Saturday, August 23, 2014

Auckland Street Eats 2014

Social media was well taken advantage of to promote this already hugely popular event. Reminders about the event started showing up on my facebook feed a month before the event.
Unfortunately, "Fabric-a-brac", another event that I was interested in was on the same day. I thought that we would be able to make it to both places, first to fabric-a-brac and then, to the street eats, but hunger got the better of me and the queues at Street Eats took up all the time, that I had to miss Fabric-a-brac.

There is no wonder why this event is not already a monumental success. The food did not fail to please, except for a few let downs. Some of the food is not really "street" food, as in, you need to use both your hands and may be look a mess as well. All of the vendors serve their food in eco friendly bowls and food cones and there are friendly people willing to come help clean away the empty bowls, though there was no lack of dustbins at the venue.

We tried the "Lamb Pita" from Ima Cuisine which was a huge let down. It was our first buy and it definitely was not worth the wait in the huge queue. The team struggled with delivering orders.  Priced at 10$, the lamb was a bit undercooked for our liking. They did have a 7$ vegetarian falafel option as well, though we did not try that one. I have heard a lot about their Shakshuka but that was not on offer at Street Eats.

Our next stop was the Belotta stall, where we had Piquollo Peppers, which was absolutely delicious and had our spirits up again. Priced at 8$, we got two pieces of peppers stuffed with delicate, delicious seafood filling topped with a smooth tomato based sauce.

From the time we had entered the venue, I knew I had to visit the Food Truck Garage. So, we next ran to join that queue downing our beers, as we were not allowed to take the beer out of Shed 10. The Beefroot Slider and the Redergize Salad were amazingly delicious and worth the 5$ each. Well worth the wait in the queue with the hot NZ sun toasting our backs. I am definitely going to buy quinoa when I am at the supermarket next to try my own version of the Redergize salad.


Our final stop was Orleans for their Key Lime Pie(lets)(5$ for two) and Fried Chicken with Waffles in a Food Cone(8$). This was just the end we needed to our lunch. Slightly sweet waffles with crispy chicken nuggets served in a food cone. That pleased the Indian in me - symbolic of the food cones made of newspaper in which we could buy roasted peanuts or the dry Indian Bhel. This queue was the largest but we ate a slice of Toto's pizza as we waited.

It was really crowded and so we booted out giving Urban Turban, Merchants of Venice, iVillage, Mexico, The Grill by Sean Connelly, Thai Street, Y Not, amongst others, a miss.

There was a DJ playing some pretty good music, face painting and an inflated kid's play area. This one happens annually and should not be missed. It gives you a chance to sample the food from some of the restaurants on the waterfront at a nominal price.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Following the father-in-law's footsteps - a movie review



A comedy drama worth watching once if you are a hard-core Dhanush fan or are missing the yesteryear Rajinikanth.

Directed by: Velraj
Starring:
Dhanush
Amala Paul

I fell in love with Dhanush after I heard "Why this kolaveri di", though '3' failed to impress me.  However, as I started watching more of his movies and listening to more of his movie songs, including those which he has lent his voice to, even before kolaveri happened, I sensed repetition. And after seeing all the raving about Vellai Illa Patadhaari on the internet, I reluctantly agreed to watch it for our weekend movie. Listed below are what I liked and what I did not like about the movie. 

Likes:
  • Comedy
  • Awareness about organ donation
  • Awareness about the sad state of affairs in the country where engineers from all other fields are forced to take up an IT job.
  • Catchy music
Dislikes :
  • Repetition - have seen most of what Dhanush had to offer in most of his other movies.
  • Repetition - have seen most of this good guy always succeeds through hardwork in almost all of Rajinikanth's movies
  • Dhanush is trying to follow in his father-in-law's footsteps by introducing a lot of "style" 
    • When he speaks out the entire dialogue about how real people struggle to climb up the ladder and are crushed by the rich kids. 
    • When he gets his cigarette lighted up from the very guy that he beat up
  •  A scrawny Dhanush beating up a group of people, including when he takes off his shirt 
  • The same Dhanush who could remember that the next door girl lied about him lying drunk on the street can't remember that the same girl had said that she liked "Raghu" to "Karthik".. Aaargghhhh!!
  • Music seems repetitive too though it is catchy

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Road trip - ChristChurch to ChristChurch - a review of food, accomodation and activities with some trivia

Going on a holiday and making the most out of it, requires a lot of time spent on research. Our main intention was to explore the South Island by road and do as many side walking trails as possible.

A lot of sites have itineraries for road trips across the South Island but don't really mention the activities or the amount of time that one could have to do a little bit of exploring - may be on foot or activities (you are in the adventure capital of the world).

Here is the story of our first campervan trip in the South Island, New Zealand, with what we did and could do and what we could not or did not want to do. We did end up rushing the last few days - after day 9.

Trip details - Christchurch - Lake Tekapo - Oamaru - Dunedin - The Catlins - Invercargill - Bluff - Te Anau - Milford Sound - Queenstown - Glenorchy - Arrowtown - Wanaka - Glaciers - Hokitika - Christchurch
Day 1 : Auckland to Lake Tekapo
Day 2 : Lake Tekapo to Oamaru
Day 3 : Oamaru to Dunedin
Day 4: Dunedin to Invercargill.
Day 5: Invercargill to Milford Sound via Te Anau
Day 6: Milford Sound to Queenstown via Te Anau
Day 7 : Exploring Queenstown
Day 8 : Queenstown to Wanaka
Day 9 : Wanaka to Hokitika via the glaciers
Day 10 : Hokitika to Christchurch
Day 11 : Christchurch to Auckland

Trivia :
  • Scenic Route from Christchurch upto Queenstown
  • Total kms covered by road - 2,275kms
  • 18th  April, 2014 to 28th April, 2014
  • This was quite an ambitious trip and we ended up doing nothing else but mostly driving on a couple of days
  • We could not use deals on bookme as we were not really sure of the timing and where we would be but we did manage to grab a few deals from the AA and Jasons magazines.

South Island 10 day Road Trip
Day 1 : Auckland to Lake Tekapo (1.5+3.5 hours) 
Today includes a flight to Christchurch, hiring a campervan and driving to Lake Tekapo via Ashburton and Geraldine.

Lake Tekapo gets it turquoise colour from the 'rock flour' that is dispersed in the lake. The rocks are ground by the glaciers higher up.
Lake Tekapo houses many hydro power generating stations and is also know for fishing and boating.

Background : All radio stations screaming of bad weather and road blocks.
Also, a public holiday - Good Friday so stocking up on essentials was a bit tough. Public holidays in New Zealand can make life really difficult - more so when the big super market chains close down as well.

