Colorful Notions: The Roadtrippers 1.0


booking-page-1Blurb: Would you give up your high-paying job and comfortable personal life to drive ten thousand kilometres across India? Just for fun!

Three twenty-something’s dare to do just that! While the two boys take turns to drive, the girl gives voice-over as they record their entire journey on a handy cam. Ab, Sasha and Unnati are ordinary youngsters, rendered special by the feat they accomplish. As they recount their adventures, I crave to live their journey. They look at each other with a glint in their eyes, as if refurbishing those memories while narrating their spooky time at Bhangarh Fort, strange escapades at Wagah Border and Sundarbans, car breakdowns, wild animals, near-death experiences and highway robbers! It’s nothing less than crazy.

I doubted if I’d ever have the gumption to create such experiences. So I did the next best thing – I penned a book about them and their road trip.

Colorful Notions is a journey of three young hearts on the Indian terrain and into the inner recesses of their souls, giving a new perspective to relationships, love and life.

The very first line from the blur of this book had me typing out a quick acceptance to review this book! And why not?? I have dreamed of something like this for most of my life and continue to do so! In my dreams I  explore the temples around India and their secrets or live in the Tuscan countryside, doing organic farming, creating recipes, reading and writing. Then the bubble pops (or the phone rings) and I am bang in the midst of the challenges that my mediocre life offers!  And I have never been happier while typing out a review for a book than I am now. The book met my expectations of going on an amazing journey across the length and breadth of India from the comfort of my own couch!

Three friends, Abhay (Ab), Sashank (Sasha) and Unnati (Unns) embark on a soul-searching road trip to about 25 places scattered over the wonder that is India. Each have their own reason (or not) to set on this arduous journey that would test their physical and emotional states of mind. Abhay wants to move away from his troubled past and a strained relationship with his parents. Having nothing to hold him back, he conceptualizes the trip and the idea to make a movie about the trip. His bestie and loyal sidekick Sasha, cannot help but join his buddy while escaping an over protective family and the pressures of having to conform to societal norms, in order to live it up without being judged. They convince Sasha’s girl friend, an assistant RJ who is a bit clueless about where her life is headed, to join them on their journey while also being the voice over of their movie. Friendship and love is challenged as they spend time in close quarters. True feelings make their appearances as jealousies are revealed, while emotional baggages threaten to destroy what could be beautiful and love is lost and found. What happens at the end of the journey? Do they find what they set out to discover? How does this trip change them?

From this point on it is a fun-filled emotional roller coaster as they try to spot tigers at the Corbett National park, take a dip in the Ganges at Haridwar, battle altitude sickness at Ladakh /Leh, cause a security threat at the Wagah border, chase and be chased by ghosts at Bhangarh fort at Alwar, get caught in the marshlands and quick-sands at Runn of Kutch and finally encounter a man-eater at the Sunderbans while setting foot on Bangladeshi borders and even obtain enlightenment at Gaya! If this is not enough, you will get to read about the culinary delight that is India, as your senses take in the description of delicacies like the momos at Ladakh, Hyderbadi biryanis, Lucknowi Kebabs, Punjabi chicken, Goan seafood, Udupi cuisine and of course Idli, sambar and chutney and other rice delicacies from my very own Tamil Nadu!

The language is wonderfully simple and immediately draws you in as the fourth member of this motley group! The chapter  where the group spends a night at a haunted fort will have you sitting at the end of your reading chair and at some point even send a shock down your spine! The book manages to impart some simple lessons while not being preachy. Some of the chapters will have you thinking about the life we live, our expectations from it and our perspectives on happiness… For example the following lines about how one feels on a road trip and why we can’t try living our lives the same way left me in a contemplative mood for sometime.

…there comes a point in your life when you leave your past behind too far and the future seems too distant. You start breathing the air that is around you at the moment,you think about the place you are currently at, and the meal you will have next. That is when you will truly start living in the present.

There are more gems scattered about the pages of this book. Words that will touch our heart and if we are lucky even sow seeds for personal growth.  I personally loved reading about the Lama’s speech and the events that followed after, which kind of re-establishes the fact that when you want something and go all out to do it, the universe will make it happen.

The cover of the book with its water painting effect is quite appealing and the title that has a version attached to it, makes me wonder if there will be a sequel.

