Pure Randomness!

Pure Randomness!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Things I learnt today - 2

Let me not cheat, these are not exactly things I learned today, but happened over the last few days. But when I saw the blue butterfly's life cycle, I just couldn't stop myself from writing about my kids also.

1. This is the butterfly story. If you ever thought the whole birthing process in human beings is complicated, read this. 
Large Blue
The below is an extract from Wikipedia on Large Blue (butterfly)
Large Blue caterpillars feed on wild thyme or marjoram flowers for the first few days of development. Once well fed, the caterpillar secretes sweet fluids to attract red ants of the species Myrmica sabuleti. The ants then take the caterpillar back to their nest and proceed to feed from these secretions. The caterpillar then hibernates inside the ants' tunnels. On emerging from hibernation, the caterpillars will then begin to eat the red ant's eggs and larvae for up to 3 weeks. It will then hang itself by its legs on the nest's roof and build a chrysalis around itself. The caterpillar will spend a further 3 weeks transforming into the Large Blue butterfly adult. After its change from caterpillar to butterfly, the insect emerges from its chrysalis and leaves the red ant nest to find a mate. Usually, red ants will escort the newly emerged butterfly to the surface, taking it to a low plant or shrub nearby. The red ants will encircle the butterfly and ward off any predators that attempt to attack the butterfly as it dries out. After the butterfly is ready to fly away, the ants will retreat back into their nest.
(Picture and text are from Wikipedia)

I thought the whole process of egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly itself is a complicated process for a life-cycle. But this mutual association as a part of the life-cycle makes it so much more complex.  No wonder this butterfly is almost extinct. 

My kids on stage
2. Children never forget; at least not for a year. I keep getting that odd call from my kids still, telling me some story or other from their current class or their marks and ranks when they think it is good enough to make me happy. Few days back I got a call from my last year's 7th standard boys on their annual day. They were not part of anything and they were pretty upset about that. They were remembering the  drama I taught them and their performance and all the fun we had. I could feel their disappointment in not doing something similar this year.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pumpkin flowers for lunch

female and male flowers of pumpkin
It is just one vine of pumpkin, but it is like an obsessive thought, it totally takes over one side of the garden. Then the flowers started blooming and I was waiting for a female flower. It came much later than I thought and by then the thought of cutting off the vine also passed my mind (who needs a male pumpkin vine). So when I saw the first female bud I was happy and felt a little guilty too. Then everyday I saw many male and female flowers blooming and wilting. Then on a Sunday morning while deliberating on what is for lunch today, I caught sight of those flowers and said 'let's eat them'.
I have never eaten pumpkin flowers earlier though I have heard that all parts of a pumpkin plant is edible, may be except the roots. So I started searching for a recipe for pumpkin flowers and came up with a lot of deep fried ones. The flower petals looked so delicate deep frying them sounded so brutal. So I went in for my own simple recipe.
I collected 16 flowers and they were quite a handful. I chopped them up and then the quantity looked even more. But it went inside the pan and started heating up and started shrinking and leaving water. By the time I managed to evaporate all the water and get it into the consistency I wanted, it was just a very small bowlful. Since it was only Shyam and I for lunch that day, we each had enough to taste the flowers properly.
When I started cooking I was expecting the taste of the rest of the ingredients to make up the taste of the dish. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a delicious flavour added by the pumpkin flower to the dish.

Pumpkin flower recipe

Coconut oil             - 1tsp
Mustard seeds         - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaf                - 1 sprig
Red Chilly               - 4 to 5
Onion                      - 1 medium sized
Ginger                     - 1/2 inch piece, made to paste or finely chopped
Turmeric powder    - 1/4 tsp
Chilly powder          - 1 tsp
Coriander powder   - 1tsp
Pumpkin flower      - 16* (only petals, cut into to 1cm wide strips)
Salt                          - 1/2 tsp or to taste
Grated coconut        - 1tbsp (optional)

Heat the coconut oil and add the mustard seeds. Once it finish spluttering, add the curry leaf and then the red chillies. Fry till the red chillies are starting to brown, add ginger. Add the onion, fry till the they turn translucent. Add all the powders and fry for a minute. Add the pumpkin flowers, it will turn very watery once the flowers start cooking. Stir to mix and leave it in low flame for the water to evaporate, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches the required dryness add the salt. This is important since the volume reduces tremendously, if you add the salt earlier it could turn to be more than needed. Sprinkle the grated coconut over and serve hot with steaming hot rice. I sprinkled the coconut only for my photography session, but that gave a nice crunch to the dish.