Transport :
  • Flights from Auckland to Christchurch for 2 - 500$ - 1.5 hours
  • Campervan hire - 99$ for the day
  • Fuel charges - 64$ 
  • Christchurch to Lake Tekapo - 3.5 hours 
Food : 
  • Breakfast - Moko Cafe, Regent Street 
    • Hearty sized portions
    • Cost for 2 portions plus coffee - 24$
  • Lunch - Robbie's Bar and Bistro, Ashburton
    • Lovely ambience 
    • Friendly staff
    • Cost of 1 main and 1 beer - 25$
  • Dinner - self made sandwiches
Activities : 
  • Antartic Centre
    • Cost : 56$ per person including the Hagglund ride
    • Simulated storm not to be missed
    • Ice water competition is fun if not already tried it at Kelly Tarlton's in Auckland
    • Hagglund ride is a different experience
    • Blue penguin feeding is very informative
    • Spend about 2 hours
  • Church of the good shepherd
    • Cost : Free
    • Must visit
    • Beautiful place to walk around
    • Can spend about an hour or so walking around the lake - around the evening
  • Walk near Lake Tekapo 
    • About 45 minutes post dinner

Stuff that we missed cause of the public holiday
* Ashburton flight museum - usually open between 1pm - 3 pm
* Geraldine Vintage Car Museum

Stay :
Lake Tekapo Holiday Park and Motel
  • Price - 15$ per person for a non powered site plus 2$ for a hot shower
  • Beautiful location - only thing they got going for them
  • Nil equipment in the kitchen
  • Showers are without any proper ventilation 
  • Free BBQs
Total Cost : 875$ including some bits and odds

Day 2 : Lake Tekapo to Oamaru (2.5 hrs)
Today includes a walk up Mt. John, breakfast at the breathtakingly beautiful Astro Cafe, stocking up on supplies and heading to Oamaru to see the Blue Penguin Colony.

Transport :
Campervan hire - 99$ per day
Fuel charges - 63$
Lake Tekapo to Oamaru - 2.5 hours

Food : 
  • Breakfast - Astro Cafe
    • A sandwich and hot chocolate - 12$
    • Breathtaking views
  • Lunch
    • Boiled eggs and bread
  • Dinner
    • Grilled salmon - salmon bought at Twizel for 13$, self grilled
Activities:
  • Mt. John Walkway
    • Cost - Free
    • 1.5 hours return
    • Moderate climb
    • 360 degree views of Lake Tekapo and beyond and the mountains
    • Visit Astro Cafe for a quick bite
  • Lake Pukaki Scenic Lookout and Twizel Salmon
    • Cost - Free
    • Can purchase farmed salmon
    • Lovely views
  • Walk around the Oamaru Victorian Precinct
    • Cost - free
    • About 30-45 minutes 
  • Blue Penguin Colony, Oamaru
    • Cost -  48$ for 2 - with some discount for holding a YHA membership card
    • Get educated on blue penguins
    • See the blue penguins get washed ashore while returning from feeding in the sea
    • The number of penguins that you see depends on the time of the year and your patience
    • We saw over 80 penguins
Stuff that we missed
* Night star gazing at the observatory due to bad weather
* Elephant rocks - just missed it as we were arguing and drove right past
* SteamPunk HQ

Stay : 
Waitaki Waters Holiday Park
  • 29$ for 2 people for 1 night for a non-powered site
  • Well equipped kitchen
  • Friendly staff

Total Cost :  270$ including bits and odds

Day 3 : Oamaru to Dunedin (1.5 hours)
Today includes visiting the Moeraki Boulders(a natural wonder), Larnach Castle and Alan's Beach which meant driving around the Otago Peninsula. There are other paid activities such as the Yellow Penguin Place, Albatross Centre which we decided to give a miss as we thought it would be best to see the animals in the wild rather than under human influence.

Transport :
Campervan hire - 99$
Fuel - 57$
Oamaru to Dunedin - 1.5 hrs

Food : 
  •  Breakfast 
    • Self made bread and eggs
  • Lunch
    • Self made sandwiches
  • Dinner - Scenic Hotel Southern Cross
    • Cost - 59.50$ for 2 mains and 2 beer
    • Good food
    • Nice ambience
Activities :
  • Sunrise at the beach in Oamaru
    • Cost - free
    • Our first cobbled beach experience
    • Secluded except for a couple of fishermen
    • 45 minutes
  • Moeraki Boulders
    • Cost - donation of personal choice
    • A natural wonder
    • South Island's most photographed natural wonder
    • Perfectly spherical boulders made due to chemical reactions in the limestone 
    • Can also visit the cafe about which I don't have too much to say 
    • 30 minutes
  • Shag Point - Fur Seals and Sea lions in their natural habitat
    • We may have missed this one if not for the free touring map by Jasons. 
    • We saw so many fur seals up close and personal.  
    • Not too many people - looks like a best kept secret
    • 30 minutes to an hour or more
  • Larnach Castle
    • Cost - 50.40$ for two (including 10% discount coupon)
    • Lovely garden and well maintained house
    • Can be missed as you get better views for free
  • Alan's Beach
    • Can see yellow eyed penguins and seals, if you are lucky
    • Gravel road makes for an uncomfortable drive with a 2WD vehicle
  • Explore the town center
    • Post dinner we walked around the town center
    • Stunning architecture
Stuff we missed
* Yellow Eyed Penguin Place
* Albatross Centre
* Dunedin Botanic Gardens
* Sandfly Bay - similar to Alan's Beach
* Gypsy Fair - Arrggh!! It made me sad that despite being gypsies for those few days, we missed it - sheer foolishness on  our part.

Stay : 
Dunedin Holiday Park and Motel
  • Cost - 36$ for 2 for a non powered site
  • Super market/Stores a stone's throw away
  • Very close to the beach
  • Quite a popular place
  • Ill-equipped kitchen
Total Cost : 305$ including odds and bits

Day 4: Dunedin to Invercargill. (3.5hrs)
Following the scenic route brochure that we had picked up, we decided to go to Invercargill via The Catlins. On the way we visited Kaka Point, Nugget point and also made it to the Bluff. It being Easter Monday we missed out on Bluff Oysters in their land.

Travel :  
Campervan hire : 99$
Fuel : 51$

Food :  
  • Breakfast
    • Self made sandwiches
  • Lunch 
    • Self made stuff
  • Dinner - Speight's Ale House
    • Cost - 43$
    • Nice ambience
    • Unfortunately had run out of the beer that was on promotion for a limited time
    • Was one of the few rare places open considering the public holiday
Stay : 
Beach Road Holiday Park
  • Cost - 28$ for two persons
  • Surcharge on credit cards
Activities :
  • Nugget Point 
    • Lovely views
    • Come face to face with how nature deals with the harshness of nature
    • Tiny baby seals playing - need a pair of binoculars
    •  A nice walk
  • Tautuku Bay
    • Florence Hill Lookout
    • See how nature changes what we see
  • Explore bluff
    • Learn a bit more history and enjoy great  views



Stuff we missed due to lack of time
* Jack's Blowhole
* A visit to Stewart Island

Total Cost : 250$ (Including bits and odds and stocking up on essentials)

Day 5: Invercargill to Milford Sound via Te Anau (4.5 hrs)
Today we drive to Te Anau. On the way we confirmed a Milford Sound Cruise and stay at Milford Sound. We also do a few walks on the way to Milford Sound as planned.

