WAYFARING Review in HT City and other stories


I have been fortunate to connect and make friends with writers and artists from across the globe. Social media channels have been a big boon to me as far as my writing journey goes.

I have had some wonderful reviews in mainstream newspapers / online journals and websites for my books but the small notes of appreciation that come via Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads etc mean a lot and are equally special and cherished.

Matthew Bialer is one of the brilliant writers I met on FB. We have not met in person.. not yet. He is an exceptional photographer and painter too.  Sometime ago he posted a mini review of WAYFARING on GoodReads but it appeared under author Siddharth Gigoo’s review as a comment. I missed it then but found it later. Here’s what Matt had to say,

Some more writer friends I admire are reading the book. Chandini Santosh sent me a reader’s Pic and Dominic announced the arrival with a small note.  I will write more about Chandini and her  books etc in the next post. I am excited and nervous about her feedback. She is one of my favorite writers and needs to be read by all. More later. 🙂

Dominic Albanese is a poet and a war veteran from Florida. You can checkout his work HERE.  Most of the books can be downloaded for free. He’s been writing poetry since 1966. This is what he wrote on FB:

 

Twitter has got me many followers on the blog. I have come to know a lot of bloggers/writers/artists/ filmmakers there. Here’s an insightful review of ‘Wayfaring’ from a Twitter reader friend. A poet and translator himself though he prefers to be in the shadows. Thank you Ayushman . Do click on the link to read the full ‘tweet review’.

 

The biggest news came yesterday when ‘Wayfaring’ found a place in the National Daily Hindustan Times’s City Supplement, HT City of 28th March.

This is my third media mention in HT. Two of them for Wayfaring and the earlier one for my blog. It is a very special feeling. Encouraging too. Thank you Nabanita  for your short yet  insightful review.

This what she said about the book:

“…emotions so vividly expressed that it’s difficult to move from one verse to the other.” 

 

All this good news means celebration. I have an appointment with the dentist tomorrow. I’m scared and fretting as usual but I know he’s one of the best. Keep me in your thoughts. Hopefully it won’t be a major procedure and I’ll be able to celebrate my mom’s 88th birthday the next day. It would be such a joy to have all the children / grandchildren together under one roof.

Here’s to Poetry 

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New Poem – The Convergence


she stands among the ancient trees,

hair fluttering protestingly over her full breasts,

strings of beads resting around her neck,

draped in red cotton her dark skin glistening in sweat,

her kohl eyes like fiery embers,

a sliver of sun on her forehead,

behind her, smeared in symbolic vermilion,

the Goddess sits cross-legged,

leaning against the matted roots of a tree,

defiant, wise, independent,

the power stemming from her womb,

non-conformist, non-submissive.

from a quiet corner I watch them,

fierce, unapologetic; both born of the soil,

somewhere beyond the hills a river turns red,

an embodiment of the eternal truth –

sa’ham asmi

the Aashad clouds gather

beating their ancient drums

as the earth receives its first rain

3 Bell Peppers & Indian Cottage Cheese (Paneer) Stir Fry


Some days ago I had a discussion on a food group on FB about the excess of Paneer dishes in the menus of Indian restaurants and wondered if more seasonal veggies can be incorporated for the vegetarian clientele. There was a heated protest in favor of Paneer. Now, I love paneer but don’t really like the rich gravies or masalas in which it is prepared and served in the restaurants. A personal choice.

This is my variation of Kadai paneer though unlike the restaurant style recipe this doesn’t have a semi dry gravy and green capsicum. I love sweet bell peppers but I dislike the green capsicum.  I use a lot of sweet peppers in various dishes, add them to sauces, salads, stir fry and this version of kadai paneer or paneer stir fry is not only delicious but healthy too. Different colored bell peppers taste different and have dofferent nutritional values so using them all makes the dish more healthy. Red bell peppers have the highest amount of Vitamin C and many phytochemicals and twice the amount of beta carotene than the green capsicum. The yellow one is slightly sweet, orange one a bit more and the red one is the sweetest.  I roast, char, grill, saute the bell peppers as per the requirement of the dish or just use them raw. Bell peppers taste wonderful when slightly roasted or warmed. It really brings out their smoky flavor. Look up my recipe of a Warm Salad with Peppers and  roasted potatoes.

I seldom buy Paneer from the market and prefer to make it at home. The whey is used to kneed wheat flour or cook daals etc. Sometimes I just add a little lemon or sugar and drink a cup full. It tastes good and is full of healthy nutrients too.

Fresh paneer is creamy and light and can be incorporated in many dishes even salads.

Here’s how I make the cottage cheese or paneer at home.