Let me finish my saying this: If you want to hear stories about a jungle Goddess called “Banobibi” and learn all about listening to your inner voice (which seems to be the core concept of his book ) from a Lama, no matter what age you are this book is for you, it is for the adventurer in you and more essentially the dreamer in you.

Now, if only I could give up my day job….. 🙂

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.

The story of the Peas Paratha


Ok…My last food post was on….even I don’t remember it!!! I think it was February! Frankly I am embarrassed….How does a foodie like me not publish any of my consumable creations??? So the light bulb went off at last.. I am surrounded by peas these days. Fresh ones – in their pods and outside..No frozen peas in this season please! As I was wondering what one can do with all this peas, I started thinking of rotis and parathas…..and I had this urge to make peas parathas. For those who are going “What?? Peas Paratha?? Can you do that? How is that going to taste or look?” Let  me tell you I thought that I was the first one to think of something like this but apparently this is a recipe that exists and not something that I made up! But this one I made on my own…followed my mind…and it looks pretty….golden brown on the outside and green on the inside and tastes good – provided you like peas 🙂

And for some reason I couldn’t get the fairy tale story of the “Princess and the Pea” out of my head. I think if that princess met these parathas she might change her mind 🙂 Feeling more creative than usual, I did a picture recipe of this  dish…just like a children’s story book….You might think that I have nothing better to do….well, what can I say? Sometimes I can’t control my creative urges….so here you go. Also I wanted this post to be a big bang one considering that its my 150’th post! 🙂 Enjoy! if you happen to try these out drop me a note.

Btw I am extremely proud of the fact that I eyeballed the quantities of all the ingredients this time….no exact tea spoon or table spoon measurements…..and I have assumed that you know how to mix the chapathi dough so please bear with me… I will do a post on how to make the dough sometime. [Please enlarge the pictures to understand the process better] Also this is my first step-by-step (not exactly!)  pictorial post…

Characters:

  • 1 cup Fresh Peas  – Microwaved with very little water
  • Cumin / Jeera powder – per taste
  • Coriander powder – per taste
  • Salt – per taste
  • Chilli powder – per taste
  • Chapathai dough

Story:

Once upon a time a group of naughty peas decided to make it their aim to become a paratha. They approached this author to help them.. So this is what happened to them:

  • They got made into a stuffing and left to cool!!!

The Pea stuffing

  • They got shaped into small balls the size of a lemon

Ready to be stuffed

  •  They were placed onto the paratha disc…

Step 1

  • And flattened

Flatten

  • Next the dough enveloped the flattened pea disc thus creating a baby pea paratha

Fold

  • And dusted in flour!

Dust

  • Then the baby pea paratha was rolled out into a big pea parath

Roll

  •  The paratha was then roasted on a hot tava

Roast

  • And then flipped and roasted on the other side….

Roast the other side

  • The paratha was cooked until done….the appearance of pretty golden spots was the indication

Done!

  • Then the pea paratha posed for pictures….

Yummm....

Yum Yum

Green!

Finally it was crowned the paratha of the season and gobbled up by this hungry author and photographer who enjoyed it with great relish!!! Promises were made to make the parathas again 🙂

More Green

Ridiculously Simple Daal


 

Ridiculously Simple Daal

Two  nights ago I got home assuming that I had a pack of frozen spinach in my freezer. My heart was set on whipping up some daal palak (spinach and lentils) for dinner. It was only after I had soaked my lentils I noticed that what was available in the freezer was not frozen spinach but frozen brocolli instead. I spent a few moments looking stumped..Nevertheless, my lentils were in the process of being cooked so I just used the broccoli to whip up this simple, tasty, hearty and homey dish. If you enjoy saatvik or jain style food you might definitely enjoy this.

Ingredients

  • Toor Daal / Split Yellow Lentils – 1cup
  • 2 cups broccoli florettes with the stems
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp Goda Masala or Garam Masala

For Garnish

  • Chopped coriander/cilantro
  • Lemon juice

Method

  • Wash and cook the lentils in the usual way. I use a pressure cooker. Once the lentils are cooked, whip them well so that they have the consistency of thick gravy.
  • Heat the oil in a kadai. When it is hot enough add the cumin seeds.
  • When the cumin seeds start spluttering, add the broccoli and cook for few minutes.
  • Coat the veggies with the tomato paste and follow this with the turmeric, coriander, chilli powders and salt.
  • When the broccoli has partially cooked, add the cooked lentils and mix well.
  • Cook for about 2-3 minutes and then add the goda / garam masala and mix well.
  • Cook for few more minutes. Test the daal for salt and other spices.
  • Add the chopped cilantro and cook the daal for about a minute.
  • Switch of the stove and the daal is ready to serve.