Travel :
Campervan hire : 99$
Fuel : 110$

Food : 
  • Breakfast
    • Self cooked
  • Lunch
    • Self cooked sandwiches
  • Dinner - Blue Duck Cafe and Bar
    • Cost - 48$
    • Happening place considering it is the only place open
    • Cool ambience
    • Loved their kitchen
Activities :
  • Lake Gunn Walkway
    • A 45 min walk through beech wood forest
    • Teeming with birdlife
    • Amazing views of Lake Gunn
    • Loads of trivia about beech trees 
    • Very easy walk
  • Mirror Lakes
    • Teeming with people
    • All bus tours stop here so this should be visited when there is no crowd
    • 15 minutes walk and viewing
  • Homer Tunnel Walk
    • A short walk to understand the flora and fauna of the harsh terrain
    • Lovely views
    • Appreciate the sharp contrast to the other side of the tunnel, once you drive through
  • The Chasm 
    • Work of art by nature
    • Sheer force of water
    • 15-20 minutes walk and viewing
  • Milford Sound Cruise
    • Cost : 70$ per person including free tea/coffee
    • Amazingly beautiful sounds
    • Fur seals
    • Get bathed in pristine waters from a waterfall
    • 2.5 hour cruise
Stay : Milford Sound Lodge 
  • Cost - 44$ for two - most expensive
  • Worst in all our travel
  • Was just a car park with zero views
  • Ill equipped kitchen 
  • Bad roads to get there
Total Cost : 375$ including bits and odds

Day 6: Milford Sound to Queenstown via Te Anau (5 hrs)
Travel :
  • Campervan hire - 99$ 
  • Fuel - 50$
Food :
  • Breakfast - self made sandwiches
  • Lunch - Self cooked noodles and baked beans
  • Dinner  - Bombay Palace, Frankton
    • Amazing ambience
    • We took our food for a candle light dinner by the lake front
    • Good biryani
    • Nice sides though we missed the pepper in the pepper chicken 
    • Cost - 36$ - we did use it the next day for lunch as well
Activities :
  • Lake Marian walk
    • A steep climb
    • 3 hrs return
    • We missed the views due to bad weather but it was rated 2nd in the list of must do walks at the Milford Sound Lodge
  • Explore Frankton LakeFront
  • Candlelight dinner at the lake front
    • Council provided Barbecue available for use
    • Council provided seating available too
Stuff we missed cause of lack of time, wet shoes and bad weather
* Kepler track
* Key Summit track

Stay  : Frankton Motor Camp
  • Cost - 36$ for two persons per night
  • Items for kitchen use available for loan from office - I quite like this idea
  • Lovely location - right at the waterfront under kowhai trees - a romantic can't ask for more
Total Cost : 230$

Day 7:  Exploring Queenstown
We were so satisfied with the relaxed and lovely atmosphere of the Frankton Motor Camp that we decided to stay a day more. We explore Glenorchy and try to find Paradise.

Transport :
  • Campervan hire - 99$
  • Fuel - 50$
Food : 
  • Breakfast - self made sandwiches
  • Lunch - leftover from Bombay Palace
  • Dinner - Frankton Arm Tavern
    • Cost -  56$ for 2 mains and 2 beers
    • Amazing ambience
    • Lovely fireplace which was taken by locals
    • Good food
    • Really friendly staff
Activities :
  • Queenstown walk from Belfast Terrace
    • 360 degree views
    • 2-3 hrs return
    • Steep climb but well worth the views
  • Explore Glenorchy and the search for paradise 
    • A 45 minute drive from Queenstown
    • Beautiful Lagoon Walkway
    • A semi gravel road drive to Paradise
    • Eat world famous carrot cake at "The Trading Post" in Glenorchy 
  • A short exploration of the 12 mile delta where we stopped for lunch
  • Lake Diamond walk
    • a lake in the shape of an eight
Stuff we missed  due to lack of interest and time
* Frankton Lakefront walkway
* Exploring the crowded town centre
* Skyline Gondola
* Paragliding
* Shotover Jet
* Million Dollar Cruise

Stay : Frankton Motor Camp
  • Cost - 36$ for two persons 
Total Cost : 260$ including short eats

Day 8: Queenstown to Wanaka (1 hr excluding time spent in Arrowtown)
When we explore the true colours of Autumn and exercise our brains at the Puzzling World!

Transport :
  • Campervan hire - 99$
  • Fuel - 50$
Food :
  • Breakfast - Arrowtown Bakery Cafe
    • Cost - 12$
    • Snug place
    • Yumm food 
  • Lunch - Uncle John's Pizzeria
    • Cost - 14$ for a burnt calzone and "1" fried bluff oyster
    • One word - Avoid!!
  •  Snacks - Puzzling world
    • Cost -  10$
  •  Dinner - Self cooked
Activities:
  • Explore Arrowtown
    • Quaint town
    • Known for Autumn Colours
    • Hosts Autumn Festival
    • Zero crime 
  • Explore the lakefront
  • Puzzling world and the Great Maze
    • Cost - 32$ including a 10% discount voucher
    • A must visit - great fun
    • Exercise your brain
    • Purchase some more puzzles to further exercise your brain
  • Outlet track
    • About 1.5 hours along the river side
    • Flat easy walk
Stuff that we missed due to my wet shoes
*Mt Roy walk
*Mt Iron walk

Stay : Lake Outlet Holiday Park
  • Cost - 28$ for two persons plus 1$ for a hot shower
  • Beautiful views
  • Easy walks start from here
  • Liked the fact that they sold stuff at the office - convenience matters
  • Hot shower did not work
Total Cost : 275$  including short eats
Day 9 : Wanaka to Hokitika via glaciers (5 hrs)
In spite of the long drive, we did fit in a lot of walks.

Transport
  • Campervan hire - 99$
  • Fuel - 110$
Food : 
  • Breakfast - self cooked
  • Lunch - Haast World Heritage Frontier cafe
    • Cost - 37$ - a main and a beer
    • Vintage ambience
    • Good local food 
  • Dinner - self cooked
Activities : 
  • Blue Pools Walkway
    • 30 minutes return
    •  Through beech/tahina forest, across a swinging bridge to the mouth of the blue river
    • If you are lucky, you can see rainbow trout
  • Thunder Creek falls
    • 5 minute return
    • Just as the name suggests - a sudden bolt of water falling from a height
  • Fantail falls
    • 5 minutes return
    • As the name suggests, a waterfall that looks like the outline of a fantail.
  • Fox Glacier Te Moeka o Tuawe Valley Walk
    • 1 hour return depends on your agility to cross streams
    • Takes you to a view that gives you a frontal view of the glacier
    • Cross a surging stream - which can be tricky
  • Lake Matheson walk
    • Lake Matheson is famous for the reflective view of Mt Cook
    • We did just the first point of interest but the bride, read Mt Cook, was too shy to come out from behind the veil, read the clouds.

Stay : Hokitika Holiday Park
  • Cost - 28$ for two for a night
  • Very good facilities
  • Hosts let their expectations well known
Total Cost : 285$ includings bits and odds

Day 10 : Hokitika to Christchurch (3.5 hrs)

There was just one worry on my mind for this day and that was the weather. I heard that Arthur's Pass could be closed due to bad weather and since the weather had not been particularly good, I wanted to make sure that we get to Christchurch on time. We did nothing but drive all the way to Christchurch today. The views were great and an enjoyable drive. 

We were in Christchurch by lunchtime and spent most of our day inside a motel room cause most businesses were closed as it was a Sunday.

