish head and a culinary delicacy was created! The picture of the fish heads is my entry to Susan's culinary photo event, Black and White Wednesday.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: Cheers


Vodka with a splash of lime didn't appear in my last food fiction by accident. It is one of my favourite poison!





So tell me, what's yours?


This is off to Susan's Black and White Wednesday.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Of Chalks and Chopsticks: September

Sometimes, such things also happen.


I had, in fact, written this post a week back and then, horror of horrors, managed to delete it instead of some emails in my inbox that I was clearing! Moral of the story: don't do too many things together, especially when in a hurry! If you clicked on that link and came to nothing, my apologies.


Talking of stories, I have the pleasure of hosting our food fiction event, 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks' for September.


If you have been following this event over the last few months, you would know that the previous three months have had a picture as a cue around which the story had to be based.


However, instead of a picture cue, I have a couple of written cues for all of  you:
1. You have been invited for a dinner party by a person you barely know. Your host/hostess has a reputation for throwing some amazing parties and you are eagerly looking forward to the evening. You reach the given address but the house seems disturbingly quiet. With a lot of misgivings, you ring the doorbell..........


2. You are a tourist in another country and are on your way to your destination. However, somewhere on the road, you realise that you have lost your way. In the distance, you see a dim light illuminating a sign that says 'Tr vel  rs Inn'. You have been on the road for a long time and are tired, sleepy and hungry with no way of finding the right direction to your destination. You, therefore, decide to follow the road and spend the night in the inn.............


So there....now all you have to do is spin a yarn - an original one - using EITHER one of the two cues. It could either be based on a real incident or could be something competely imaginary. Explore any genre: humour, romance, mystery, paranormal etc.


And while you are at it, do keep in mind a few simple guidelines:

1. The story you write has to have some food - it doesn't have to be a recipe.

2. There is no word limit on the story you write, but it has to be written in one single post.

3. You can, obviously, rewrite the cues the way you want in your story. It would be nice, though, if you could highlight the cue you are using.

4. Posts written for this event CAN be shared with other events.



Post your story between now and Oct. 5th, link it to this post and mail it to me at: aquadaze(at)rediffmail(dot)com with the following details:

1. Name and URL of your blog

2. Title and URL of your story




Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lost Forever




January 4, 2005


A new year, some new beginnings. I have never been one to maintain a diary, but I want to record this new journey that I am embarking on -- the highs, the lows, the ups, the downs.

Ravi and I got married today! The ceremony was beautiful. I didn’t want a ritualistic wedding, but mama was right. There is something magical about the saat pheras!

Everything went off without a hitch, though I must admit, I was very nervous. Mama’s forgetfulness is legendary, but this morning, she forgot that it was THE wedding day! The poor dear - she has been working so hard planning the wedding over the last couple of weeks (and I can say it here, she almost made a mess with some of the arrangements) that I suspect she ran out of steam on D-day.

It is going to be difficult for her to manage without me – we have always been together, especially since papa passed away. The good part is Ravi and I have found an apartment that is just a few kms from hers.
Gosh! Already the house I grew up in and spent 27 years no longer seems ‘mine’!


January 4, 2006

Can’t believe that it is a year since Ravi and I got married! I had so many plans for this diary, but I have not written anything beyond the wedding day log. Got to set that right so I don’t forget the small, precious moments Ravi and I spend together!

Today, we had a small party at home – just family – at which Ravi and I got absolutely drunk! Luckily, MIL was quite amused. “It happens,” she said.
One thing was quite strange though. Mama couldn’t recognize Ravi’s parents! I am getting just a little worried about her forgetfulness.

I wonder if Mama is getting too lonely. I haven’t been the most ideal of daughters either – I should visit her more often. But then, Ravi and I love being with each other.

I discussed it with the GP and he feels that a change should do her good. Maybe, I should ask her to come and stay with us for a few weeks? That should cheer her up.


April 29, 2006


Mama has been staying with us for about a month now, and her behavior is starting to puzzle me. She forgot it was my birthday today! I remember how she would plan my birthday celebrations weeks, even months in advance – almost to the point of embarrassing me, especially in my teenage years. I had the fanciest of cakes – all homemade, so beautiful that my friends would beg me not to cut them.

