The rains are here and I have been busy writing poems. Some are about my travels and some others are in collaboration with a very fine writer/poet. This is a project very close to my heart.
Meanwhile, a very good friend Health Writer, Columnist and Weight Management Consultant Kavita Devgan recommended me to be interviewed by We Are The City – India and I am stoked to be featured here .
You can read the interview HERE
Thanks Kavita nad Ashish for this opportunity.
In another news, some very precious poems from the Delhi Series found home in the August issue of prestigious Asian Signature – An international English Literary Journal. . The poems are part of ‘Contemporary Poets‘ section.
Thank you Surabhi Bhattacharjee for providing this platform to me.
Here is an excerpt from one of the poems :
“Dargah – Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia
Love and faith light up the dense tangle of streets
that lead to the dargah of mehboob –e – ilahi,
and the tomb of his beloved disciple Khusro,
garbed in rose petals, attars, offerings
and a heady whiff of spiced kebabs,
lost words float across the treetops,
arches, patios and tombs, sometimes,
quietly they nestle in an empty nest
or whirl down onto the marbled floor
in an aerial dance—like dervishes……. “
Read the rest and the other poems HERE
Two more poems are accepted in a very good magazine. I will post the link soon. Till then, keep reading and don’t forget to share your views with me. Do follow the Blog FB page for other updates. .
The sun drips from our tin roof.
The white wall of our house
absorbs the old apple tree’s shadow,
turning it into a wonder.
Your bicycle rests below fiery Chinars.
In the kitchen a stove burns,
on the table an old copper samovar,
the lingering aroma of kahwa,
translucent sugar, local breads, pickles
raisins and walnuts, all wait.
Two low wooden stools, a bench
and copperware gleaming in the sun.
Half burnt incense on a silver plate,
In a nearby room, tapestry cushions,
rugs, kangris and hand woven shawls.
Photographs of us posing, silverware,
a curio cabinet, on its top a cigarette case.
Neatly arranged on the dressing table,
silver jewellery, a comb, a kohl stick,
and a walnut box waiting to be filled.
Jasmine floats in a crystal bowl
next to the bed, a quilt is folded neatly,
a pair of slippers on the floor, musty books
on shelves. On the wall a calendar,
a notepad hanging next to it.
On the rose and green shaded porch,
a paddle loom dressed for work.
On the steps I wait, as I do every day—
my belly swollen, a lotus bud in my hair—
for your return to make this house a home.
First published in Open Road Review .
Pic credit -My son Shubhang Dogra
Monsoon is here in Delhi and the last of the mangoes have flooded the market. I found vendors selling them at a very low price. The small dasheri is a delicious variety we get in North India. Sweet, fragrant, juicy and full of flesh. The pit/stone/seed inside the fruit is very thin. I prefer it to the bigger variety of dasheri. One can simply massage the fruit between palms and cut a tiny opening at the stem end the n suck the juicy flesh straight away, rolling and sqeezing it till every bit is finished. Then take out the pit and suck it clean.😀
That’s the best way to to have mangoes.
I find it sacrilege to cook some of the fruits. They need to be consumed as fruits. Figs, leechee, mangoes are a few of them but this batch of mangoes had some very overripe ones and so I decided to make a little quantity of Jam. I don’t eat commercial bread these days but home made preserves can be used in many ways. I use them for filling, as topping or spread.
Usually I mix a few varieties while making Jam. Also, I prefer to choose a combination of overripe and fully rip but firm mangoes when making chunky version. It makes the jam rich in flavor and texture. I use no artificial pectin or preservatives.
This is the simplest way to make mango jam.
Ripe, juicy mangoes – 4 medium size
Lemon Juice – Of 1/2 a lemon
Lemon Zest – 1 teaspoon (optional)
Minced Fresh Ginger / Fresh Ginger Juice – 1 teaspoon (optional)
Sugar – According to the sweetness of the mango ( I used 2 heaped tablespoons)
Red chili Powder – 2 pinches ( optional)
Wash, peel and chop mangoes. Squeeze and gently massage the pit / seed / stone to recover all the flesh and juice.
Place a plate and spoon in the freezer for plate test later on.
In a thick bottom pan add mango pieces, sugar , lemon zest, minced ginger, red chili flakes or powder if using ( you can use cayenne pepper also, it tastes yum) and the lemon juice.
Cook these on a high flame , stirring continuously till the sugar melts.
Turn down the heat to medium low now and let the mixture simmer.
I like my jams with fruit pieces but if you prefer smooth jam you can either puree the mangoes or mash the pulp with a masher or back of the ladle.
Keep stirring the mixture as it thickens. It may take about 10 minutes or so. Test for sugar and add more if you like it sweet, I prefer to retain the natural sweetness.
As the mixture cooks it will start to leave the sides. Keep a check on the consistency as you won’t want to overcook it. The mixture at this stage should have a rich deep color an a glossy texture.