*The female flowers are bigger than the male flowers. I had 14 male and 2 female flowers. If you have many female flowers you count extra 2 female flower for 3 male flowers.
No pumpkin flowers? What the heck, call me up and come over on a weekend. If the pumpkin flowers are still there, I will make it for you :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I found no aloo in my vindaloo

The delicacies of Goa:
For me vacation means not having a todo list to look into every 30 minutes. But the next thing about a vacation is the food. I love food and I love eating. But I am not as lucky as I was 10 years back with eating, as I tend to put on weight now a days. Some actress or model has famously said that "no food tastes as good as being thin". That is not true for me. For me a lot of food taste better than being thin. But I don't want to be fat either. So I go in for the balancing act between eating and still not eating too much. The only time when this balance tilts a little to the eating too much side is when I am on vacation. This was true while in Goa on my last vacation too. We ate at restaurants with waiters in crisp uniforms, with waiters who bring water with one finger in it and all the variants in between. We ate at a bar in which the owner barked "upstairs" even before I entered. Once my eyes got used to the dim light inside I saw a bar full of men at various stages of drunkenness staring at us and realised why he shouted. But that bar was where I had my best meal from this travel. So food was one major (if not "the" major) part of my vacation in Goa.

When we were on our way back to the airport, we were comparing notes on which meal was our best meal and I realised disappointingly that I should have kept notes on each meal and the restaurant and it would have been fodder for a good blog. Then I thought at least I can write on the dishes I have had. So here goes a small list of dishes I tried in Goa and my take on them.

Serradura - I already wrote about this earlier. So this looks like the winner, nah, it was just that it was the easiest for me to even think about trying. But still, this is a yummy dessert.

Dodol - Dodol tasted somewhat like Kerala halva. It was not as firm as halva, so it almost felt like someone set out to make halva and got tired towards the end and said this is enough and left it a little loose. May be I tasted this at the wrong place, so I didn't take to it that much. But still worth trying out. Here is a recipe and pictures for the same from Flavours of Mumbai.

Costaz Bebinca
Bebinca - I started eating bebinca on the same day I landed in Goa and kept eating almost everyday till I found Serradura. I also picked up 2 packets of bebinca to share with friends and family back home. It is like a layered Kerala halva and very delicious, especially when eaten with ice-cream. I thought I will make it, but when I saw the 9 egg yolks in the recipe, I have postponed it. I hate recipes which ask either for egg yolk or egg white alone. I don't know what to do with the other part. I have to plan to make 2 recipes together sometime. Here is the recipe for bebinca.

Balchao - Balchao is a spicy, vinegary gravy and I ate the pork version of it in Goa. It is terribly spicy and almost made me faint. I couldn't find a pork balchao recipe, but here is one for a prawn one. It looks like prawn balchao is more popular than pork balchao.
Xacuti - Xacuti is also a spicy dish, again with the vinegary flavour, its special ingredient being poppy seeds. Here is a recipe for a fish xacuti. This one made me cry but I didn't faint.

Vindaloo - I have been looking forward to eating vindaloo as much as I was looking forward to jumping into the sea. But every time I ended up eating vindaloo I searched for the aloo (potato) in the vindaloo, sometimes even rolling my eyes at the unsuspecting waiter, when I found no aloo. Vindaloo is also another spicy gravy together with, hold your breath, vinegar. The colour of this gravy being darkish brown from the almost burnt onion made into paste with vinegar. I figured after a few disappointments that traditionally, vindaloo doesn't contain any aloo. But even now I feel it would taste good with potato in the gravy and if ever I plan to make vindaloo, I will make with aloo. Here is a recipe for the traditional chicken vindaloo without the aloo.

Sorpotel - Sorportel is almost liked pickled meet, small pieces of parboiled meat cooked in a vinegar based gravy. I ate this on the first day I landed in Goa and never managed to find it again. I am not much of a meat cook, so I wonder whether I will ever make it also.

Ambot tik - Finally one dish which is not flavoured sour by adding vinegar, but this is still sour but with tamarind.  This dish is mostly made with fish and that too shark. In all the savoury dishes I have here, this might be the only one I will cook. Here is the recipe. For all the other dishes I will wait till I go to Goa again. Or in case you decide to make any of these, please let me know. I can become the helper and taster, rolled in one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My first bundt cake

November 15th is supposed to be national bundt day (which nation? some far away nation, hmm that is not the point). I didn't know what a bundt cake was 2 months back, so I don't expect you to know either, but if you knew what a bundt cake is, you are way cooler than me. So here is Wikipedia coming for our help - Bundt Cake (finally I paid up, couldn't handle the guilt any more :) ). I came across this information about bundt day from the food librarian whose blog I keep visiting very regularly. I love the pictures which she puts up there and also the recipes. After reading about the national bundt day, I decided it is the perfect time to use the bundt baking pan which I have picked up 2 months back while on a shopping spree for baking stuff.