Ingredients :

Full fat milk – 1 liter

Juice of a lemon –  2-3 tbsp

This is made from 1/2 L of full fat milk. 1 L will give approximately 200 gm of good quality paneer.

Method :

Heat the whole full fat milk in a pot and just as the top layer begins to wrinkle and the boiling stage starts turn the flame low and slowly add lemon juice little by little. Keep stirring constantly as you add lemon juice till you see the milk curdle and the greenish whey will separate from the cheese curd. If the liquid is still white you need to add a little more lemon juice till all the cheese curd separates from the whey and the whey is clear. Turn off the flame. Let it rest for 5 minutes.

Keep a strainer covered with cheese cloth ready on a pot and transfer the contents slowly so that the whey gets drained and you are left will sticky soft cheese curd or chena. Give it a rinse under filtered tap water to get the lemony taste out.

Press it a little with the back of a ladle to remove excess liquid and then transfer it to a cheese cloth.  Squeeze a little and give it a shape with a flat spatula and then press it with a heavy object. Remove the excess water and once done keep it in the fridge to set for an hour or two. Take it out and remove on a plate from the cheesecloth. Cut into cubes to add to any vegetable, salad or curry.

You can use the crumbled cheese or chena if making a filling or scrambled paneer burji.

You can refrigerate the paneer block in an airtight container or in a bowl of cold water for 2-3 days.

Always use full fat milk for best results. You can use white vinegar or curd as a souring agent. Each agent will constitute its own taste. Rinsing always gets that out of the paneer and it can be used to make even the sweets like sondesh, rasgulla etc. I have the nolen gurer sondesh recipe for you.

Once the paneer is ready use it for this recipe of Kadhai paneer or cottage cheese stir fry.

Ingredients : 

Red, Orange and Yellow Bell Peppers – 1 each (Medium size)

Homemade cottage cheese / paneer –  200 gm (approx)

Red Onion – 2 medium size

Plum tomato – 2 ( I deseed it)

Salt – as required

Ginger julienne – from 1/2 inch fresh ginger

Coriander seeds  – 1 tbsp

Cumin seeds  – 1 tbsp

Whole red chilies – 1-2 broken pieces

Asafoetida powder – a pinch

Kasuri Methi – 1/2 tbsp

Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp

Freshly crushed black pepper powder – 2-3 pinches (Optional)

Fresh coriander leaves ( chopped fine with tender stems) 1 tbsp

Olive Oil – 2 tbsp or Ghee -2 tbsp ( I love its flavor more)

Method – 

Wash, deseed and dice the bell peppers into cubes. (Cutting them in strips makes them cook faster. If you cut them in strips make sure to do that with all the other veggies and paneer too)

Dice the tomatoes into same size cubes.

Cut the medium size onions into four cubes and gentle peal the layers.

Dry roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and broken whole red chilies till they begin to give out a nice mild aroma. Coarsely grind them with mortar and pestle. Keep aside.

Heat a little Olive oil / Ghee in a thick bottom kadhai or wok and add asafoetida and slit green chili along with the onions. Stir fry the onions on high flame till lightly browned and translucent but crisp then add the bell peppers and give them a nice stir so that they are lightly roasted and warmed but not soft. Add the tomatoes and stir. Don’t over cook them. Add the dry ground masala, turmeric powder, kasuri methi, salt, crushed peppercorns and ginger julienne. Stir properly. We need to keep the crunch in the veggies so do not overcook. Add freshly chopped coriander leaves and stir.

Add the paneer cubes and gently toss so that the paneer retains its shape. Once the paneer is coated with the masala properly, garnish with more freshly chopped coriander leaves.  Turn off the heat and keep it covered so it absorbs the flavors from the peppers and other veggies.

Serve hot with chapatis, lachcha paratha, naan or use it as a topping on toast. I use this as a filling for a roll too.

You will love the delicate sweetness of the bell peppers and the spicy flavors from the fresh masalas. The paneer gives the soft creamy flavor to the dish which is absolutely divine.  I can bet that this will taste much better than the usual kadhai paneer we make. Do try this recipe and let me know how did it come out for you.

 

 

Poem – Where We Lived


I often visit the
abandoned house
off the beaten track
Its yard
no longer tended
Here
In the forgotten places
Littered with broken shards,
Rotting leaves, gnarled branches,
Entwined vines and
Dried unruly weeds
I follow the scent
Of unseen blossoms
I trace my fingers
On the ancient walls
Moist with night dew and
On which
Memory has turned mossy green
In places
I look through the dusty windows
That reflect nothing
The sadness of which
Speaks to me
Then, as the seasons change,
In the midst of decay
The tree of sorrow blooms
Night after night
Romancing the August moon

 

First published in ‘Collection Of Chaos‘. You can buy the book from any online book vendor.

