The city around me is a fucking cemetery darkened with age where buildings stand cramped together like old, forgotten headstones representing a rift between living and dead. Pigeons, like monks at prayer, line up on balconies and window ledges. Nothing romantic or mysterious. Nothing historic or glorious. Nothing eerie. What lies beneath is dead. What lies above is stagnating. Slowly it will all crumble and die to give place to a yet another set of graves. Funeral is the word filling my mind right now. Somewhere a bird sings a mournful song. Must be a nightingale.
I muse about this as I walk around the city of Delhi. I feel that the culture has died in the eyes of almost everyone you see. If this is a fact, then I guess we must be independent of it, and seek out those who are also independent of it, in order to live at all among the ruins. I look at a different perspective. Vitality lies in the past, whose traces remain in those very ruins, but we cannot go there: our relationship to that, like our relationships to those we love, must advance, change – which is the very thing the ruins refuse us – but in its balance of decay, a change disrupts it, so any thought is a victory. Nightingales can learn plenty new songs. Delhi has layers and layers of surprises. It is a city full of emotions.
Emotions make me think of a blue Yamuna, a river we have collectively brought to a slow death with our neglect and apathy. No one cares to visit her banks or give a little thought to her. The monsoon rains give us a glimpse of the glorious river momentarily but then again she reseeds to be dismissed as a dirty sewer. No one thinks who turned her to be what she is now. I think of the women in my country as I look at her from a distance longing to reach out and touch its waters. There is something so deeply comforting and soothing about sitting at the bank of a river. I am dreaming of a blue Yamuna.
November has been benevolent in more than one ways. Someone special has brought good tidings in my life. A daughter I always yearned for. Bless her. She’s an exceptional poetess too. There is still a hint of autumn in the breeze but slowly we’re heading to the real Delhi Winter with all its glorious flowers, snug, colorful woolens, fests, music and art festivals, visits to the monuments and parks. Winter is also the ideal time to experience the incredible Delhi Street food, the pipping hot aalu tikkis, kachoris, gajar halwa, hot jalebis, spicy sweet potato and fried potato chaats and also cold rabri falooda. yes, I’m one of those who love to eat ice creams and kulfis in winter. 🙂 exploring the city for authentic food is a journey of discovery in more than one ways.
Speaking of journey reminds me to tell you about Djelloul Marbrook. He is the editor-in-chief of The Arabesques Review Magazine. Originally from Algeria, he lives in the US now. An exceptional poet, writer, he’s someone I look up to as a student learning the craft of writing. You must check out his website and YouTube channel. It is a gold mine for poetry lovers. When my publisher and friend James Goddard told me that he’s reviewing my book I was slightly nervous but at the same time extremely happy too. This is the first review for ‘Wayfaring’ before it releases on the 20th of Nov. I don’t have words to tell you how proud I feel right now of my evolution as a poet and as a writer. He has written a glorious review of the book and touched the soul of my poetry.
Here’s an excerpt :
Tikuli is a skilled plein air painter; her palette of words is spare, meticulously chosen and applied in a variety of metrical patterns that, while not avant-garde, are modernist and reliable. The reader is never required to study her metrics; her focus is on the act of recollection and its requisite imperative. She has stories to tell, portraits to paint, ghosts to address, and issues to redress.
The complete review can be read here – A Journey Beyond the Baggage of Pronouns in the tradition of Hafez Rumi and Al Arabi
The review moved me deeply and to place my poetry in the league of some of the greatest poets of all times that I love and admire is very humbling. Thank you Djelloul for this precious gift. I will cherish your words forever.
On another note, I have not been very regular with my blog post except the recipes but will soon resume updating the other blog categories too. I plan to visit some old, historic places this winter.
I’ll meet you at another place, another time, another field. The prettiest and most resilient flowers grow in broken spaces like the cracks in the sidewalks. Look out for those places.
A lot is happening at the same time. Delhi is shrouded in toxic smog but our shopping has started in full swing for the upcoming wedding of my son. I hate shopping. ;( It drains me out physically and mentally but this time I am excited so enjoying the researching and hanging out with my boys for some time even though it is walking miles and miles in the midst of shopaholics.
This is the sight that brings relief to tired burning eyes.
Did I share the photograph of the couple? They make a lovely pair. Perhaps you can say a little prayers for them and send your blessings as they embark on a new journey. Can’t wait for these two to get married.