Transport 
  • Campervan hire - 99$
  • Fuel -  60$
Food :
  • Breakfast - self cooked 
  • Lunch and Dinner - Pedro's House of Lamb
    • Cost - 36$
    • Huge Portions
Activities :
  • Relax
  • Explore Hagley's Park in the city of gardens
Stay :
Ashford Motor Lodge
  • Cost - 120$ for a one bedroom apartment
  • Comfortable and clean
  • Eco friendly
 Total Cost : 315$


Campervan review : 
Company : CamperCo
  • Sturdy, dependable vehicle.
  • Had all that we needed for our trip.
  • Cost per day 99$ with no excess
  • Hired for 11 days
  • The only grouse was the lack of charging points. You can either run the freezer box or charge *ONE* device at a time.
  • Also, we forgot to take our AUX input cable. I am sure that we could have asked Ross from CamperCo but decided not to as it was Easter time and did not want to disturb him. The radio works most of the time and it was good as we got the weather updates as we needed them.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ni Hao!

"Ni Hao" came the voice as I lifted my head to enter the lift.

I was just shooting off an apologetic message to the husband that I was ready to head home. Inside there was guilt, for not having kept dinner ready before heading out. Inside there was hunger, for I too had not eaten. Inside there was this rush to get home.

Outside could have been a wildest dream come true. But everything inside was replaced with one feeling "PANIC".

The "Ni Hao" had come from one of the 5 guys already in the lift. He had even made a bow. How cute I thought to myself.

Thoughts were cut short by "No, no, don't be shy" by the guy next to him. I was beginning to take in the scene. 5 guys in all, 3 to the right and 2 to the left of the lift. The entire middle space was taken by a trolley bag with its handle stretched out to its owner on the left.


All the 3 guys on the right pushed themselves to a corner and had made a tiny space for me to squeeze into. It was one of these guys who had voiced "Ni Hao". The guy to whom the bag belonged seemed to ignore me and it stood where it was.


I stood there tongue-tied.
"What does Ni Hao mean anyway? Does it mean hello?"
I thought of saying something quirky.
I thought of squeezing in.
I judged the space and felt it was too small for me to feel comfortable in.
I felt fear.
I thought of saying "Excuse me" but the words would not come out.
I said to myself "Be Brave".
I thought "Why can't that guy move the fucking bag?"
I inhaled the beer.

And thankfully the lift doors closed.

Another press of the lift calling button and up came an empty lift. Disappointment! Relief! Relief won over. Obviously I could do nothing else about it. I had maybe missed some fun.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My recipes have a new home!

I finally bit the bullet and decided to split the content on the blog. A weekend when we have been "cyclone"d in made me finally get down to it.

I started off this blog as a journal of my thoughts and then it went on to becoming my recipe book. Slowly posts on movie reviews and restaurant reviews began to creep in. It looked like a nice collage to me but friends mentioned that blogs should not be a collage.

Gathering a fan following was never really an agenda item, neither was there the awareness of laurels and blog awards. A bout of web trawling eats into moments of reflection and those started leaving me depressed. But the "chalta hain" side of me, never allowed the depression to turn into a drive to excel or to do better.

A few times, I did manage to incorporate templates and indulge in joining focus groups but I really could not keep up with that. It seems hollow to visit a blog and then leave a comment on a post hoping that the person would take notice and return the favour. Don't get me wrong. Not all the comments would fall into this category. But this is not the kind of satisfaction that I am looking for. I'd rather some one really tried out the recipe and gave me honest feedback. But what are the chances of someone really following a recipe to the tee? I think I myself have a 0.1% record. Either I don't have all the ingredients or I prefer to add an ingredient or two, to suit my taste. And that reminds me of the fact that people are so much more fussy about food nowadays than I can remember in the days when my mom and her friends entertained.

But I still went ahead and am giving it another chance. I think I have succeeded. All the recipes are now available here. You can also access them from the "Recipes" link in the top menu bar. Feedback is welcome.

Blueberries!!! From picking to preserving

(NOTE: This one has been in the drafts for more than 4 weeks now, but there's not a word I have changed cause it all holds so good and true. I am loving the jam and a friend to whom I had given a bottle gave me a telephone call just to let me know that the jam was really good and that her son too had praised it)

Here is a glance of the stuff I've been using the preserve for
Blueberry Cheesecake
 Blueberry Cheesecake
Blueberry CreamCheese Muffins
 Blueberry and Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Blueberry Preserve


A glance through the newspaper while catching up on office gossip caught the words "Pick your own blueberries". Twas an ad by the 400 acre blueberry orchard. Some googling revealed that blueberry season ends mid Jan. I discarded the thought of going blueberry picking thinking I was late and began looking for orchards offering  PYO Strawberries. But blueberries sounded more posh so I made the husband make a quick call to confirm if we could go for the blueberry picking and they said they were open all days from 8am. So it was decided that we'd go blueberry picking and if time permitted, go for a trek at the famous Blue Springs. Another post on that coming up real soon. The day before we went, a colleague mentioned the Hamilton gardens as a must visit. So we had a plan.

Our flatmate joined us but we never really knew who he was picking the berries for. I had instructed the husband to strictly pick the ripe ones and the ones that came with just a slight feather nudge. We both managed to pick 2kgs together. Our flatmate had picked 2.3 kgs single handedly. Imagine my fear when we had to pay for that 2.3 kgs as well. I was hoping and praying that they were all good. Skeptically I opened up the bag which had the berries which he had picked to clean and sort. Kudos to him, they were good enough but now we were stuck with 4.4kgs of blueberries. So, I decided to make a preserve. I had eaten Kitchens of India Strawberry and Mint preserve back in India so I decided to make Blueberry and mint preserve with most of them. Some I used in pancakes, some I froze, some I distributed amongst friends and some are still in the fridge waiting to be used in muffins and the odd baking. 

Now, this is the first time I was gonna make a jam/preserve and that too in a huge quantity. My friend had mentioned to me about how canning had to be done and what mason jars were but I had never done something like that before. So I had to google, not only for the canning but to confirm if the combination of blueberries and mint would go well. This blog confirmed it and had easy to follow instructions for the canning. So all set. The previous evenings, I cleaned and picked the stems from the berries. I also chanced upon Revati's Strawberry jam recipe and decided to use the balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice. The next morning, I washed them berries and mashed them. Leaving them to macerate in sugar, we headed out to buy jars for canning.

Briscoes had these real cute vintage mason jars which I picked up. I did see a canning kit for 50$ but decided that it was not something that I should pick up when I was trying something for the first time. After all who knew it would yield 5 jars of delicious yummy jam. Anyways, once back home, I turned on the heat to medium and let the jam and sugar cook. The whole process of making the jam and canning them and sterilizing, etcetera took about 5 hours. We got five 500ml bottles of jam from the 3.5kgs of berries. I added minimal amount of sugar as blueberries are already quite sweet. I gave myself a pat on the back this morning after having the jam on my toast. (Psst.. I had it again with some fresh cream as an after dinner easy dessert just now too)
Blueberry Mint Preserve

Detailed below is the recipe I used as well as how I went about the canning. I am not sure if I've nailed it so I will be putting my jars into the fridge to be on the safe side. 