You can garnish this with lemon juice if you like the taste. You can have this with rice or rotis or even as is. Enjoy!

If you like this recipe, please do share the link. I could definitely use some publicity 🙂

Whole Red Masoor Daal


A bag of whole red lentils have been lying idle in my kitchen cabinet for a few months now. I just didn’t know how to cook them – due to the hard nature of these lentils they never seemed to cook easily even in the pressure cooker. I finally had a brain wave and found a way to cook these yummy lentils. I made a wholesome daal that would go well with rotis or rice. This is not the best picture I could get, but it looks and tastes much better 🙂

Whole Red Masoor Daal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of whole masoor daal
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 medium size tomato
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (optional). I used the paste for the beautiful color that it gives
  • 2 inches ginger
  • 2 green chillies split
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (use more if you like)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tsp garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Coriander / Cilantro for garnish

Method

  1. Soak the daal in water for about 2 hours and pressure cook the daal for about 5 whistles .
  2. Chop the onion roughly along with the ginger and garlic
  3. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and when the oil is hot enough add the onions
  4. When the onions start tuning golden add the ginger and garlic and saute for a few minutes.
  5. Chop the tomato into rough pieces
  6. When the onions cool down, grind the onion mixture along with the tomatoes into a smooth paste
  7. Heat the remaining oil in a kadai and when the oil is hot enough add the cumin seeds
  8. When the cumin seeds start spluttering, add the onion/tomato mixture and saute till the oil starts leaving the sides of the pan
  9. Add the turmeric and chilli powder and mix well.
  10. At this stage, add the tomato paste and mix well
  11. Add the cooked daals and salt and mix well.
  12. If the mixture is too thick add some water  to get a daal like consistency.
  13. Add the chopped coriander and cook for a few minutes.
  14. Serve  over rice or with rotis.

Bell Pepper / Capsicum Pulao


I whipped up this simple dish because I was too tired to spend much time in the kitchen today. I love bell peppers aka capsicum and rather than making a traditional vegetable pulao I decided to make user of the wholesome flavor of the green bell peppers. I added my healthy twist by using brown rice and nutella soy chunks. Soy chunks basically take the taste of whatever they are being cooked with this was a good addition to what might have otherwise been a very ordinary dish.

 

Bell Pepper Pulao

Ingredients

  • 1.5 Cup of cooked brown basmati rice. [You can use the white basmati rice]
  • 2 Chillies – cut lengthwise
  • 1 tsp of finely minced ginger
  • 1 clove finely minced garlic [This is optional]
  • 5-10 pepper corns
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 2 green bell peppers – cubed in small pieces
  • 15-20 soy chunks [ Substitute this with paneer if you don’t like soy chunks]
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks [I broke 1 long stick into half]
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tsp red Chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil [ Can be substituted with any kind of vegetable oil]

Method

  • Add salt to boiling water and soak the soy chunks in the water
  • Add the oil to a non-stick pan and when it is hot enough add the cumin seeds
  • Follow this with the cinnamon, cloves and the black pepper corns and saute for a few seconds.
  • Add the onions, green chillies and garlic and saute till the onions start turning translucent
  • At this point, add the bell peppers / capsicum
  • Add the salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder and saute for about 10 minutes
  • When the vegetables are cooling, remove the soy chunks from the water and squeeze out the water
  • When the bell peppers have cooked about 50%, add the soy chunks and toss well.
  • Cook for few more minutes until the spices coat the chunks
  • At the point add the rice and fold it into the vegetable mixture.
  • Mix it carefully so that rice is not mashed but remains whole.Test for salt at this stage and cook the pulao for about 10 minutes after which it will be ready to serve.

You can serve this with yoghurt and papads.

Desi Village – King Of Prussia, PA


Typical Indian restaurant – dim lighting, posters of Indian art, tissue table cloths (on top of normal table cloths of course) tables and booths arranged neatly will welcome you when you enter this restaurant situated at KOP. The food is typical – a buffet during lunch hours and a-la-carte menus for dinners.