To add to the good tidings my new poetry book Wayfaring is here. Not very many copies. I have earmarked a few for friends and guides. Rest of you can buy it from amazon or any online book seller worldwide. Do let me know if you pick up a copy. Write a short review, post a reader’s selfie. Show your love any way you wish. I am looking forward eagerly.
Here is what joy looks like
I shared a teaser video earlier and here is another fantastic video of my poetic journey with Leaky Boot Press. The video is created by my Publisher friend James Goddard.
It can get hard sometime but when you are approached for an interview by Kulpreet Yadav, India’s best selling thriller writer, friend and editor of a fabulous lit mag Open Road Review, life gets a new high Check out his Andy Karan series and new Vicks Menon thriller Murder In Paharganj on all major book sites. ORR earlier gave space for my poetry. It is a magazine I am proud to be associated with as a contributor.
Except from the interview:
“Kulpreet – As a poet do you have a long-term goal? Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Me – “For a writer, it is very important to develop their sense of their literary journey. To evolve and grow as a human being and as a writer is the only goal I have. I don’t think about future. Let’s see what the universe unfolds as we go along. As a writer, I just want to enjoy the process.” “
Here’s the link to the full interview
When there is so much goodness around one needs to celebrate with some sinful chocolate mud cake from my favorite Cafe Delhi Heights. Give it a try if you’re in Delhi.
Keep watching this space for more updates on the book or check out the book page at the top menu of the blog.
The melodious strains of Gurbani, prabhat pheris, prakash utsav, lagars ( free community meals) and the unforgettable kada prasad were my initiation to something that would become a very important part of my life.
I was a young girl searching for solace. Drawn to the local Gurudwara by the strains of music I would go inside and get transported to a totally different world. Neither a Sikh nor a religeous person this experience was purely spiritual.
I remembered a Sikh friend’s granny giving me an extremely delicious halwa as prasad. I asked what it was made of and couldn’t believe when she said wheat flour. Now, we too made aate ka halwa but it never tasted like the one from the Gurudwara or from her kitchen. I insisted on other helping which she lovingly gave and told me that prasad is to be eaten like prasad not like mithai.
Whenever I found an opportunity I would visit the nearby Gurudwara for the shabad and for the prasad. The serenity of the place always calmed me down. I learned to prepare this divine prasad from beeji as she was called by my friend. I had just passed out from school and I think that was the last time we met before going our ways. We used to lead the school choir that participated in shabad & Kirtan competitions and still have my winning certificates of merit from Mata Sundari College.
Later, Gurudwara became a spiritual sanctuary for me, a place where I would go and spend hours sitting in complete silence, soaking in the healing viberations. Letting go of all the sorrow that filled my heart. Sometimes the tears would flow but no one paid attention or judged. I was at home inside that place of bliss. It is still a place where I become a witness to myself. Sometimes I would quietly sit by the sarovar and read Sukhmani sahib or Dukh bhanjini sahib. The words cleansed me from inside out. For me it was not just a journey with but a source of strength to cope with what lay ahead.
I still go to Bangla Sahib whenever possible though lately my visits have become irregular. You must do the seva in some Gurudwara at least once in a lifetime. I can not explain the feeling one experiences.
Today, I am sharing that recipe with you. Though I can never replicate the original. It does, however, bring back the same taste from my youth.
These silver katoris are from my childhood. Perhaps presented or bought at birth so about fifty year old. 🙂
This simple recipe for Kada Prasad doesn’t need any dry fruits or other add-ons. The flavor comes from the roasting of wheat flour in pure desi ghee or clarified butter. Roasting is also the most important aspect of making the halwa. It has to be even and just the right rich brown color or it won’t give you the authentic taste of the prasad. Also, the wheat flour needs to be coarse (Dardara) to get the right texture. You can use the usual wheat flour too but the texture won’t be like the one made in Gurudwaras. Two things that are a MUST in this recipe – Ghee and right proportion of the ingredients. You can not replace Ghee with anything else. Also, the halwa made from prasad is NEVER heated again. Something I learned from beeji.
One of the simplest of recipes and yet the richest. Today being Gurubpurab I decided to make the halwa and distribute to neighbors and family members.
Here is my recipe :
Whole wheat flour ( coarsly ground) – 1 Cup
Sugar -1 Cup
Pure Ghee (Clarified Butter ) – 1 Cup ( Yes, the halwa is laden with ghee and that is why it should be eaten less)
Water – 3 Cups
The proportion is always – 1-1-1-3 You can always double triple or half, quarter the proportion as per need.