Preparation time : 1.5 hrs picking by 3, 1 hr cleaning and sorting, 1 hr for macerating
Cooking time : about 1 hour plus extra for canning

Ingredients (makes 2.5litres of jam):

  1. Blueberries - 12 cups as tightly packed as you can or approximately 2.6kg
  2. Sugar - 2.5 cups
  3. Balsamic Vinegar - 2tbsp
  4. Mint leaves - about 15 leaves
Apparatus required :
  1. 5 canning jars of 500 ml capacity each
  2. 1 pakkad - something with which you can have a good grip of the tops of the jars
  3. 5 litre cooker or bigger vessel
  4. Kitchen towels
  5. 2 frozen spoons - keep stainless steel spoons in freezer while you get your jam cooking
How I made the blueberry mint preserve :
Sterilizing the bottles :

  1. In the cooker heat water till the brim such that it will immerse completely the bottles that you will be using for preserving.
  2. Place only the bottles without the lids in the water and boil for 10 minutes. 
  3. For the lids, do not boil as if you are using the seals, the heat will melt the rubber coating. Just place in  warm water and let it simmer.
Onto the jam :
    PreservingBlueberry Preserve
  1. Wash mint leaves and keep aside to dry
  2. Wash and pick blueberries, sorting them so as to remove rotting ones. Overripe or underripe is perfectly fine for the jam. Remove any stems. Infact, I kept the just ripe ones for making muffins or froze them for use later in the year.
  3. In a huge pan, throw in the blueberries and mash them. I used my hands and the potato masher. Hands have a better effect.
  4. Add the sugar and let it macerate for about an hour.
  5. Turn on heat on medium and let it slowly come to a boil. 
  6. When it comes to a boil, keep stirring frequently to prevent any sticking/burning. Continue doing this for about 20 minutes.
  7. You could also do this on high flame if you are going to be constantly on watch and stirring.
  8. To test for doneness, use frozen spoons as suggested here. Take a spoon at a time from the freezer. Dip in jam and place back in the freezer until neither cold nor hot. Since I was cooking on medium to low flame, it was not that hot. In less than a minute, it was at room temperature and was set. I did give it a boil for a few extra minutes just to be doubly sure. I love the consistency of my jam. It is not to runny and not too thick. It is easily spreadable and mixes well in cream for desserts. 
  9. Throw in the balsamic vinegar and mint leaves.Turn off heat and let these sit for about 5 minutes.
  10. Now put the hot jam into the bottles leaving 1 inch from the top.
Sealing the bottles
  1. Place the seals and screw up the lid until finger tight and place into the hot water in the cooker or any vessel which ensures that it is completely immersed. Boil for 10 minutes. Take out and leave in a corner untouched for at least 12 hours. I did hear from my colleague who made 18 bottles of plum jam that the best way is to allow them to cool as slowly as possible and they kept theirs under a blanket. By the time I had known this, my jam had already cooled down. So you could try that. His grandmother made jam that way and they had jam even after she had sadly passed on.
  2. Inspect all bottles after 12 hours. If the lid of any of them can be pushed further, it means the seal has failed. These need to be kept in the fridge and used first. The others are good to be used for up to a year. 


Friday, March 14, 2014

Where I introduce you to my bucket list!

So today is an interesting day for a number of reasons. From today, I get to press the cursor keys one more time whenever asked for my age. Oh what happiness! 
And(here comes the best part) it is a year since we touched down in the land of the Hobbiton. Aha! That's something to be really happy about. Aha! And so it means that I also get back to blogging with this post. Smile! 
Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined a life different from my mother or even away from my mother for that matter. And here I am now, gloating with pride that I am now quite well settled across the Indian Ocean (oh and the Tasmanian Sea) ticking off quite a few items on my bucket list for the one life that I am gifted with. Bear with me cause you may have seen such lists but mine is different - true to the fickle minded Piscean nature my bucket list is never the same. He He.
  • Move and settle comfortably in a new country. At least as comfortable as it was back in Bengalooru.
  • Live alone for sometime to get in touch with the inner you
  • Jump out of an airplane at 16500feet - this was never on the list but once I did it, it had to be here
  • Grow your own vegetables - hmm.. at least I got started and managed a few tomatoes, green chillies, basil, coriander, mint, green beans. Not sure if the bell peppers, eggplants and papaya will survive
  • Reduce the daily caffeine intake - half tick for this one
  • Explore the outdoors EVERY weekend - well almost "every"!
Soon I'd like to tick off "Find a mantra to easily get rid of body hair forever". Countless hours have been spent in general upkeep. Creamy, smooth legs sticking out from under the shortest boyfriend shorts are the ONIDA of Korean and Chinese damsels. Makes me go green with envy. I comfort myself with the fact that winter is just around the corner. Out will come all my beautiful woollens, figure flaunting skinny jeans, scarves and coats and feeling like a gorilla will actually be a blessing. 

Other half ticked items 
  • Maintain weight - A toughie!! Just about everyone claims a 10kg weight gain is inevitable once you move to New Zealand. Ironically, the husband, who worked on the butt the whole week now walks a bit to get to work and back, has lost a couple of kilos. I, on the other hand, devour cupcakes, which I can't stop baking, and then find every possible way to burn off the extra calories. Dance a little here,  do a little jig there aka  Jumba (Jo's Zumba) to the beat of dabang kuttu is a new fill in activity.
  • Build more muscle so that I can open a bottle of jam or pasta sauce without having to run to the husband
Some things already on the bucket list may be 
  • Open a cafe
  • Show mortgages the finger
  • Backpack across the world
  • Outdoor camping trip - may soon be the next item to be ticked off! Glee!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Eggless Whole Wheat Thumbprint cookies

Background daemon threads running every now and then in the back of my mind - gotta use up the jams, gotta use up the whole wheat flour before it expires, expiry date of cream is nearing, expiry date of milk is nearing and so on. It is so difficult to live in a developed country where everything is sold in bulk. So what do I do with all the store bought jam? I now have 3 jars of homemade blueberry preserve (recipe coming soon - blame on laziness to edit the pictures) and so had to get rid of the store bought jam especially since we had stocked up on them during the "super deal of the week" at the supermarket. No, I don't want to be done with my own preserve, I want them to last as long as I possibly can but before they expire. I was too lazy to make these whole wheat pop tarts so I decide to take a short cut and try my version of the jim jam biscuits that I so loved from britannia.

Super easy and super fast. Not to forget the heady wafts of the butter as the cookies bake. Not only was I in seventh heaven while they baked but later too when Pras downed them one after another without allowing them to completely cool.

Ingredients (Makes 28 cookies of 2cm diameter each) :

  1. Whole wheat flour - 1 cup
  2. Chilled unsalted butter cut into cubes - 100g
  3. Ice cold water - 1/4 cup
  4. Salt - 1/4 tsp
  5. Jam/Preserve - enough to fill all the cookies
How I made it :
  1. In a food processor bowl, add the flour and salt.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 190 degree C.
  3. Add the chilled cubed butter.
  4. Turn on the food processor and wait till the flour starts to form crumbs.
  5. Now, start slowly pouring in the cold water. You may not need the entire amount. You need to add just enough to get the dough to come together in a lump. 
  6. Stop the food processor. Split the dough into small balls of desired size.
  7. Take each ball in your right hand and make a deep impression with your thumb. You may need to adjust the other sides which could get a bit thick. Place onto a baking sheet/tray. The cookies have enough butter so there is no need to grease the tray. Repeat for all other balls. 
  8. Bake for 12 minutes in the oven.
  9. Now take the cookies out of the oven. Don't turn off the oven yet. Put in the jam into each of the cookies. Don't overfill as it will ooze over. You may need to press the cookies a bit as the centres may have risen.
  10. Bake for another 8-10 minutes.
  11. Cool 
I am not sure how long they will stay as ours were over before I knew it. I am going to make it a point to make better use of the oven and bake in slightly larger quantities.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Banana Cake with Coconut Cream frosting

So it was a perfect coincidence, the husband's birthday on Friday and having to make molten chocolate cake for my cooking course assignment. All the ingredients were hastily purchased on the way home but a sudden change in plan on seeing the sole ripe banana in the fruit basket. I succumbed to its beckoning.
I have made banana cake multiple times before and here is one of my older recipes. A colleague used to make it for her daughter and seeing how simple it was, I would make it every now and then. I remembered the banana cake slice that we were served after the HP Walkathon in 2012 and did some tweaking, adding some cinnamon. The result was really good and the cake was almost gone by the end of Friday. I am sure that had we not gone out for dinner, we would have licked the plate clean.