When we wanted to make a cheese cake for the cooking-together-saturday, Lisa asked Shyam to pick up some cream cheese. The recipe called for 500g of cream cheese and Shyam picked up 1000 rupees worth of cream cheese. Since Lisa thought it is criminal to use 1000 rupees worth of cream cheese in one go, she halved all the ingredients and made the cake. That means I am left with the rest of the cream cheese in my fridge and I wanted to use that too in the bundt day baking. So I ended up with this Martha Stewart's recipe for a pound cake which I decided to bake in my bundt pan.

If you notice there is no baking powder in the recipe which caused slight hesitation. Then we decided to follow the recipe anyway. I didn't expect the cake to rise since there was no baking powder, but then it started rising and there appeared some cracks on top of the cake. Then when I checked back on the Martha Stewart page I found the picture out there also has a cake with a crack. But when I wanted to take a picture we decided to make some icing to cover up the crack, so there went some more of the cream cheese and some sugar.

Obviously if I want to post the blog for the bundt day, I need pictures. Then I realised when I have something delicious sitting in front of me I don't have the patience to take 350 pictures to select the best out of it. 5 pictures and the cake was inside my mouth. It turned out really rich (all that cream cheese) and moist, dense and real yummm. Only there was a slight buttery after taste, reason for which I need to figure out and fix next time.

Next day morning I decided to take some pictures of the cake in the garden. While out I saw many butterflies around. Then I became ambitious, I wanted the picture of the cake with a butterfly in the background. It was a wait for sometime before I managed to do that and I realised that I needed a larger depth of field to get both visible. But before the butterfly flew away, I managed to change the focus and got that in another frame, but I forgot to turn the cake around. Next time I will do a better job, promise :)

Common Grass yellow with my cream cheese cake

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I am really scared when it comes to cooking. Once I have decided to cook/bake something, I will keep reading, re-reading the recipe. Find alternate recipes, check them also and do a lot of stalling before I actually set out to do it. This prepping-me-up time could be any where from 1 month up. I have a list of things which I want to cook stuck up on my fridge. This includes marshmallows, pav bhaji, cupcakes, .... I made this list 2 months back and the only thing I have tried in this list is cupcakes. I baked my first batch of cupcakes a month back and took them to office to my colleagues. After that day, I have colleagues who tell me they won't come to my meetings if I don't bring something baked and others who just give me ultimatums and specify what they want baked and brought. But I just keep waiting, may be because the doubt on the outcome is what is so scary for me.
I liked Serradura, which the very friendly waiter made me taste in Goa. I liked it so much that I came back the next day for lunch again and sprinted through the main course so I could reach Serradura. So when I was back in Bangalore I searched for the recipe and kept reading and re-reading. But it was surprising that I did it within one week of getting back. 
Serradura or Macau sawdust pudding is a no cook dessert, very rich, with just cream, condensed milk and crushed biscuits in it. Very simple. The recipe is available here.   
But the consistency of the cream is important (now I know :) ). This was the first time I was beating cream to get it into soft peaks and then hard peaks. I kept beating and checking for the peaks, they just never came. Then when I realised that the cream is turning to butter I stopped, added the condensed milk and set them into cappuccino cups layered with the crushed biscuits. In the Serradura which I ate in Goa there was just a small layer, rather a sprinkling of biscuit on top alone. But the recipes I read call for a more generous layering. So I layered rather generous amounts.
Here comes the reason of my being scared, fear of failure. The dessert turned out nothing like I had eaten in Goa. But on its own, it was still ok, if I scoop out the creamy concoction without too much of the saw dust. The friends on whom I have experimented had not eaten it earlier, so they couldn't complain. But I have learned from the experience is that, if you are scared of something, just go ahead and do it. I follow this when I need to do something in front of an audience, just go do it and sit back and watch the fun, especially when there are others to follow. But this holds good when it comes to cooking also. So what was I scared about; some wasted ingredients and some bad comments. Nah, strike off the first one, it is just the second. So from now on, it is "Just do it".

Sunday, November 13, 2011

White Balance in Photography

I have always been interested in photography, that is how I ended up couriering 5Kgs of snaps when I came back to Bangalore from Holland. But that was the time before I got myself a digital camera. My familiarity with digital cameras were limited to the ones I saw with the Japanese tourists in Bruges. Now that I have moved to a DSLR (thanks to Shyam), there is so much more I can do in photography. But I am a novice here and am learning every day, or at least every day I pick up the camera. So here is one I have learned recently. Setting the correct white balance in the camera.

There are a lot of articles about white balance available already in the web. So by repeating those I am not writing anything new. In case you are interested check these links out.

When I have seen the instructions for setting the white balance in the tutorial video, being the lazy bum I am, I said how much difference can it make anyway. Oh ya, of course I have seen the pictures, but remember, I am terribly lazy. 