In a kadhayi heat the water and add sugar to it. Stir to dissolve and keep aside. You can add the sugar directly also. If doing that just heat the water and keep aside for later use. Heating the water ensures that there is no change of temperature when it is added to hot roasted flour. It also ensures even cooking.
In another kadhayi heat the ghee till nicely warm. Add the wheat flour / atta and stir. Keep the flame on slow – medium as the flour tends to rapidly change from light brown – dark brown and burnt stage.
This is an important process so do it it with patience and love.
You will see the color change, keep stirring till you get to the stage where the color is rich brown and the mixture has a sand like grainy texture. The butty aroma is another sign of an evenly roasted aata. You will also notice the ghee leaving the sides now.
At this point, add the hot sugar water to the wheat ghee mixture. Be careful not to scald yourself. Stir vigorously so that no lumps are formed. Shift to medium heat to ensure the right consistency. Now turn the flame to low and keep stirring till all the water absorbs and the halwa reaches the right consistency. The ghee will starts leaving the sides again once that happens.
Turn off the gas and remove the prasad in a clean bowl. Usually the halwa is covered with a cloth and cut into five portions for each of the Sikh Gurus and then distributed after the prayer and offering.
You can garnish with almonds if not making as prasad.
An interesting fact from my marital village in Himachal –
The village of Mairi has Dera Baba Vadbhag Singh Ji Gurudwara. After the Holi / Baisakhi Mela finishes the devotees or Sangat are offered karah prasad that is kept covered in a large kadhayi locked inside the basement in the gurudwara. After the ardas when the door is opened the prasad has a large hand imprint on it. It is believed that Baba ji comes to bless the prasad. It is then called panje ka prasad. No one knows how that miracle happens but faith keeps the prasad good for years. My MIL says that the prasad never gets spoiled. I will some day write about my experience of the village life etc.
For now, Keep your heart light burning bright. Stay blessed and once again a very blessed gurupurab to all of you. Remember the teachings of Baba Nanak who left us a beautiful treasure of how the life should be.
Awwal Allah Noor Upaya Qudrat Keh Sub Banday
Aik Noor Keh Sub Jag Upajiya Kaun Bhale Ko Mandhe
God created light of which all the beings were born
And from this light, the universe; so who is good and who is bad
Bathua or bathu as some call it is one of my favorite winter greens. I can’t digest spinach so it has been a constant source of high level of iron for me among other things. It is also a rich source of calcium, phosphorous, dietary fibers, amino acids, B complex, Vitamin A and C etc. Usually to absorb all the nutrients it has to be eaten with curds, lemon juice or tomatoes. It keeps the gut healthy, has numerous health benefits and is delicious too. Bathua is also known as Lamb’s Quarters. pigweed, Goosefoot etc.
I use this wonderful, versatile green in stir-fry, as stuffing in parathas, in dals, raita, fritters, kadhi etc. Sarson ka saag is incomplete without adding bathua to it. It is a game changer in that dish. You can even make a simple pesto with it.
Bathua raita is cooling though bathua in itself is considered warming in winter. The beautiful flavor of garlic, green chili, roasted cumin and bathua make for a delicious raita with cheelas, multigrain rotis, makki or any millet roti.
Here is a simple yet delicious recipe for the raita.
Bathua greens ( cleaned, washed, stalks removed and chopped) – 1 Cup
Garlic cloves, finely chopped – 1 tbsp
Green chili, finely chopped – 1 tsp
Roasted cumin powder – 1 tbsp
Red chili powder – 1/4 tsp
Black pepper powder – 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
Whole coriander seeds – 1/4 tsp
Hing / Asafoetida – 2-3 pinches
Curds (Home cultured) – 2-3 cups
Salt – as per taste
Oil – 1/4 tsp
I prefer home cultured curds. Whisk the curds in a bowl so that there are no lumps. Add the powdered spices and salt. Mix well.
Boil the chopped bathua with a little salt and very little water till it becomes soft.
Cool the bathua and rub it with your fingers or grind on the silbatta. ( some people blend it in the mixer but I prefer the coarse leafy texture in the raita)
In a tempering pan heat a little ghee or mustard oil if you prefer that, add hing, cumin seeds, whole coriander seeds, when the seeds sputter turn of the heat and add chopped green chili ( I use those that are slightly going red), chopped garlic. Stir and pour over the raita.
Decorate with spice powders and serve chilled with parathas, cheelas, multi-grain rotis etc or just eat a bowlful as it is.