Today, Ravi had to remind her to wish me.


October 5, 2006


Diwali – my favourite festival! I am not really a jewellery person, but I can’t help stare at the lovely bracelet Ravi presented me with.


Mama has invited us for lunch tomorrow. I think I’ll wear my new tussar sari. She always shakes her head in dismay when she sees me clad in my trousers and jacket. “Tch, tch,” she says, “you look so lovely in traditional clothes. At least make an effort sometimes!”


I am quite unlike her when it comes to dressing and grooming. Always immaculately dressed, not a hair out of place, smelling of jasmine – that is my Mama!


October 7, 2006


I am starting to get very concerned about Mama. First the food…..it tasted horrible. I hate to say it, but it did. The potatoes were burnt and the dal was half-cooked. It was as if she had never cooked in her life before. In the middle of the meal, she remembered that she hadn’t made anything sweet and decided to quickly whip up some semiya payasam. She, however, couldn’t locate the vermicelli – which, incidentally, was right in front of her.
She seemed to be in her element as she fried the vermicelli in the ghee. “Keep an eye on it always,” she said. “You don’t want it to burn.” She poured in some milk and let it bubble away till it reduced to half but if I hadn’t stopped her in the nick of time, she would have added a cup of salt instead of sugar to sweeten the payasam.

The house was in a mess. There was a time when she was a compulsive cleaner, now bathrooms stank and there was a layer of grime on the washbasins.


I am scared. What if she is seriously depressed and does something to herself? We decided that I would stay with Mama for a few days. Ravi also said he would try and locate a good doctor who can help us find what is ailing mama.


Ravi is such a darling. I wonder what I would have done without him. And to think, there was a time when I was hesitating to accept his proposal. I had really made him wait and grovel! Must make up to him soon and I think I know exactly how!


November 17, 2006


A terrible day! Work was awful. To top it, Ravi and I ended up having a tiff. He wanted me to come back home but I wanted to spend a few days more with mama.


When I returned home to Mama’s, I found my chargers missing. I always leave them plugged in to the power points and yet, I couldn’t find them anywhere. When I asked Mama, she looked at me as if I were talking gibberish.


At that point, I just gave up on the day and decided to fix myself a small drink. Vodka with a slice of lime sounded just right. Opened the fridge to get a lemon and there they were, both my chargers, lying in the vegetable crisper. I was shocked. Had mama put them there?


                                                       pic credit : Desi Soccer Mom

I had just put the vegetable tray on the counter-top to retrieve my chargers when mama let out a scream. “Snakes, snakes,” she shouted, her eyes staring straight at the cables coiled around some sundry fruits and veggies.


Something is very wrong with mama. I am worried. Really worried.


March 20, 2007


I am in denial. I can’t come to terms with the diagnosis. I have had Mama checked up by numerous specialists and their verdict is unanimous - Alzheimer’s disease.
Oh God, why me? And why her?


February 12, 2008


A few days ago, mama wandered off alone at night. Luckily, a neighbor saw her and brought her back home. It is increasingly clear that she is not going to be able to live alone anymore. I don’t want to send her to a care facility. I can’t abandon her like that. We have decided that she will come and stay with us.


April 23, 2009


This diary has been witness to many a sad entries. It’s about time I shared some happy news. Ravi and I have just discovered we are having a baby! I am over the moon…can’t wait to hold her in my arms. I can’t wait for someone to call me ‘mama’.


My mama, in the meantime, has continued to deteriorate steadily. These days, she seems more and more disoriented. Some days, she seems a little in touch with reality and for those, I am grateful.



August 1, 2011


I watch with a mixture of pride and pity.


My little girl is growing up fast and becoming more and more independent. My heart swelled with happiness today as I watched her eat a few spoonfuls of the khichdi on her own. Hopefully, in a few days, she will be fully toilet trained.


Mama, on the other hand, struggles to eat. The food dribbles down from the sides of her mouth and onto her bib. I try to help her, but she pushes my hands away. She manages to put in few spoonfuls into her mouth but chokes over the khichdi that I have so carefully mashed. A faint odour of urine and disinfectant emanates from her body. The ailment has robbed her not just of her memory and identity, it has also stripped her of dignity.