So when I took this picture, I said there is something wrong, the colors are not bright enough, they should be springing out at me. So I decided to try setting the white balance in my camera. I tried focusing on a white paper and set it, I thought it was not very accurate. So I cut off a small piece of wax paper, stuffed it inside my UV filter and set the white balance and tried it. Here are the results. I guess, this actually is going to make me set the white balance every time I am going to do any serious photography.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Butterflies in my garden

This is my 50th post. So what? Oh! Don't ask me, so what. I just noticed, so I mentioned. Nothing special. Phew! You are sometimes rude.

I have been thinking about documenting the butterflies which visit my garden, But then butterflies, just like long-billed sun-birds, do not like getting photographed and it is quite some work running behind them to get a picture in which they are stable and in-focus. Then I found out that the secret of getting the right picture is not about running behind them tirelessly, but being patient and sitting, waiting at the right place without wearing any perfume or insect repellent. You just have to live with the mosquitoes and the rashes they give. So I said forget it, let me document the stationary objects in my garden. I have quite some exotic fruits (figs, exotic for my garden), vegetables (Italian heirloom tomatoes) and spices (cardamom, pepper) in my garden. That didn't sound very challenging, I told myself if I can get 10 distinct butterflies captured in my camera I will blog on them, forget them being in-focus. So here I go with my far away from perfect pictures. The idea is to just document the butterflies, photographing them beautifully is for sometime later.
Common Bluebottle
I have not seen many blue bottles in my garden. This could have been one rare visit or it visits at particular times in the year. But this is one pretty butterfly I would like to see much more of it in my garden.

Common Grass Yellow
Common grass yellows are there in my garden whenever there is sun shining and always near the globe amaranth plant. I just had to sit quietly near the plant for 5-6 minutes for them to come back and sit on the flower for me to take the picture.

Common Leopard
 I don't see common leopard any more in my garden. The day it appeared, I had at least 3-4 and I managed to take pictures. But not any more.

Common Baron
 Common barons also don't visit my garden now a days. It is quite possible that the character of my garden has changed in such a way that the butterflies which visit have also changed drastically.

Common Mormon - female and male
Common Mormon is one butterfly which visits my garden in it old and new form. But the problem with this butterfly is that it is very difficult to capture it staying still (for me), look at its fluttering wings. At least the male is better captured.

Crimson Rose
Crimson Rose is the winner, or at least so I thought till I saw some other. May be because this is the first one without a "common" at its front. It is also one of the regulars in my garden then and also now and very pretty. But I wonder how it manages to get so dirty (see the top left one).

Blue Mormon
Currently Blue Mormon is the winner, may be because it is the newest visitor to my garden. But I already saw a caterpillar of this on one of my curry leaf plants. What a pity that I didn't take a picture when I saw it, as it disappeared from the plant the next time when I checked. I couldn't find the caterpillar or the chrysalis anywhere nearby. And once Shyam saw the curry leaf plant he complained "YOUR caterpillar has eaten MY curry leaves."

Common Crow
A garden is not a garden without Common Crow. But what I am waiting to see is, it's pupa and chrysalis.

Common Bushbrown
I can say the same as common crow for Common Bushbrown also, but then my garden started getting, or at least I have started noticing them only recently.

I have a few more butterfly pictures. But I am just too lazy to go about identifying them or editing them properly, so these 9 would do. Since I fell short of my target of 10, I will compensate with this one.

I have absolutely no idea which butterflies caterpillar this is. But these managed to eat away one whole crape jasmine plant of mine.

Tomorrow is Saturday, may be it is time again for me to pick up the camera and go into the garden and this time do some serious photography (get them in focus, basically).

Disclaimer: I am not an authority in butterflies, so in case I have made a mistake by wrongly identifying any of these beauties, please let me know.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Things I learnt today - 1

Every day we learn, may be every moment we are awake we are learning something new. This happens without us really knowing. I used to learn a lot when I was teaching my kids. But sometimes we do know, especially when I start thinking that it is time I start paying Wikipedia, I know. But not all of them are from Wikipedia indeed.

Learning 1- Size of excel sheet:- The file I use for tracking some milestones and action points for one of my projects suddenly became 5.5MB from 42KB after one update. When I open that file it takes a few seconds to open and it saves also very slowly. I scratched my head for 2 days and asked a few people, but couldn't find the reason or a solution. I have not added any macros, neither any images. Then I started playing around with it and tried going to the end of each sheet using Ctrl-END. In one sheet the cursor ended in row 1048565 where as it should have reached only the 25th row. Ha! I would have formatted the sheet by selecting the entire sheet somehow and managed to make the excel think that there is data till that row. Anyway I copy pasted the 25 rows into a new sheet, deleted the old one and saved. Tada! Size of excel changed from 5.5 MB to 49KB.