Now since I was
all set to make the molten chocolate cake, I did not have any cream and so used coconut cream for the frosting. Ironic that I used milk in the cake but a vegan frosting(duh!! Isn't life full of choices?). On a happy note, banana and coconut - perfect mallu combination for the perfectly mallu husband. (No, he won't accept it).

Now, from my cooking course, I do know that the shape/size of the baking tin do affect the results. Hence, I am sharing here the details of the tin that I used. Also please do read the tips below. A good friend did indicate this to me when we joined a online baking partners group but it did not answer all the questions and neither did I do much investigation back then.

Ingredients (For a 20 cm diameter circular cake): 

  1. All purpose flour : 1/2 cup
  2. Whole wheat flour : 1/2 cup
  3. Baking powder - 1 tsp
  4. Sugar - 1/2 cup
  5. Salt - 1/8 tsp
  6. Banana - 2 medium sized(15cm) ripe
  7. Egg - 1 
  8. Oil - 1/4 cup
  9. Cinnamon stick - 2inch long, 0.7mm thick
  10. Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
  11. Milk - 2 tbsp
  12. Walnuts - 1/4 cup chopped(optional)
For the frosting :
  1. Coconut cream - 1 tin
  2. Sugar - 4 tbsp
  3. Cocoa powder - for dusting

How I made it:

  1. Preheat the oven to degree 180 degree C.
  2. Prepare your baking tin by applying/spraying oil and then dusting lighting with some flour.
  3. In a bowl, mix ingredients 1 to 5.
  4. In a blender/mixie jar, blend ingredients 6 to 10.
  5. Now mix the dry ingredients in 3 to the wet ingredients in 4. Mix to combine. Do not beat. Fold in the walnuts if using some.
  6. If the batter is too thick, add milk till it comes to folding consistency. By folding consistency I mean that the batter should not fall in lumps when poured from the ladle. It should fall like a nice ribbon.
  7. Quickly pour this into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes. Once I had poured the batter into the tin, it was about 1.5 inch in thickness.
  8. Allow it to cool completely.
  9. Now, take a piece of thread - enough to go around the whole cake.(double the length if required). Use this thread to cut the cake into halves. Take one end of the thread and hold in a position midway through the height of the cake. Take the other end around the cake trying to maintain the height and bring the two ends of the thread together.  Now pull the thread ends in opposite directions such that they pierce through the cake and become straight and taut in the middle of the cake, ensuring the cake is completely cut into two.Take the top layer aside and turn it upside down.
  10. Beat the coconut cream till stiff peaks form.  Add sugar and mix well. 
  11. Spread half of this coconut cream on the bottom half of the cake. Place the top half of the cake on top of the bottom half. Spread the remaining coconut cream and using a strainer, sprinkle cocoa powder.
Tips :
  • Use the mentioned tin size or a suitable replacement in another shape. This is very important as the size of the tin decides how long the cake is to be baked as well as the temperature setting. A rough idea would be that heat penetrates at the rate of 0.0014cm per second through water. Now the cake is mostly water, so measure the thickness of your cake and accordingly bake. Also remember that the heat will diffuse from both directions if using a proper OTG. So that affects the cooking time as well. 
  • If not using the frosting, you could increase the sugar to 3/4 cup but this could make the cake too sweet depending on the sweetness of the bananas used. So go with your inner gut feeling. The bananas I used were sweet without the frosting itself. The frosting is not very sweet as it is a few tablespoons of sugar.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Radish/Mooli Paratha

Okay, never ever use bare hands to handle the radish in this recipe. Ever! I made this after so long that I forget and ended up having redness and itching on the back of my hand for about an hour. The itching has reduced, thanks to the coconut oil but the redness still persists. Anyways, getting back to the post.

Another one of my favorites. Parathas are generally loved but stuffed parathas make me feel like I am eating something healthier. Despite their foul smell, these parathas are so delicious that they can hardly be avoided.

Radish is an edible root vegetable. Baby  radish are used in salads raw. In South India, they are added to sambar and in North India, made into parathas. In Mexico, they have a special radish festival wherein carvings on radish are displayed at common spots.

Radish juice is considered to have cleansing powers and is good for the kidney. Some also believe that it helps fight cancer. Adding to all those benefits, this recipe ensures to make maximum use of this veggie, so do try it.

Preparation time : 40 minutes - depends on what method is chosen to extract the radish juice
Cooking time  : 2 minutes per paratha

Ingredients:
For the stuffing:

  1. Radish - 2 medium sized
  2. Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
  3. Kasuri methi - 1 tsp
  4. Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  5. Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
  6. Amchoor/Dry Mango powder - 1/2 tsp
  7. Oil - 1 tbsp
  8. Salt to taste
For the dough:
  1. Whole wheat flour - I usually take enough to make a smooth dough with the extracted radish juice. So start with a little and add as you go.
  2. Salt to taste
  3. Oil - 1 tbsp
  4. Radish juice - extracted when making the above stuffing. You can use plain water as well.
How I made it :
  1. Wash and scrape the radish.
  2. Grate the radish. A medium sized grater will do.
  3. Now, extract the juice from the grated radish. You could either use a muslin cloth or wear a food grade glove and squeeze handfuls of radish. Retain this juice. Remember that the more juice you remove, the better. The drier the filling/stuffing, the easier it will be to roll out the paratha.
  4. In a pan, heat 1 tbsp oil.
  5. Put in the cumin seeds.
  6. Once they start to change colour, add the kasuri methi.
  7. In 30 seconds, put in the red chilli powder. 
  8. Before the red chilli powder starts to burn put in the turmeric powder, grated juiced radish and salt to taste.
  9. Fry till the radish goes as dry and all the masalas are well mixed. 
  10. Now add the mango powder. Mix well and let the stuffing cool. Taste and make adjustments to your taste. 
  11. While the stuffing cools, made the whole wheat dough. Mix the flour, salt, oil and radish juice to make a nice smooth soft dough. The dough when pressed with a finger should kind of bounce back. Make sure it is not too watery/sticky as that will make it harder to roll out. Start with a little flour and keep adding as you go as it is not possible to give an exact measurement. The amount of radish juice will differ based on size, freshness and effectiveness of juicing method used. 
  12. Now, split the dough into small balls.
  13. Roll each ball out into a disc of about 5mm thick.
  14. Place a sufficient amount of stuffing, proportional to the size of the disc in the centre.
  15. Pull the ends together as can be seen in the collage above. 
  16. Apply some dry flour and roll out into a thin disc. Don't worry if the dough comes apart. You can always patch it up with some dry flour. Just ensure that you have the filling spread evenly around and the thickness of the paratha/disc is uniform throughout. 
  17. Repeat for all the balls made in step 12, provided there is enough filling. Else use this dough to make simple plain parathas.
  18. Heat a tawa/flat pan. 
  19. One at a time, place the rolled out parathas on the hot pan. Once you see that there are small air pockets forming, apply some oil/ghee and then turn. Lower the heat and let this cook for about a minute or until maillard reaction kicks in and there are enough brown spots. Apply pressure with the means of a flat ladle to help uniform cooking of all areas of the paratha. Turn, increase heat. Apply more oil/ghee if desired. Cook till maillard reactions cause brown spots- about 40 seconds.
Serve hot with curd/pickle/papad.