Do the plate test at this point.
Remove the pan from heat to avoid over cooking.
Drop some mixture on a chilled plate and give a slight nudge with your finger, if the mixture should give away a little but shouldn’t be runny. If that’s the case then the jam is done. I invert the plate usually to check. Mixture shouldn’t fall off.
If the mixture is runny , cook a bit more till it gets to the desired consistency.
Once the gorgeous fragrant jam is done, spoon it in clean airtight container and let it cool on the counter completely before putting it in the fridge.
I make small amounts so keep them out for daily consumption.
This jam usually stays good for at least a fortnight in the fridge.
You can spice it up with all spice or star anise or cinnamon but I prefer the natural flavor of the mango, ginger and lime.
Enjoy this dose of summer sunshine with any thing of your choice. I spooned it over a cracker and devoured it with strong black coffee.
PS – You can cut thin strips of lemon peel and add if you wish to convert the recipe to a marmalade. I love that version too but I don’t use it with very sweet fragrant mangoes.
I love anything with caramel and creme caramel is one of my favorite desserts. The other thing I can have any time any day is bead pudding. I make both these things regularly esp the bread pudding and keep innovating the basic recipe. I have made steamed pudding too and a quicker version for instant cravings but this cheese cake like caramelized bread pudding took me to heaven and back.
While looking for something on my favorite Better Butter website I cam across the recipe for this pudding by Sharon Dcosta and the picture held me captive. I instantly decided to make it. She had used ladi pav and we don’t get them in Delhi so the usual white bread or some other sliced bread / loaf was my option.
Now, I had to tweak her original recipe. She had suggested 18-20 slices but my gut feeling said it would be too much for a 5 inch baking tin so I reduced it to 12 and still I needed two tins so you will need to adjust the proportions for one 5″ tin or take a bigger tin which fits in your steamer or pressure cooker. You can pour the mixture in individual ramekins too.
For a single 5 inch tin i think 6 slices and 1 1/2 cup of milk + one egg should suffice but I have not tried it. For eggless version my friends use cornstarch / custard powder but again I have not tried it.
I made one simple plain pudding and one with brandy soaked raisins and mashed banana. Both were the best things one could have as desserts.
The dark caramel the soft smooth textured cheesecake like pudding the flavor of brandy and banana in one and nutmeg in the other was delicious. I do not use vanilla much as I like the natural flavors of the dish.
Here is how I made the two.
Bread Slices – 12
Egg – 1
Full Fat Milk 750 ml or 3 cups
Cinnamon Powder – 1/4 teaspoon
Salt- 1/2 teaspoon
Brandy / dark rum – 1 tablespoon
Raisins – A handful ( about 10-15
Over ripe Banana – 1 medium
Sugar 4 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons
Round aluminium cake tin or pressure cooker separators
Caramelized Bread pudding with Cinnamon
Collect all the ingredients on the counter and soak the raisins in the brandy if using and set aside. You can soak them in water too if alcohol isn’t your choice.
In a large mixing bowl pour milk .
Beat the egg and add to the milk. Mix well.
Add 4 tablespoons of sugar and stir properly. You can increase the amount if you like more sweet. I prefer mildly sweet.
Caramel – If you are making caramel for the first time don’t use the dry sugar method but use the wet one. Also, don’t make it directly in the tin you will be using for baking.. just in case it burns…
In a small thick bottom pan add the rest of the sugar and water to make the caramel. I add a little salt ( 0.6 ml spoon or 3-4 pinches) to it for a contrast flavor. Keep the heat medium and once the sugar melts keep playing with the heat from low to medium as the color changes to light brown to dark. Keep it on lower side and DO NOT stir just swirl the pan if you need to.
Once the caramel is deeper color our it into the baking tin of 5 ” or whichever you are using and swirl it so that the entire base it properly covered. It will begin to set quickly so do these steps quickly. Let it set properly or it will mix in the pudding mixture. Do it with both pans if making two puddings. Keep aside.
Tear the bread slices into small pieces and dip in the milk egg mixture. I keep the thick first slice + the crusts but you can omit. I feel they give a great texture to the pudding cheese cake.
Soak the pieces properly and let it stand for about 20 – 30 minutes.
Now, mash the soaked bread pieces with a masher or back of a ladel ( I do with fingers) and then put the mixture in the blender and blend into a smooth mix. No lumps should remain. Blending a mashed mixture will ensure a smooth mix.
Pour half of this mixture in the pan but keep some space so that the pudding can rise.
Mix raisins and properly mashed banana in the rest of the mixture and pour it in the other tin for the brandy soaked raisins and mashed banana caramelized bread pudding.
Cover the baking tins with lids or aluminium foil. Keep a stone on lid so that the water doesn’t go in. Tightly covered bin with aluminium foil works well.