I am reaching the end of my endurance. Watching my mother and my daughter together, one progressing, the other regressing, is taking an emotional toll on me.


August 10, 2011

We finally sent mama to a care facility today. It hasn’t been an easy decision. I was worried that mama would protest at being moved away from home. I had hoped that she would protest.


But as we neared the care facility, it became clear that mama had no sense of what was happening.
I could hardly keep my tears in check. As we walked her to the reception, I hung back. Suddenly, she turned around. My heart soared. Maybe, she will give me a hug, I thought.


“Are you looking for something?” she asked in a slow, halting voice.

“No,” I told her. Taking a deep breath, I walked next to her, not wanting to leave her side till she was settled in her room.


Yes, I wanted to tell her. I am looking for my mama. She is right here in front of me and yet I’ve lost her, forever.


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This is my entry to 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks' that Jaya is hosting this month. The picture above is the visual cue she gave us.
Jaya, thank you very much for your feedback and your help in editing the story.

Some stories are easy to write, some others not aren't. This story made me step out of my comfort zone in more ways than one. Firstly, I chose to do the narrative in a diary entry style. Secondly, the story - line itself made me a little uncomfortable - writing in first person about a mother's ailment was very difficult. Finally, the subject - Alzheimer's disease - is not something I know too much about (or want to know too much about - if you know what I mean). Though I have tried to cross-check the stages and the symptoms of the progress of the disease, it is quite possible that some errors have crept in. I do hope you will ignore these.


Just one thing - if you have read so far, don't just be a silent reader! Leave me a comment. I don't ususally solicit comments on my blog, but this time, I would sincerely appreciate all feadback.  




Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Black And White Wednesday: The Very Last Drop







Susan, my daughter would like to thank you for starting Black and White Wednesday. Why? Well, a few days ago, I was taking pictures for this post. The daughter was sitting next to me, eating some ice cream. She then put the bowl to her mouth to lick the bowl clean. Quickly, I took a picture of her licking the bowl.


Then, as I was reviewing the picture, I realised that it would look much nicer if taken in B&W (yes, of course I had Black and White Wednesday on my mind). So, I called her and offered to scoop her some more ice cream. She was a little surprised as I never volunteer second helpings of ice cream unless she asks for it. But I had pictures to click!


So she had some more ice cream and I had my B & W picture!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Indian Espresso Coffee

Once upon a time, there was a young woman….. .


It was the drum roll of thunder that made her put the book down and look outside the window. In the horizon, she could see dark clouds gathering. Rain looked imminent.


She picked up her coffee mug; there was about a quarter of a mug left, but it had gone absolutely cold. She hated drinking coffee that had gone cold.


S*#^, I’ll have to get up and make another one, she sighed.


It would be her third cup in almost two hours – she was getting addicted to drinking coffee – but then, she needed the coffee, especially when she had a book review deadline to meet. Some books went on and on and coffee helped her wade through the pages. A few months ago, it had been cigarettes.
Somewhere, she had read that drinking too much coffee wasn’t good for you and she had been drinking quite a few.


Any day better than smoking cigarettes, she told herself, as she spooned the coffee granules and the sugar into a mug and started beating them with a few drops of milk.


By the time she returned to her rocking chair with the coffee, the wind had picked up, bringing with it the earthy smell of wet mud. On the terrace below her apartment, she spotted Mrs. Joshi collect the papads she had left out in the sun. In the balcony opposite her window, she saw the maid hurriedly gather the clothes left to dry out on the clothes line. The people on the streets too were casting anxious glances toward the rapidly darkening sky and hurrying along.



This was the reason she loved reading by the window. The large French window not only let light in through the day and served as a work desk of sorts, it also afforded her a great view. The scenes of real life on the streets below and around her often offered a welcome respite from the monotony of reading printed words of different sizes.



Get on with the book, she commanded herself. Only 97 pages left, hopefully I should be through with it by 7.


Within minutes, it had started raining in sheets. The wind had changed direction and a fine mist of raindrops started coming in on her face through the open window. She hurriedly shut her book, put it on the window sill and placed her mug right on top of the book, and closed the window.