Tips:
  • If you do get redness and itching from handling the radish, apply coconut oil and wave your hand up and about in the air, even if people think that you are crazy. Breathe! It will subside and all will be well.
  • Make the stuffing as dry as possible to enable easy rolling.
  • Make the chapati dough as smooth and non-sticky to enable easy rolling.
Trivia :
  • Maillard reactions, named after a scientist, are those reactions which cause the browning of food. These occur at temperatures of 120 degree C. It is these maillard reactions that provide that awesome taste to food. Yes, some food have their own flavour but it is this which enhances that flavour as well as the aromas that our nose detect. It is basically a chemical reaction of carbohydrates and proteins in amino acids which releases many sub compounds. These sub compounds are very volatile and escape easily into the air. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Assorted eggless pull apart rolls

All of a sudden I was seeing a lot of pictures of eggless pull apart garlic rolls on all social networks and I thought that I should give them a try. If so many people could get it right, so could I. I shuddered at the thought of Pras's reaction as I remembered the failed attempts at baking bread in my combo microwave back in India. I decided to stick to the recipe and do as it says. I succeeded the first time and so the next time, I not only used half the quantity of whole wheat flour but also used my own fillings. An easy snack for those lazy weekends at home.

My first attempt

Second time around

Preparation Time : 5 minutes or nill depending on the filling that will be used
Cooking Time : 30 minutes for baking. An additional hour and a half for proofing the bread

Ingredients (8 rolls):
For the bread:
  1. Whole wheat flour - 3/4 cup
  2. All purpose flour/Maida - 3/4 cup1.5 cups With Whole wheat, they are harder if kept for the next day
  3. Sugar - 1 tbsp
  4. Salt - 1 tsp
  5. Water - lukewarm - 1/2 cup+1tbsp
  6. Olive oil - 1tbsp + 1tbsp
  7. Yeast - fast action - 1/2 tbsp - I used Edmonds yeast and don't think I am going to look at any other yeast brand as long as I am in NZ.
For the filling :
  • Garlic butter filling
    1. 6 tbsp butter
    2. 2 cloves of garlic
    3. 2 tbsp chopped coriander or basil or oregano
  • Caramelized onion chutney
  • Dark chocolate chips and freshly grated coconut
  • Peanut butter
How I made it :
Step 1 : Proofing the dough
  1. In a bowl, warm the water such that it is lukewarm - about 40 degree C.
  2. Dissolve in the sugar and salt. 
  3. Add the yeast and set aside.
  4. Mix in the two flours and add 1 tbsp of olive oil. 
  5. Once the yeast mixture is nice and frothy/cloudy, add it in. 
  6. Mix the dough which gets less sticky as you knead it. 
  7. Once the dough comes together, apply oil on the outside. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside in a warm area for about an hour, till the dough doubles in size. I usually keep mine in direct sunlight
Step 2 : Assembling the roll and further proofing
  1. Knock the dough down and then split it into 4 smaller balls. 
  2. Roll out each into a long rectangular shape of about 1/2 inch thickness.
  3. Spread the filling of your choice.
  4. Roll from one end to another.
  5. If they are too big, cut them into 2 inch long cylinders. 
  6. Make them stand with the cut side facing up on a baking tray.
  7. Apply some more oil on each of them. If making them with the garlic butter, you could use the remaining garlic butter instead of oil. 
  8. Set aside for proofing for at least 20 minutes.
Step 3: Baking
  1. Place the rolls in a pre-heated oven at 180 degree C and bake for 30 minutes. 
Serve hot with a cup of tea or coffee. They disappear in no time so don't hesitate to make more.
 

Panneer Potato Cutlets

Living in a developed country means "HUGE". Almost nothing is under a kilogram at most supermarkets. Further, this is how one feels one is getting the bang for the dollar being spent. Like I felt when I picked up milk 2 weeks ago. Yes, 2 weeks ago. Coming from India where the milk would not last more than a day, here milk lasts for weeks. It is on my to do list to find out what it is that they add to make the milk last this long.(A friend clarified that the milk sold here is boiled and packed and therefore lasts longer. Thanks) So, I knew we would not consume all of the milk before the "best by" date and so I made some home made panneer. I use my blog as my recipe journal as well, which means, I revisit my own blog to check the recipe of dishes I have tried. Mom's panneer fingers are not on this as it is a business secret for C-store. So obviously, I don't have any written record of the recipe. Being in different time zones from your mother doesn't help either especially when she is definitely going to be fast asleep at the time that you are cooking up your meal.

So I just put together things that would make a good cutlet and it was good. 

Ingredients (makes about 25 cutlets, each of about 1.5cm in diameter) :
For the panneer :
  1. Milk (Full fat works best and avoid UHT/long life milk) - 1 .25 litres
  2. Curd/Yoghurt - 4 tbsp
  3. Vinegar - 1/2 tsp
For the cutlet :
  1. Panneer - from the above or about 3/4 cup of shredded/grated/minced panneer
  2. Potatoes - 1 large boiled, peeled and mashed
  3. Green Chilly - 2 sliced thinly or chopped
  4. Red chilly powder - 1/2 tsp
  5. Garam masala powder - 1/2 tsp
  6. Bread crumbs - about 1/4 cup + more for dusting - see tips
  7. Salt to taste
  8. Oil for frying
How I made it :
  1. Pour the milk into a pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Just as the milk boils lower the heat and put in the curd and vinegar. 
  3. Mix well till you see the milk curdle and the fat separate. 
  4. Turn of heat. Drain the water to get fresh soft homemade panneer. Squeeze out as much water as you can from the panneer. This water can be retained and stored to be added to dough to make softer rotis or make naan.
  5. Now, add the panneer to the potato, green chillies, red chilly powder, garam masala powder. 
  6. Adjust the salt. 
  7. This may be a bit sticky so add the bread crumbs to make a dough that is not too sticky. Alternately, put into airtight container and leave in fridge overnight. 
  8. Heat oil in a kadai - sufficient to deep fry.
  9. Spread more bread crumbs on a paper or flat plate.
  10. Make small discs out of the dough. Dunk in more bread crumbs and press in those bread crumbs. Keep aside.
  11. Once oil is hot, deep fry the discs on both sides until golden brown.