One of my favorite vegetables is lotus stem / kamal kakdi / bhee or nadru as it is called in Kashmir. Versatile and deliciously crisp and with a lovely pattern inside this rhizome can be used in curries, stir fry, kebabs, koftas, pickles, chips, honey glazed crisps, stews and much more. I have a recipe of Kashmiri Nadru Yakhini that you can try. Lotus stem is also very high in iron, calcium and dietary fibers.
The vegetable loses color very fast when peeled and cut so it is better to keep it in water. It also has a short shelf life so needs to be refrigerated. The tender fresh lotus stem oozes out a milky substance that’s the sign if freshness. Choose the creamy white, unblemished ones.
Nadru kebab or lotus stem kebabs are an exotic starter for the vegetarians. Many people think that vegetarian kebabs are an oxymoron but the vegetarian kebabs are as delicious as their cousins and are light on palate too. So what if they do not come from the lamb shoulder (Gosht). If made correctly you can not tell the difference between a mutton shammi and a bhee shammi. That’s how delicious they are. It is amazing what all you can do with it.
So, let us get straight to the recipe:
Tender fresh Lotus stem – 3-4 small
Boiled Potato – 1 medium size
Ginger – 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Green chilies – 2-3, finely chopped
Fresh coriander leaves – 2 tbsp – finely cjhopped
Ghee – for shallow frying
Cloves – 4-5
Black cardamom – 2
Green cardamom – 3-4
Cinnamon stick – 1 inch
Bay leaves – 2
Black peppercorns – 6-8
Freshly ground pepper – 1/4 tsp
Kashmiri red chili powder – to taste
Garam masala powder – 1/4 tsp
Chaat masala – 1/4 tsp
Roasted cumin powder – 1/4 tsp
Salt – to taste
Clove, nutmeg and mace powder 2-3 pinches
Fennel powder – 1/4 tsp
Onion -1 medium
Bread crumbs or Popped amaranth seeds – for coating (optional)
Sattu / roasted chana dal power – 2-3 tbsp or as required.
Choose the lotus stem that is sealed from both end to avoid dirt inside. Prefer the tender ones as they will be less fibrous and easy to cook.
Wash, peel and cut the lotus stem in 2 inch cubes. In a pressure cooker add the cubes with all the whole spices and just enough water to cook. ( The bhee should be submerged). Give it 2-3 whistles. It should break easily but still be firm.
Meanwhile thinly slice the onions and fry them in a little ghee till they are crisp. It should be done on low flame to ensure even browning. Take them out and make a paste of these crisp onions on a silbatta or roughly grind. This is optional and you can add finely chopped raw onion to the mix or avoid it too. Browning of onion gives the kababs a nice taste. 1-2 tbsp of this paste is enough.
Drain the water and whole spices, cool and grate the lotus stem. Also grate/ mash the boiled potato. Grating the lotus stem helps it retain the meat like texture.
In a large bowl, add the grated lotus stem, potato, green chili, chopped ginger, coriander greens, onion ( chopped or browned paste) all the powdered spices, salt, sattu and mix properly. Adjust the spice threshold and the salt at this point.
Make walnut size balls and flatten them to make shammi kababs. Roll them on bread crumbs or crushed cornflakes or popped ramdana as I did. You can omit this step too. The coating makes the kebabs crisp.
Heat a non stick taw or frying pan and add some ghee to it for shallow frying the kababs. Keep the flame to medium so that the kebabs get cooked properly from inside too.
Place one kabab to test that it retains the shape, if it does add a few more but DO NOT crowd the tawa as the ghee temperature will lower and the kebabs won’t fry properly.
If the kabab breaks, add a little more binding to the mixture.
Once the kababs turn nice brown from one side, flip and let it brown from the other side as well.
Take them out on absorbent paper to remove excess ghee.
Serve these delicious nadru shami kababs with mint coriander green chutney, onion rings and lemon quarters.
Use ghee, it is the game changer. No compromise on this.
I usually add soaked chana dal to the lotus stem while boiling and grind it on sil batta instead of using gram flour ( besan) or sattu. If you wish to make it with chana dal, soak 1/2 cup chana dal for 2-3 hours and then add to the lotus stem and whole spices while you pressure cook. Once cooked, take it out and grind. You can also roast the dry dal and grind to a coarse powder and add. I like the taste of sattu but omit if using chana daal.
Onion is optional too. The kababs taste awesome without it too.
Some people blend the lotus stem mixture to a fine paste for kababs but I prefer them to be a little meaty. Grating is a better option in my opinion.
I don’t add too much potato, just enough to help in binding.
If you make these do let me know your experience.