Learning 2- Difference between moths and butterflies:- I have the picture of a butterfly, or so I thought, sitting on my curtain inside my house. I sent it to my butterfly group for identification as I wanted to put it in my butterfly post (coming soon) I was preparing. Rahul replied telling it is an owl moth and not a butterfly. Huh! I had thought that moths were hairy and doesn't look as good as butterflies. But no, this moth looks pretty. There comes Wikipedia for help, there is indeed a page on the difference between butterflies and moths. The first and foremost is the way in which their feelers are made. Butterflies have a club at the end of their feelers and moths don't. There are many more differences listed, but I was pretty happy with this one.
Owl Moth
Learning 3- There are toilet gods:- I just don't want to tell anything more in this one. But there are, I swear.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oh, all these connections!

I finished my 11-day trip to Goa yesterday and together with that finished reading "A short history of nearly everything" by Bill Bryson. There is nothing much to do in Goa, no, not much for 11 days, other than to go jump in the sea and romp around (I still have sea water in my ears )and eat. Eat, we did, fish and then fish and then more fish and some bebinca and then some serradura (more on these later). In between the romping and the eating, managed to visit a bird sanctuary, an archaeological museum, a cathedral and a church. But still 11 days is too much and though I have started reading the said book a few days before we started our journey, I just didn't reach beyond the first few pages. So it was "the" book for the trip.
The book is an awesome book and I really loved the author's style of writing. but the para that touched me the most is the following. I read and re-read the para as I was stunned by the multi layered reasons for various things which I have never connected up earlier. So here goes:

"Bipedalism is a demanding and risky strategy. It means refashioning the pelvis into a full load-bearing instrument. To preserve the required strength, the birth canal in the female must be comparatively narrow. This has two very significant immediate consequences and one longer-term one. First, it means a lot of pain for any birthing mother and a greatly increased danger of fatality to mother and baby both. Moreover, to get the baby's head through such a tight space it must be born while its brain is still small - and while the baby, therefore, is still helpless. This means long-term infant care, which in turn implies solid male-female bonding."

Now, reflect on this.

p.s: Bipedalism means moving around on 2 legs like human beings than on four like most other animals.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A love story by my kitchen window

Sun-birds are cute, sun-birds are small. But what sun-birds are not are photography friendly. I keep seeing two sun-birds on my pomegranate tree every day. This tree is just next to the garden door, so the moment I open the door they fly away. So I took to watching them through my window. But after sometime the photographer in me starts getting itchy hands, brings the camera, opens the door and the birds again fly away.
I was cooking in my kitchen one day when I saw two sun-birds on the bougainvillea tree at my kitchen window. That was the starting of the love story. I stopped whatever I was doing, ran in, got my camera and clicked.

I got this snap through my kitchen grill. I was so thrilled. From the further developments I am guessing that this was the time when the sun-birds decided to build a nest or it was the guy proposing to the girl or may be both.

After a few days the birds built a nest at the same place where I caught them romancing. When I saw the nest, I didn't expect that to be occupied. I thought it was already abandoned before it was completed, may be due to the increased traffic in my kitchen (a lot of baking happening). 

Then I saw that the nest is indeed occupied. I expected the nest to be a little bit more finished if it was to be occupied; this looks pretty crude. May be the sun-bird couple is a pretty lazy one. I keep checking the nest to see whether the bird is still there, of course from a little far away. If there is any movement nearby the bird flies away and then comes back.
I am really tempted to check whether there are eggs inside, but may be if I go too close the bird might not return. I was wondering whether I should wait for sometime and see whether there are going to be sun-bird chicks, click them and then post this. But then love stories end when the girl and boy end up together and then they lived happily ever after. It is never, they had kids/chicks and then they lived happily ever after ;)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

100 Things You Must Eat Before You Die

I saw this list on some one's blog. The original comes from Very Good Taste. When I do not have students who give me interesting stories to post and am too lazy to cook and post and still want to do something out here in the blogosphere, this has come really handy. This also made me go and check out all these food items in Wikipedia, which gave me a few hours of interesting reading. This list is for an omnivore.
The directions:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. *
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

* - My philosophy is never say never. Though a few of the items make my stomach churn, I still might try them out when I have a stronger stomach and the opportunity.

Here are the hundred foods.
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue - On top of Alps in Grindelwald.
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush - The Indian version is called Bhaingan ka Bhartha
11. Calamari
12. Pho 
13. PB&J sandwich - I made one for the sake of writing Yes here and now I am hooked.
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart 

16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - Many - strawberry, pineapple, apricot, plum and may be more.
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes - In Italy. Carried some seeds too, but didn't manage to grow them!
22. Fresh wild berries

23. Foie gras (Updated 6-Sep-12, ate it in Brugge, even though I had a dilemma)
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche - I started making this recently and can't stop eating it.
28. Oysters
29. Baklava (Updated on 18-Dec-12, ate in Fava at UB City)
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut

35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects - swallowed mosquitoes :)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala 
48. Eel (Updated 6-Sep-12, ate it in Brugge in a recent trip)
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs - Thanks to living in Taiwan for 2 years.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill - how do I know whether any of the restaurents have not fed me this!!!
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare - Rabbit will do?
87. Goulash
88. Flowers - Hibiscus, drumstick, roses, pumpkin and may be more
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake - I had all the chances at Huaxi market in Taipei, but.....