Serve hot with pudina chutney or tomato sauce or mustard sauce

Tips :
  • You can make bread crumbs from fresh bread. Just put it into a mixie jar and use the pulse option.
  • If you want aired out bread crumbs, you could use dried toast or bread dried in the sun. These serve well to form that crust on the cutlets.

Aye Aye Captain!

An office outing on a Thursday can make it seem like the weekend has come early. So we wound up watching Captain Phillips.

The movie is based on the true story of a Captain Phillips who was taken hostage when the first American cargo ship, in history, to be attacked by pirates, was hijacked. The movie tries to portray the relationship between Captain Phillips and the "captain" of the pirates, the ordeal that Captain Phillips underwent as a hostage and the rescue mission by the USS BainBridge.

What I wanted to capture here are the thoughts that arose in my head while and post watching the movie.

What caused ex-fishermen to become pirates?
There is a scene where "Muse", the leader of a pirates group is woken up because his bosses were arriving.  The bosses yell at the pirates to be at sea as that is where they can make money. And then you see many people willing to risk their lives to be chosen in the pirates crew so that they could make some money. So this shows that there are very limited options to earn a living in Somalia, which is one of the reasons why they resort to become pirates. It is seen as "easy money". Most of these people who resort to becoming pirates are ex-fishermen whose source of earning a living has been taken away. Post the Somali Civi War, the Somali government collapsed and ships of international corporations starting dumping toxic waste into the Somali waters. This causes death of the aquatic life and in most cases, there is no chance of revival. Therefore the fishermen are left without a means of livelihood.

Yes, I used to think that money was the root cause of all evil but not anymore. Human greed for wealth and power are the root cause of all evil.

Could the USA have done better?
And then you see the USS Bainbridge coming to rescue Captain Phillips but under huge pressures from the government. One gets to see the huge infrastructure put into place by the US Navy to prevent pirate hijackings. It is no small feat, with the navy, airforce, healthcare specialists and SEAL marksmen, to name a few, being involved. Would the situation have been different if the United States had spent the money that it had spent on building this anti-hijacking squad on creating jobs in Somalia for these forlorn fishermen?

Well, may be they are doing something else about it, but these are my thoughts after watching the movie. The movie is a must watch and it is always a pleasure to watch Tom Hanks. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Summer walks in Auckland - Te Ara Tahuna Walkway

I dragged my feet, the 1.5kms, to work on Friday. I wanted to get used to the routine again. The holidays had just fled past and now are like a good dream. This weekend now seems like just any other weekend at the end of a working week.

We were to meet up with friends and acquaintances over the weekend but I was too much into my book to care. I wonder how it is that I never read "Gone with the wind" earlier. It was in too much demand at the library. In spite of its length, I related with Scarlett O'Hara in so many ways. I just had to finish the book before work started off. And not to mention the assignments from the science of cooking course.

No concrete plans were made for the weekend with the impending rain. But the gray skies and cool winds beckoned to me and I worded the wish to go for a long walk. The husband immediately took to it and I was thrilled that I would be sitting at some scenic spot and reading my book.

The NZ Herald had recently published an article on summer walks in Auckland and how could I not choose the one near Orewa beach, the beach I had fallen in love with on our way back after our trip North. We had some methi peas parathas from breakfast which we packed for lunch. So in an hour we were out the door.

The Te Ara Tahuna Walkway is shared by cyclists and pedestrians. One must stick to their left and try to give the cyclists way. It is a loop track that goes round the Orewa estuary which is surrounded with multi million dollar houses. So, basically we went on a walk through the backyards of millionaires and beyond. It is about 5.5kms of walking through people's backyards on cemented paths with a bit of unsealed road. The best part is the remaining 2 kms where one walks through fields and a bit of forest. It is amazing to find the forest, in the middle of nowhere to be teeming with bird life. We spotted so many of the birds on the ground. Binoculars and a guide to the birds in Auckland are on my to buy list. The walkway is lined with view points overlooking the estuary and each point has a wooden seat which has some of the best wooden engravings. The path is not very well marked as all other tracks that we have taken. We did lose our way but thanks to the GPS signal and the network, we were back on the track easily. It is easy to get lost considering you are walking through a web of backyards.
 Little Fox Eats
 Pain Au Raisin


 My reading spot

Apart from the forest stretch, stopping for a short snack at the Little Fox Eats truck and at a small grassy patch to read my book were the highlights for me. The Pain Au Raisin that is made in France, snap frozen and sent over was delicious and filling. Ice blocks in different flavours can be tried when the sun is not beating down upon you, else you may find yourself standing with just the stick in your hand.

A short get together with friends at the Orewa beach with a game of cricket ended the day on a sweet note. All in all, a walk that should really be a bicycle ride. 

Sindhi methi machchi curry

I thought I was done with my grocery shopping for the week. I had told myself that we were eating much more than we should be and soon weighty troubles would be knocking at the door. So I had to be careful. But how could I stop myself from picking up those bitter gourds or that bunch of fresh methi when we had to visit the Indian store for chapati flour? Methi - that flavoursome green which perks up any dish? Yes, the bunch was large.. but it was just 1.5NZD. The husband gave a nod of approval to put it into the basket.

Once home, we sat about picking the fresh leaves to put them into an airtight container so that they last. Awakening. There was way too much methi than the both of us needed before it would go bad. So we had to fight the deal that we had struck to try to remain vegetarian until mid March. Methi can be bitter so veggie dishes don't require too much of it and it had to be a non-veg dish that could help use up most of the methi.

After a 8km loop walk around the Orewa estuary, we stopped at the store to pick up some meat. All we could find were pieces of salmon. I picked them up remembering the methi fish curry that Pras gobbled up when we last visited Ooty. So here's how I made the methi fish curry. It is super easy to put together.

Preparation time : 15 minutes
Cooking time : 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves 6) :
  1. Fish - with few bones - 750grams
  2. Fresh methi/fenugreek leaves - 1 cup finely chopped and densely packed
  3. Ginger - 2 inch piece
  4. Garlic - 16 pods
  5. Green chillies - 6
  6. Tomatoes  - 3 medium sized
  7. Jeera/cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  8. Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
  9. Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  10. Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
  11. Garam masala - 1 tsp
  12. Water - as per gravy requirement. I used 1 cup.
  13. Oil - 1/4 cup
  14. Salt to taste
How I made it :
  1. Clean the fish. Cut into 2 inch cubes Salt it and keep it aside.
  2. Make a puree of the tomatoes
  3. Make a paste of the ginger, garlic and green chillies.
  4. Wash the methi and finely chop them.
  5. Now, wash the fish and keep on dry towel.
  6. Heat oil in a wide bottom pan.
  7. Throw in the fish and let them fry till they are half cooked on all sides.  About 2 minutes on each side.
  8. Remove the fish pieces.
  9. Throw in the jeera seeds.
  10. Once they crackle, lower the flame and put in the ginger garlic green chilli paste.
  11. Let that fry till the raw smell is gone. About 3 minutes. 
  12. Next, throw in all the dry masala powders. Fry for a minute.
  13. Now, put in the methi leaves and let them fry to reduce their bitterness. 
  14. After about 4 minutes of frying, put in the tomato puree. 
  15. Adjust the salt and let this fry till the fat separates. 
  16. Add the water. Once it comes to the boil, add the fish pieces. 
  17. Cover and let the fish cook on low flame Took about 10 minutes. 
  18. Serve hot with chapatis.