Autumn is a beautiful season and fall recipes warm the cockles of my heart. The market is flooded with variety of apples and the Indian Gooseberry is in the season. I usually make Amla Jam / Apple Jam or a combination but it has been years since I did a proper spiced apple chutney. A perfect accompaniment with roasted chicken, lamb, tenderloin, ham slices, pork chops, pan seared lamb or salmon, or cheese slices especially Cheddar. You can eat it in sandwiches, quiches, vegetable tarts, parathas or anything that could do with a flavor lift. Add it to your overnight oats bowl, smoothie bowl or parfait if you desire.
Sip a glass of warm mulled wine with a cheese and meat platter served with this lip smacking chutney and you are set for the holiday season.
I have a large quantity of Organically grown, chemical free super sweet and crisp Kinnaur red delicious apples from Farmer Uncle and some sour sweet golden apples lying at home.
Apart from snacking on these daily I am slowly doing some dishes with them.
This chutney is one of my favorite and tested recipes. It is hot, sweet, tangy and stays for at least a fortnight on the table.
Apples have a good amount of pectin in them so the chutney gets a great texture. I have not peeled the fruit but you can.
Two things that make this chutney flavorful without masking the flavor of the fruit are Indian gooseberry/Amla and caramelized red onions. You can omit them if you wish and the chutney will still taste awesome. If you use vinegar or apple cider then omit the lemon juice. You will have to adjust the spice threshold, sugar etc as per your taste. I prefer the natural sweetness of the fruits so add less sugar.
Spiked with the warmth of fresh ginger and the heat of red chilli this chutney is a complete winner.
Here is what you need to make it.
Apples (Use the ones available in your city), cored and peeled – 1 kg
Indian Gooseberry / Amla, chopped fine – 4 Large
Dates, pitted and chopped – 1/4 cup
Dried figs, chopped fine – 1/4 cup
Sultanas / Raisins – 150 gm
Fresh ginger root, peeled and grated – 3-4 tbsp
Lemon Juice – 3-4 tbsp (adjust as per taste if apples are not sour)
Shakkar/ powdered jaggery / granular sugar / soft brown sugar – 150 gm
Garlic cloves, chopped – 4
Onions, thinly sliced – 300 gm
Black peppercorns – 10-15
All spice mix – 1/2 tsp
Bay leaf – 1
Homemade garam masala powder – 1/4 tsp
Salt – As per taste
Fresh Red chilli pepper / Red jalapeno, chopped fine – 2-3
Red chili powder / cayenne pepper / chili flakes – as per taste
Lightly roasted and ground fennel and cumin seeds – 1 tsp each
Oil – 1 tbsp
Cut, core and chop apples in small cubes. Peel them if you desire. Add the lemon juice to the chopped apples so that they retain their whiteness. Add sugar to them and mix well. Let them rest till you caramelize the onions, so that the juices are released.
Coarsely pound cloves and black peppercorns.
To caramelize Onions : Heat oil in a thick bottom large sauce pan and thinly sliced onions. Fry them on slow medium heat so that they get evenly caramelized. I add a little salt to hasten the process. Once crisp and browned remove them to a plate and when they cool a bit crush them with fingers. (Will add pic later. Forgot to take)
In the same pan add the coarsely ground roasted cumin fennel powder and let it sizzle.
Add crushed onion, garlic, ginger, finely chopped red chili, bay leaf, dried figs, apple sugar mixture, amla, sultanas, dates, raisins, ground clove+black peppercorn and let it all cook on steady simmer on medium high heat. (Add vinegar or apple cider if using at this point.)
Keep stirring so that it doesn’t catch or burn on the bottom of the pan. Once the apples soften and resemble a puree, add the salt, red chili flakes, chili powder, all spice mix, garam masala and mix well so that the spices coat the fruit properly.
Let it simmer on low heat til it reaches a jam consistency. Keep stirring in between and you will notice the change in texture and consistency. It will become syrupy and the apples too will become caramelized.
Once the chutney has thickened draw the wooden spoon across the chutney and if no liquid fills the gap then it is ready. Otherwise cook for some more time.
Turn off the gas and let it rest for 10 minutes in the pan.
Spoon the warm chutney in sterilized or clean glass jars and seal and store.
Once open, use within a fortnight and keep in the fridge. Though I usually don’t refrigerate.
Enjoy this perfectly savory and chunky side to your meals.
Note : You can keep this chutney a little syrupy too. Makes it easy to spread. I have kept it dry for a purpose. Add 1/2 Cup – Fresh Apple along with chopped apples if you like a wet chutney.