In case you attempt this list, please post a comment with the link :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Experiments with a bar of chocolate

The chocolate bar in question here is not a regular bar, but a 1Kg semi sweetened one, the kind used for chocolate fountains. My friend gave it to me, which was leftover from her son's birthday party. She also told me to make something for her kids with that before they relocate to UK. I was in the process of perfecting my Caramel Custard at that time and didn't end up making anything with that for a while. 2 days before they were leaving to UK I tried making Chocolate Fudge with that chocolate bar. I didn't find a proper recipe for the same and sort of tried a free hand recipe of my own. The outcome was a very tasty but gooey, difficult to handle chocolate paste. It got stuck to the aluminum foil and every time I ate it I had to pull pieces of it out from my mouth and also lick all my fingers. Then I remembered a recipe my sister used to make when we were kids. She got it from a friend of hers - Chocolate delight. So I mixed my gooey chocolate fudge with a little milk, layered it with Parle-G biscuits (in my sister's recipe it is arrowroot biscuits though) dipped in milk. This cut the sweetness a little and turned out handleable and delicious.
Late in the night just the day before they left to UK I managed to feed my friends' 12 year old daughter who was luckily still awake. The one who freaked out on it was another friend's toddler. Since she liked it so much, her mom made similar stuff using biscuits and Nutella, with very good results, though I am yet to taste the same.
Then I landed in Divya's blog and found a chocolate almond biscotti recipe.. I need to finish the kgs of almonds Shyam has brought from Kashmir (what was he thinking!!). So there we went, that is Aparna and I, blanching almonds, cutting chocolate, mixing flour. 

Aparna setting the mix in tray

The biscotti getting baked
 The gooey mix went inside the oven pretty fast. After the initial baking, I needed to cool it before I could cut and bake the sides. I was not patient enough to let the chocolate cool properly before cutting it into smaller pieces for baking the sides. So the biscottis don't look as good as the ones in Divya's blog, but tastes pretty good.
Chocolate Almond Biscotti
There is 700gms of chocolate still left. I will make the biscotti again to get it also to look as good as Divya's ones. Then I will go searching again for more chocolate recipes :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011


If there is a paradise on earth, this is it, this is it, this is it.
First time when I landed in Gosau, I swear, I didn't tell this.
We had traveled by train from Vienna to Salzburg, Salzburg to Attnang-Puchheim, Attnang-Puchheim to Bad Iscl and then from Bad Iscl to Gosau by bus. Not to mention the German who couldn't understand our English and made us get down from the train one stop earlier to Attnang-Puchheim there by making us wait there for half an hour. Argh! how difficult is it to say "No" or "Nien" when someone asks whether the next stop is Attnang-Puchheim! How do you pronounce this name anyway!!
Actually we almost didn't make it to Gosau. When we found out at the car rental that the medium sized car which can stuff four of us (medium sized) with our luggage (over sized) is not available, we got the 3 hop route from the train station. In our over sized luggage we still had a few packets of pongal and methi mutter left with us, not to mention all the warm clothes meant for Switzerland. After seeing the 3 hop route we almost decided to skip Gosau and stay back in Salzburg. But then wisdom prevailed and we said, lets try it out.
The route was scenic, beautiful, but the journey tiring. So we finally got down from the bus at Gosau-Mittertal and started walking the 400 metres which our host has mentioned. But then the 400 metres actually turned out to be 1km. Pulling the over sized bags over uneven road at the end of a 9-hour journey (oh all that luggage pulling from platform to platform, up and down stairs at stations) is not very pleasant even for 400 metres. By next day we were well rested and also fed by our ever-giggling host. Looking around I said, if there is a paradise on earth, this is it, this is it, this is it.

First Picture of Paradise on earth

Paradise in panorama

Our home stay - Pension Elfi

When in Paradise do as the Paradisians do :)

I love manual focus!

Lake at Löckernmoos

Our mood when leaving Gosau!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I loved my worries

I am a worrier. For being worried, I don't need impossible deadlines glaring at me or a bunch of 10 year olds who are 4 grade levels behind where they should be. I can worry my head off just by sitting at home cooking, gardening and generally whiling my time away.
But in these last few moments of being joyful in my joblessness I wonder about my worries from the last 2 months.
  • My house is still as disorganised as I had it 2 months back. My carefully prepared list of things to do to get it in order has gone missing inside the piles of papers which have been carefully collected by me and my husband over the last 11 years.
  • After scalding my wrist with molten caramel, almost cutting off a toe, burning and bruising myself at umpteen number of places on my hands and wrists, I might burn my house down while cooking.
  • How to get my caramel custard taste like heaven every time I make it and get everyone to say that it is gourmet dessert.
  • None of my flower seeds, including the ones which are preserved over 5-6 years, are germinating and my garden is still rather flowerless.
The best of all my worries:
  • My cardamom plants are flowering, but the fruits are not setting. May be I do not have enough bees in my garden for doing pollination.
But then tomorrow is altogether a different story. Who knows about tomorrow? Who knows what my worries are going to be from tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chocolate pudding cake