Kitaab Review Of ‘Wayfaring’ & A Blog Feature


 

 

Spring came quietly in my city and suddenly it was ablaze with fiery Semal flowers. The stark branches tipped with its large crimson, orange and pale yellow flowers towering above the city structures look like giant brushes painting the city skyline. Semal is the first tree to bloom and pave the way for Coral tree, Jacaranda, Gulmohar, Leburnum etc. I spotted a few tesu trees along with the Lilac Kachnar.

The carefully landscaped roundbaouts are a riot of colors and so are the gardens in Delhi. The newly opened Central Park (Sunder Nursery) is in my list of Must Visit places.  The two Gorgeous pink bougainvillea trees in Lodhi Garden are a sight to behold. I  will try and do a separate post on these. Spring is Delhi is short lived with harsh winter in its backyard and summer on threshold but it brings the fragrance of mango blossoms. Tabebuia Aurea is another beautiful spring blooming tree that one should watch out for. I am trying to locate a Palash tree or Flame of the forest, as it is known in English, in Delhi. Perhaps some more spring pictures soon. 🙂

 

Meanwhile, a brilliant  review of my book ‘Wayfaring’ appeared  in the fabulous Singapore-based journal Kitaab. This is what a writer longs for. Good readers who explore what we usually don’t see in our own writing, reviewers whose critique is incisive and sensitive, and editors who take this dialog forward. Many thanks to all those who made this possible. Zafar Anjum, Sucharita Dutta-Asane at Kitaab, thank you for the way you always support poets and writers. This is a dream come true. Very honored and humbled.

Bhaswati Ghosh is a writer friend I admire. She has a very fine taste in music too. She writes and translates fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. She is also the Editor -at – large at Cafe Dissensus Magazine where I have some of my work published. One of the magazines I absolutely love for its content.

Bhaswati really gets it when she says, “If solitude is nature’s essential condition, loneliness, its second cousin, is a function of being human. As Wayfaring shows, we don’t always choose loneliness; sometimes it chooses us. When it does, it’s seldom romantic and more like one’s own shadow, impossible to disown.”

Please do read the complete review by clicking on the link above and do buy the book. It is available worldwide with all online book vendors.

In another new, Vishal Bheeroo featured me on his blog. We talked about ‘Wayfaring’ journey as a book and other things. Do read the full feature HERE  

Here’s an excerpt : 

“Wayfaring is the result of a much more positive attitude towards myself and to life in general.  One must never lose the sense of possibilities. That’s the healing that comes from within. I have tried to work that around in the poems in ‘Wayfaring’. Most of the poems in the book are intensely personal and at times I have used nature or another element as a mask to enable me to write about private feelings but mostly the poems are all about ‘laying bare’, befriending oneself and realizing that this difficult phase in life is intrinsic to being alive. This shift in thinking changed my perspective completely and when you read the poems you will see what I mean.” 

Thanks Vishal for giving me this platform.

If you have bought my books please do write a few lines about them and let me know via twitter/FB/Instagram or just leave a comment here.

 

 

एक शहर ये भी – कविता 3 – दिल्ली में बसंत


                                                          

 

दिल्ली में बसंत तो हर साल आता है

पर इस बार बहुत सालों बाद 

हमारे आँगन की अमराई महकी है

उसी रंग उसी गंध में सराबोर

वो सड़क जो तुम तक पहुँचती थी

नीम की बौर से ढकी है और कुछ दूर

चटख नारंगी सेमल धधक रहा है

तुम्हारे घर की दीवार से सटे टेसू ने यादें

फिर रंग दीं हैं और मन फिर उन्ही

महुआ की रातों में घुल गया है

वहीँ लोदी गार्डन में जहाँ मेरा फेवरेट बेंच

कचनार की गुलाबी महक में डूबा हुआ है

वहीँ दबे पाँव जाने कब उस गुलाबी बोगनविला ने

डक पोंड के पास वाले तुम्हारे पसंदीदा बेंच को

क्लाद मोने की पेंटिंग में बदल दिया है 

दिल्ली में बसंत बिलकुल तुम्हारे प्यार जैसा है –

क्षणिक  – अविस्मरणीय

Warm Bell Pepper Salad With Lemon Honey Garlic Vinaigrette


Bell peppers are one of the most beautiful vegetables and my favorite too. I somehow despise the  green capsicum and its excessive use in many dishes but these red, yellow sweet peppers not just add color to the dish but also provide a lot of nutrients. They also pair very well with many things and can be baked, broiled, grilled, roasted or stewed. I add them to sauces for pasta and Shakshuka etc.  These beauties have a good amount of carotenoid content and Vitamin C along with Vitamin B6, folate, Vitamin A and many other good nutrients. I use them for roasted bell pepper raita (dip), salads (both warm and cold), pasta sauces and use them instead of green capsicum.