In a pressure cooker or steamer add water up to one inch at least and keep the baking tin in it.
Cook on high heat till three / four whistles and then 10-15 min on low heat. The heat will depend on your utensils and cooker size / steamer etc. I check after 3 whistles and 10 min on low. If the knif comes out clean from the center it is done.
Once done remove it on the counter carefully and let it cool completely. You can unmold it at this stage by sliding a sharp knife along the edge of the baking tin to loosen the pudding or tap it with the heal of your palm a few times. Keep a serving plate on top and invert. The pudding will release nicely on the plate. You can serve it right away at room temperature or chilled.
I keep the covered tin in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours and then remove lid / foil and unmold. Then chill it again for some time before using.
The rich deep caramel on top on the perfectly set smooth pudding is a sight to behold and a joy to eat. You can make your own variations to the original recipe. You can add apple pulp or chocolate or pumpkin or anything you like but I prefer the original unmasked taste of pure decadence ie the plain caramelized bread pudding with just the right amount of nutmeg/cinnamon
Baked potatoes are my favorite and these beauties top the list. Though there are numerous ways to bake potatoes I love the shape of Hasselback or the accordion potatoes as they are called. For a long time a wondered why they were called Hasselback as they are totally hassle free to make but then someone told the history. You will find it on internet too.
This Swedish version of baked potatoes, with their slices fanned out like the feathers of some exotic bird or the expanded bellows of an accordion.
One can use a many variations of stuffing and seasonings, herbs to make these or keep them simple by just sprinkling salt and coarsely pounded black peppercorns. You can add lemon zest or sneak in ham, bacon, spinach, chives or any other stuff that fancies you. Load it up with cheese of any sort but Parmesan, Cheddar or a mix of your favorites.
The fun thing is that you can make them as per your taste and adjust the ingredients to your choice.
Crispy from outside and tender from inside these delicious baked potatoes can be made with any variety of potato that is available in your local market though the recipes may call for specific ones. You can use large ones or small ones as per your liking.
I usually keep the skin as it tastes awesome and also gives the desired crispiness to the hasselback but here I am using the peeled ones.
I love the use of roasted garlic where ever possible but here I have used them raw.
To make these mouthwatering baked potatoes you will need,
Potatoes – 6 medium small
Butter – 4 tablespoon (I used salted)
Olive oil – 1 tablespoon ( I used a herbed one from Ottimo, at West View, ITC Sheraton)
Fresh cracked black peppercorns – 6-8
Garlic ( roasted or raw) – 4-5 medium cloves ( finely chopped)
Fresh herb of your choice
Seasoning of your choice ( dried herbs, oregano, etc) I used Ottimo’s Italian herb mix Seasoning in some.
Salt to taste
Cheese of your choice ( optional)
( I do the steps 5-7 a few hours before making the Hasselback so that the garlic and herbs release all their flavor in the butter oil mix.)
8. Line a oven proof dish or baking tin with aluminium foil / parchment paper and smear it with some herb infused butter.
9. To prepare the potatoes, dab the peeled potatoes dry, cut a very thin slice for the base so that the potato doesn’t roll over and rest it in a serving spoon. This will ensure that you don’t cut through the whole potato till the end.
10. Now slice the potato till the knife hits the edge of the spoon. You can make as thin or thick slices as you wish. Repeat with all the remaining potatoes. (I have no knife skills so this is the best way to ensure nice, equal thin cuts)
11. Smear half of the prepared butter mix all over the potatoes. gently push the butter, garlic, fresh herbs in the crevices with a sharp knife but don’t push to hard. We will add more at half way through the baking.
12. Arrange the potatoes in the baking dish and sprinkle salt and cracked black pepper generously. Using freshly cracked pepper gives this dish a unique rich spicy flavor which is not achieved by the powdered pepper. If you have used salted butter like I did then go easy on extra salt.
13. Put the baking dish in the oven and bake the potatoes for at least 20 minutes. You can grill them too.
14. Take out the baking dish and baste the potatoes with more of the butter or just olive oil. Make sure it goes well into the layers as it will help the layers to spread open.
15. At this point the slices will begin to fan out in an arch so do insert the extras like ham, bacon, cheese or whatever you choose carefully between the layers. take the help of the knife to carefully nudge the layers open a bit for stuffing.
16. Bake for another 30-40 minutes or till the outside it crispy brown and the flesh is tender soft. Pierce the potato between the layers to check if the potato is done.
Your baking time may vary with the size of potatoes.
Serve is immediately wit ha dip of your choice. I use sour cream or hung curd sip which is my favorite. Will post the recipe soon.
Baked hasselback is best had hot.
You can adjust the ingredients to your requirements for 1 or many hasselback potatoes, it is that versatile.
Make it simple or fancy as per your mood for the day.