After a long time, I am discovering the joys of baking again (don't ask when I baked earlier, I did bake earlier). I tried again one very easy, but delicious pudding cake I have baked long time back, once for friends and once for family and received appreciations galore. I am sharing the recipe here.

Chocolate pudding cake

Part 1
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt

Part 2
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Part 3
2/3 cup brown sugar (reduce this to half if you want the pudding to be a little less sweet)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Part 4
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 3/4 cups boiling water

Thoroughly mix all ingredients in Part 1 with a fork in a 9-inch baking pan. Now add Part 2 and continue mixing. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Keep the water in Part 4 for boiling. Sprinkle all of Part 3 over the mixture. Don't mix. Add the vanilla essence into the boiled water and pour over the mixture. Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes. The cake will come up in the middle and the pudding will be bubbling around.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and then wait for the compliments.
The good thing is, all the mixing is done in the same pan, no beating. It is as simple as that.

If you think this itself is difficult, what the heck, call me up and come over. I will bake it for you.
Don't forget to pick up the vanilla ice cream on your way :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Roma - a picture tour

After the 2 year stint with teaching was over, I together with 3 of my friends, decided to see the world. We ended up in Rome last Tuesday. Though the intention was not to do any off beaten track, we found ourselves staying at a camping site a little outside the Rome city. The first things which caught my eye was the cotton which was flying around all over the place. But this cotton didn't come from long pods as I have seen back in India, but very small pepper sized pods. One day morning I ventured out while my friends were getting ready to go out. I found myself in the middle of a dream sequence in which light snow kept falling. I closed my eyes, extended my hands on my sides and rotated around a few times.
These are some pictures from my camera during my visit to Rome.

Trevi Fountain

The Spanish Steps
Fresco in the Vatican Museum
The beautifully frescoed ceiling in Vatican 

Last Supper in Tapestry in Vatican Museum

Creation of man in Sistine Chapel

Colosseum at night

Inside Colosseum

Madonna and the Child

(don't miss the blush saving tapestry which was added much later in the painting)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Drama: Performance-2

On December 16th 2010, my kids performed the drama "Pandurang Pipewala goes to Purandar" after 3months of preparation.

This is a heavily edited, dubbed version of the drama performed on stage.

Since the drama had a lot of dialogues, I arranged for collar mikes for the students (Shyam sponsored). But the whole sound system in the auditorium failed and half the dialogues were not audible to the audience. But that doesn't matter. At the end of the day I am proud of what the kids have achieved. Remember that these kids have started speaking in English just a year back. So managing to learn the dialogues and also deliver them with these expressions, pause and voice levels, is no mean feat.
Read Drama: Performance-1 about the preparations.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Yohan sharing his experience

For the End Of Year showcase I asked my students to share their experience, in training for and performing drama on stage for the Annual Day function. I asked them to prepare for it and come and tell me the next day. Yohan told me that he wanted to do it right away and doesn't need any preparation. He just went in front of the class and spoke, starting from the time when he failed in 4th std last year and I coming to teach them. He went on for 4minutes without stopping even once. At the end of it I just couldn't control my tears and I hugged him.
Next day he wrote and brought me this speech. I am reproducing it with just one change where I have replaced pronouns 'they' and 'them' with 'she' and her, since he has told me that he will never make a mistake in that again.

"Hellow, I am Yohan. I am from Vth, I like my didi very much. My teacher name is Subhadra. If we say teacher to Subhadra didi, she don't like. Because we are talling her didi, When I was in IVth std, I was very veek, now she make me smart. Now I can talk in English and read English. I am so Happy becaus I got very didi. She tot everything very nies. Now she is teaching to V, VI, VI. She is from Banglore. And she is talking in English very nice. Some student make cry to her. Didi brought gifts last year, and brought this year also. Didi was computer ingeneer. Didi tought how to do Drama. And tought Dielock in English.
THAnKYou Didi And all My friends."