This is a warm salad with slightly fried potatoes but I do other variations with roasted veggies instead of sauteed. I love the smoky charred flavors of the bell peppers and tomatoes and make the salad with that too. It all depends on the mood.

The vinaigrette dressing is just perfect to give that citrus sweet flavor to the salad. You can use this as a marinade to chicken and fish also. Garlic gives that much needed kick to the vinaigrette making it delicious.  You can make the vinaigrette in a small jar and store it in that only for a day or two.

I am not a good food photographer but the recipe is awesome. Do try.

 

Bell Pepper And Potato Salad With Lemon Honey & Garlic Vinaigrette

Ingredients :

Bell peppers – 2 (1-red, 1-yellow)

Potato – 1 large (par boiled and cubed or cut into thin wedges)

Red Onion – 1

Garlic – 1 large smashed

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 tbsp

Plum Tomatoes- 2

Fresh herbs – Coriander/parsley

Salt – Pepper – as required

Honey – 1 tbsp

Lemon Juice – Juice of one medium lemon

Lemon zest – a little

Freshly cracked black peppercorn – 1 little

Apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar ( if desired ) – 2 tbsp

Steps – 

To make the Vinaigrette :

Take a juice of one lemon, add one crushed garlic clove, a little lemon zest add a tbsp of honey, add a little salt, two tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, vinegar if using, a little freshly crushed black pepper and fresh chopped herbs. Mix and shake it up in a small jar.

I didn’t use the vinegar in this particular salad. You can adjust the quantity as per the salad quantity or if using as a marinade as per the chicken or fish.

 

For Salad : 

Wash bell peppers and remove the seeds. Cut them into cubes or strips. Cut the onions and tomatoes into cubes or wedges. Peel the bar boiled potatoes and cut in cubes or wedges.

In a pan heat the olive oil and add the potatoes. Fry them till they turn nice n crisp. Remove in a bowl. Add onions and saute till slightly translucent, remove them in the same bowl. Now add bell peppers and toss them till slightly charred and warmed up, take them out in the bowl and then add tomatoes to the pan. We do not need to soften them so toss them till they are slightly roasted and add to the other veggies.

Gently toss the salad and add the Vinaigrette. Serve warm

Serve with any dish of your choice or just eat it straight from the bowl.

 

 

Panasa Katha Tarkari |Oriya Style Raw Jackfruit Curry


Jackfruit is such a versatile vegetable. This fibrous, starchy, fleshy fruit is also referred to as ‘vegetarian meat’. Jackfruit/kathal or Panasa is cooked in a variety of ways. Kathal is one of the many things especially cooked on Holi in Eastern UP household as a replacement to the non veg but today I am sharing the Oriya style curry made with tender, raw jackfruit today. The UP style I will share some other time. 🙂

I also make the Punjabi style vegetable and jackfruit kebabs. There was a time I even pickled it but not anymore.  I absolutely love the ripe jackfruit. Many people do not like its heady intoxicating fragrance but it is one of the things I continue to eat with relish since childhood. Kathal biryani is another favorite and it can beat any mutton biryani if made properly. One can also make jackfruit chips and stew which taste awesome.

Jackfruit is not just an exotic tropical vegetable/fruit but full of good nutrients too. It has ample dietary fibers, anti-oxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Niacin, Riboflavin, Folic acid, Vitamin C and much more. It is also a good source of potassium, manganese, magnesium and iron.

I had an Oriya neighbor who was an excellent cook. I learned this recipe from her. She told me that there was a slight variation she did from the authentic one. The curry was rich, flavorful and excellent in texture. I made it after many a moons but the verdict of the family was great so here it is for all of you.

Ingredients :

Raw tender jackfruit – 1 small or 1/2 kg peeled and chopped

Potato – 1 large

Onion –  2 + 2 green chilies (1 onion sliced & 1 finely grated or made into paste wit hthe green chili and cumin seeds)

Fresh Ginger and Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp each

Tomato – 1 ( grated or finely chopped)

Panchporan – 1/4 tsp

Cumin seed powder – 1/4 tsp

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Chili powder – to taste

Homemade garam masala powder – 1/4 tsp

Bay leaf – 1-2

Cinnamon stick – 1/2 inch

Black cardamom – 2

Green cardomom – 2-3

Cumin seeds -1/2 tsp

Black peppercorn – 4-5

Sugar – 1/2 tsp

Salt – to taste

Mustard oil – 5-6 tbsp

Fresh coriander leaves – 2 tbsp (chopped fine)

Steps – 

Peel and cut the jackfruit into 1 1/2 – 2 inch pieces. Make a cut in the seeds if there are large ones or they will burst while frying or slice them if they are not too stubborn). (Be careful with that) Wash and keep aside.