I felt that this restaurant had more choice for vegetarians as far as the buffet was concerned. The curry with the paneer in it was quite terrible! The dessert offerings were pretty plain and boring with kheer, carrot halwa and gulab jamoons (dry ones at that) to name a few. As with most Indian restaurants the food was greasy and heavy.

There is nothing different about the dinner menu. For vegetarians I would recommend the dal makhani and the bhindi masala. The tandoori paneer is pretty impressive – the paneer is soft and is well marinated and grilled with the onions and bell peppers marinated in the perfect masala mix. However all items are pretty much over priced! The biryani costed $15 and was a total disappointment! The beans in the biryani was pretty stringy and had to be pulled out before they could be swallowed. A special mention has to be made to the raitha that was served with the biryani.. I am not sure why it was served in the first place – it was thick yogurt with some shredded carrot and sugar added! Thats right! This item was so sweet and was unlike anything that regular Indians would call raitha!Honestly this item should not be served even if its complimentary!

All the breads like nans and parathas were served hot with an extra coating of butter on top (if you are watching your weight or are on a low card diet I would suggest you skip these items). Not to mention that you would be eating in he dark half the time with a single tea light candle for company unless you have been seated under the booth below the scenic photograph lighted behind by strong tubelights.

Since there are not that many good Indian restaurants around KOP or the nearby cities like Conshohocken or Phoenixville “Desi Village” would temporarily satisfy someone with the occasional craving for Indian food. However I would not recommend it for regular visits – not unless you are ready to blow at least $20 per meal for 1 person!

Location – 145 S Gulph Rd,King of Prussia, PA 19406-3103
Category – Indian
Recommend – Eat once or twice
Cost – Apprx $30 – $35 for two

Kadai Mushrooms


Here is my own concoction for Kadai Mushrooms. I had these fresh, lovely mushrooms and couldn’t find a good recipe. So I was inspired from the Kadai Paneer recipe and came up with Kadai Mushrooms. Here is the recipe and if you do try it out let me know if you enjoyed it. 

Ingredients

· 20-30 Baby Portobello Mushrooms
· 1 Green Bell Pepper
· 1 Medium Sized Onion
· 1 Medium Sized Tomato
· 2 Green chilies – slit
· 2 garlic pods – chopped
· 1 tsp ginger paste
· 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
· 1 tsp Coriander and cumin powder
· 1 tsp red chilli powder
· 1 tsp kasoori methi powder
· 1 tsp garam masala powder
· 1 tsp cumin seeds
· 5-6 black pepper corns (optional)
· 2 tbsp Olive Oil
· 1/2 tsp Amchur Powder (optional)
· Salt to taste
· Coriander leaves to garnish

Method

1. Wash and chop the mushrooms. Chop them into fairly big chunks.
2. Cube the onions in big chunks and separate the layers.
3. Chop the green pepper and the tomato into medium sized chunks.
4. Heat a non stick kadai and when it hot, add the olive oil followed by the cumin seeds, pepper corns, garlic and slit chilies.
5. When the cumin seeds splutter, add the onions and sauté them for a few minutes or until they start turning pink.
6. Add the green peppers and after a few minutes of sautéing add the tomato.
7. Add the dry spice powders with the exception of the garam masala followed by the ginger paste.
8. When the tomato starts leaving the sides of the pan, add the mushrooms.
9. Continue cooking for a few minutes and add the kasoori methi powder, garam masala powder and salt.
10. Cook for a few minutes until all the vegetables are cooked.
11. Turn off the heat and garnish with coriander leaves. You can add some amchur powder if you would like your preparation to have a more tangy taste.
12. Serve hot with chapathis or jeera rice or peas pulao.

Notes:

1. I usually use olive oil in my preparations due to their lovely nutty aroma and their capacity to withstand heat. You can substitute the same with any vegetable oil of your choice.
2. I have used Portobello mushrooms due to their natural taste for this preparation. You can substitute this with button mushrooms.
3. Ensure that your vegetables and mushrooms are chopped in fairly big chunks.
4. Make sure that your mushrooms are dry before you start cooking them as they tend to generate some water naturally. If the mushrooms are too wet your preparation may turn mushy.