I might be able to find a sample of his writing from last year to compare. I am so happy to see that he has improved so much from that time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shahid, please come back

When you start teaching a bunch of 5th, 6th and 7th standard students, one thing you wont imagine is that you will be teaching 16 and 17 year olds also. Once you realise that, you still wont imagine how big they are and what they are capable of, because in your eyes they are still kids studying in upper primary school.
Shahid came across as different from the rest of the students in 7th standard. One, he was the one who was struggling the most to speak in English, two, he was the most invested in speaking in English. He would come everyday with new words for which he wanted to know the English word and would write them down and sometimes write the Hindi pronunciation also so that he can go home and practice. When I started my drama classes, in the screening workshop, he acted out the lion's part in the Lion and Mouse story. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I almost saw the mane of the lion when he did that. I looked forward to him being taking a good role in the drama and thereby improving his English faster. But he had to go away to his village since his father was visiting from abroad and missed out on the opportunity.
He was one of those students whom I got to trust me enough for them to tell and ask me anything, or so I thought. Once he asked me, after I got a little frustrated since he was getting the question tags wrong after I taught him that for the 10th time, "Didi, I listen to a song for 2-3 times and I can remember that and sing that, but you teach me grammar hundreds of times and I still forget". I have my theories on that and we had a discussion over that in our extra class.
He brought his girl friends' snap and showed that to me. A kid who can hardly speak grammatically correct English, he called her his soul mate. He never stopped surprising me. But somehow he kept making me believe that he trusted me enough to tell me anything.
In the English test for subject-verb agreement, I gave the sentence "This dog _______ everyday" with the verb 'run' to fill in the blanks. I was shocked to see the 'f' word at the place of runs in his paper. I decided to talk to him the next day during extra class. The next day I gave them the Math test and he came and asked me whether I can excuse him from the test that day as he was having a bad headache. I told him to write as much as he can and he could lie down after that and I will give the paper again to him the next day to finish. That day I left early from school as my laryngitis was bad and I lost my voice. I couldn't talk to him. The next day I took an off as I was sick still.
The day after, I reached school and the first thing I hear is that, Shahid has run away from home. He left school the day he had the headache, went home, packed his bag and just left. His classmates didn't have much idea as to what has happened. But they told me that he was talking about his grandparents, with whom he was staying, harassing him and also that he was talking about poison. I scolded myself for not talking to him the previous day, instead of asking to write the test. Though when think now I know that it would not have changed anything. Still, since I got the feeling that something was not right that day, I berated myself for not taking any action.
I didn't know what to do. I called up his uncle's number everyday, but that mobile was always not reachable. I checked everyday with his classmates to see if he has contacted one of them. After a week Angad told me that Shahid has reached one of his uncle's house somewhere in MP. I felt so relieved I hugged Angad for telling me that.
I had trusted his street smart ways, but still believed even a well built 16year old like him would not be safe out there in streets of this bad world. He is one of my show case results of what some dedicated hard work from the teacher and student, can do. But it looks like he is not going to come back. At least from what the other kids have heard from him, he is joining some school where ever he is currently.
Thank you Shahid, for not taking the wrong decision (it gives a chill up my spine when I think about the options you have thought about) and taking care of yourself and making yourself reach your uncle's place safely.
On second thoughts, I still want you to come back. I have another 6 weeks for us to work together.
Shahid, please come back.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A cup of ginger tea

An old man in his late 60's walked very slowly on a walker wearing an yellow and white striped sweater. He walked painfully slowly, moving inch by inch, while his wife walked a few feet ahead and waited for him. From the third floor balcony where I am watching, I cannot see whether her face reflects frustration or compassion. But from her body language though it looked more like frustration. (Why did that make me feel sad?) A man in a tight bright pink t-shirt stood at the gate watching the frustrated truck drivers taking U-turns as the main road is blocked ahead. As if bored, he turned and walked back inside the gate. Bright pink shirt, big boobs, he could have passed off as a woman except for his very hirsute face. Two youngsters wished the slowly progressing old couple and took their scooter and started to the gate. The much decorated red Maruti 800 drives in and just in the front of the car, the scooter takes a sharp right turn making the car brake very hard. (What was that for?) The designer car passes below my balcony revealing yet another sticker on the top which reads "Racing" which covers the whole top of the car. (He must be expecting a lot of people to watch his car from above!!!) Booming sound above, I look up, tell Jet Airways and turn my attention back to the ground. A girl whom I pass by almost every day at the stairs in the morning walks in adjusting her duppatta, which doesn't need any more adjusting. She walks all the way near the wall and walks by the wall. She almost looks like she wants to blend into the wall and walk invisibly. A red Chevrolet Beat with KA 01 registration drives out. (Fellow Bangalorean!:) A girl comes riding in a scooter and leaves 2 very oily brown paper packets at the security desk and drives in. (Samosas for the security guards? That's cool!) An army jeep drives in, not a usual sight, every one stop to gawk at them. The old couple has started their journey back. The old man trips and looses his balance and in split second there are 3 people supporting him avoiding a fall. (Where did they all appear from?) The old woman walks back to him and starts walking with him, even touching his hand a couple of times. (That somehow makes me a feel better.) The phone rings and with my cup of ginger tea finished, I run back inside for my 10minutes of evening chat.