Do oil your hands and knife before peeling and chopping Jackfruit. It gets very sticky due to the milky gum like substance it secrets.

2. Wash, peel and chop potatoes in 1 inch cubes.

3. Parboil both the vegetables with a little salt and turmeric.  Drain the water and keep aside the boiled veggies.

4. Heat a wok and add the mustard oil to it. Bring it to smoking point and reduce the heat. Fry both potatoes and jackfruit one by one. Remove in a plate covered with kitchen towel.

5. In the same oil add Bayleave, panch poran, cinnamon stick, black peppercorn, black and green cardamom, Give it a stir.

6. Once the seeds begin to splutter add the sliced onions and fry till light golden brown. Add sugar to it and stir. Add the grated onion and ginger – garlic paste. Fry till the rawness of the paste goes away and it is nicely browned.

7. Add chopped or grated tomatoes and fry till oil leaves sides and then add the dry powdered masalas and give a nice stir.

8. Now add the parboiled potatoes and jackfruit pieces. Mix nicely so that the masala gets incorporated properly into the veggies. Cover and cook for a few minutes on low- medium flame.

9. Once the veggies absorb the masala completely, add more warm water for the curry. Give a good stir and bring it to boil.

10. Let it simmer for sometime till a nice gravy is ready. Add chopped coriander leaves and garam masala to it. Also add a tablespoon of pure homemade ghee for flavor.

Turn off the flame and serve hot with roti or rice.

Happy Holi to all my readers and friends. Respect boundaries and have a colorful life ahead. 

Easy Strawberry Frozen Yogurt


Homemade frozen yogurts are a class apart. I prefer them over ice creams as they are low in calories and much healthier option. Full of good nutrients and simple to assemble, FroYo can be made with so many fruits. During summer I make a variety of Frozen Yogurts with seasonal fruits like Mango, Cherry, Banana, Sapota, berries, Pineapple, apricots, jamun etc. Each one is so refreshing, addictive and high in taste.

I use full fat home cultured hung curd as far as possible as it is full of probiotics. The frozen yogurt is naturally sweetened with fruits and organic honey which also prevents the ice to form while freezing the dessert.

This is a beautiful strawberry frozen yogurt that I made today. The month of February has been very hot this year and I was craving for something sweet.  If you love strawberries as much as I do then this one is for you.

A box of strawberry was lying in the fridge and I had hung some fresh curd to make a dip but that wasn’t going to happen. 😛 So, here it is, a luscious, creamy, tangy-sweet summer dessert.

Ingredients :  

Fresh unblemished strawberries –  2 Cup (Washed, hulled and frozen)

Organic honey – 2-3 tbsp

Lemon juice – 1 tsp

Hung Yogurt or Yogurt Cheese –  1/3 Cup (You can use Greek Yogurt too)

Steps :

Wash, hull and freeze the strawberries. You can slice the strawberries and line them on a tray to freeze.

Hang the curd/ yogurt overnight or for 3-4 hours in the fridge till completely drained of liquid.

Freeze the yogurt as well. We will chop it up an hour before using.

Take out the yogurt from the freezer and chop it up. Put it in a glass bowl.

Now take out the strawberries, thaw them slightly and then remove 1/4 in a bowl, place the rest in the blender and process till thick and smooth.

Take out the strawberry puree in a bowl and put the remaining in the blender, give a swirl so it becomes a chunky mix. Remove.

Now, add hung yogurt, lemon juice and honey in the blender and process till smooth. Add the strawberry puree to it and mix. Add the chunky strawberries to the strawberry yogurt and mix well.

Scrape the sides of the blender bowl and blend again to ensure there are no lumps.

Taste for sweetness and adjust accordingly.

In a freezer safe bin pour the strawberry yogurt mixture. Tap the bin on the counter 2-3 times to remove air gaps. Cover and put in the freezer.

Take out and whisk the mixture after every 30 min and freeze again. I usually don’t need to do it if using honey or just do it once. Freeze for 4-5 hours or over night to get the ice cream like consistency.

You can also serve it as soft serve after a few hours.

Frozen Yogurt is best consumed on the same day but you can freeze it for a few days.