                                          pic credit: BongMom's Cook Book


How can you treat your books so shabbily, as if they were coasters, he would have said. And what is with this closing of the window? A beautiful shower is meant to be enjoyed. Come lets go for a walk in the rain, he would have insisted.


Mohit. Much like a pebble stuck in the sole of a shoe that you want to but cannot get rid of, Mohit was ever present in her thoughts. She had walked out of his life almost a year ago, but every single time she did or didn’t do something, she was keenly conscious of what he would have said or done.


Please God, make him call me, she would pray. Many a times, she wondered if she should swallow her pride and ego and write to him instead. But she every time she started to write to him, his words came back to her.


Just get the f*#% out of my life. I don’t want to see you again, he had said.


Her mailbox was brimming with mails written to him but never sent; she had decided that she wasn't going to be the one to take the first step.


Call me Mohit, call me. I will come back to you in a heartbeat. Just call me once, she pleaded fervently, opening the window and letting the mist of raindrops wet her face.



………and a young man……..


Thousands of miles away and in the land of the Big Apple, Mohit woke up with a start. It took him a moment to realize that she wasn’t really there with him and that he had dreamt of her, again. He saw her very often in his dreams but this dream seemed so real that he felt as if she was there, right next to him.


After tossing and turning on the bed for a while, he realized that there was no point in trying to sleep again. He lit a cigarette and walked into the kitchen, mixed the coffee granules, sugar and milk together in a mug and blitzed it in the microwave. Even as he did so, he could feel her shake her head in disapproval.


Tch, tch, tch....That is no way to make coffee.. You need to beat it and beat it well. Bring out its flavor.


He could picture her even now, her night suit clinging to her body, her hair short, tousled hair and the complete concentration on her face as she beat the coffee. She was passionate about her ‘one cuppa a day’ and was very particular about how it was made. When the milk came to a simmer, she would add a couple of crushed cardamoms to it and then pour it on the beaten coffee.



Smell it first, she would command. Take in the aroma. Then sip it. Nice, isn’t it? Now that is the way to make and drink coffee.


The microwave’s loud beeps pulled him out of his reverie. As he sipped the tasteless coffee, he wished, once again, that he had never uttered those words. Or at least apologized soon after. Or begged her to come back. But he had done nothing of the sort, forever and, a little arrogantly, hoping that she would call him. She hadn’t and he couldn’t fault her for it.


Like many times before, he contemplated giving her a call. It was a number that was etched on his mind and he punched in each digit with deliberation, but paused before he hit the dial key.


What if she doesn’t take my call? What if she tells me to get lost? What if, horror of horrors, she has found someone else?


And so he went cancel,cancel, cancel on the phone till he had erased each digit of her number.


I am waiting for you to call me, he said,staring into empty space. Call me once and I will be there with you in a jiffy.


…..They were both in love with each other and yet, neither wanted take the first step towards reconciliation. And so, they carried on with their lives hoping and praying that the other one would call. Like they say, sometimes love is just not enough.....



BongMom was hosting Of Chalks and Chopsticks for July, the picture above was the cue she gave us this month around which to spin a yarn.


The moment I saw her picture, I thought of the Pink Floyd song Echoes; this one line kept playing in mind over and over again - So I throw the windows wide and call to you across the sky. That then, has been the huge inspiration for this story.



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Indian Espresso Coffee


I didn't even know it was called "Indian Espresso" until a few years ago. I had always known and called it "beaten coffee". And that's what you need to do to make a cuppa. Beat the coffee and sugar together till it is creamy and frothy.


Here's how you make beaten coffee a.k.a Indian Espresso:


Take a mug, add (instant) coffee granules and sugar to it - according to your personal preference, add a few drops of water/milk. The mixture should ressemble wet sand. Using a spoon or an electric beater, start beating the coffee and sugar. Add a few more drops of water if the mixture is too dry, but add the water only a few drops at a time.




It needs elbow grease.....after a few minutes of continuous beating, the coffee will look pale, thick and creamy, like so:




Pour steaming hot milk (I add a couple of crushed cardamoms to my coffee - but this is completely optional) till the mug is half full and stir well. Then pour the remaining milk. Refrain from stirring too much or it will lose the bubbly, frothy look.




Sip it slowly, savouring the aroma and the robust flavour of coffee. Enjoy!

It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!

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