Now I can’t leave India..

…without having the thing that Hitchy claims is the ‘almost national food of India’?

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So Vada pav has been had:) Thanks Hitchy for shaming me into having it:) It was well worth it. And I resisted the ‘grilled vada pav’ and had the real thing 🙂 Am so proud of me 🙂 I just wish I had the same will-power when it comes to exercising 🙂

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How a Vada Pav turned into Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bites

Some things happen unplanned. I had been browsing when I chanced upon this recipe for baked vada pav. Now vada pavs and me have a long history.

A funny history given that I have never eaten one. I’ve had the aloo bonda that is the stuffing. But never the complete vada pav. I’ve seen in plenty of places here, it have never ended up picking it up. Probably, because the thought of eating completely fried things suddenly invokes that health conscious me. Who, by the way disappears very quickly when I chance upon fried things like chips or murrukus. The fact remains that I’ve always found a reason to not try it out. It was too early in that airport cafe, or I did not want to pile on more weight just before a sea-side trip, or it did not look filling enough for lunch. You know, the works.

And yet, it has never stopped me from craving for it. So when I saw this recipe, I had to try it. It seemed perfect. So I took the basic bread roll recipe from here and started off. I had planned to make a small batch, but scaling down ingredients seemed more tricky than making the whole bread. So I set off. It was late by the time the bread was ready to go into the oven. I made two sample vada pavs and popped the rest of the dough into the refrigerator.

The vada pavs turned out well. My domestic help loved it too. I did not take any pictures though. I still had loads of dough. My initial plan was to make more vada pavs, but somehow, the plan changed. I did not feel too excited about making loads of vada-pavs.

I had made this cinnamon-sugar pull apart bread when Swaram came over. I had some pictures somewhere, but I feel too lazy to go dig them up. It was a trial and did not turn out exactly how I wanted it to. So I wanted to give it another shot.

By the time I could carve out time to get down to it, it was already late. Feeling rather lazy(I can see laziness becoming a theme for me these days), I decided to try something easier. Instead of rolling out the dough, I made little balls, rolled it in a light brown sugar and cinnamon mixture and placed it in a loaf pan. Like this. I dotted it with some butter – just because.

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Popped it into the oven, when it had risen to double, it took about 20 minutes. And this is how it turned out. Soft fluffy bites of bread covered in a light coating of cinnamon sugar. Yum! And tasted just perfect for our tastes. Not too sweet, and perfect with that cup of coffee 🙂
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Food on my mind

Reading has always been a window to a lot of things for me. To different ways of life, experiences and(perhaps, most importantly) food.

As long as I can remember, I remember being tantalized by descriptions of food. Not that I was a foodie by any standards, I was a picky eater, driving my mum crazy. Despite being a picky eater, the one thing that would induce me to try stuff was the food described in books. Enid Blytons descriptions made my mouth water. What exotic stuff they ate. Scones, eclairs, wafer thin cucumber sandwiches, pickle… I suspect I started eating our Indian pickles after reading about them in those books. Little did I know that those pickles were a world apart(and far less tasty, now that I have tasted them). I figured that the eclairs they ate were not the same as the Cadbury’s eclairs that we got from our shops, yet in my imagination, it was the same. I was fascinated enough with scones to try them as soon as I could when I landed on English shores.

Not all my food fantasies had nice endings though. Once I told me grandfather than sardines sound so exciting. The famous five used to carry cans of sardines and tuna. It was such a disappointment when my granddad showed me what sardines actually were. And tuna sandwiches, those are something that even Enid Blyton will not persuade me to eat now, but then it was just perfect – in my mind. But the books were magical that even knowledge refused to defuse my fun. I’ve imagined that my idli with sambar was actually meatloaf, who cared what meatloaf actually was. In my imagination, that was it, and delicious it was, I can assure you. There was this short story in our English Literature syllabus – in ICSE, about Subbiah a road side vendor, who used to sell the most delicious idlis and dosas. That had me drooling despite the fact that it was regular fare at home.

Now, as a grown up , who has traveled( a fair amount), and eaten most of those exotic foods that I had only read about, I still drool. Writers who weave food and recipe magic. Books that transport you to another place, making you lust for luscious tomatoes, crisp salads, delicious gravies that tantalize your tastebuds, the aroma of bread being baked, the description of chappathis puffing up, soft, snowy idlis, perfect, crispy dosas, cheese that take you to another level.. Those books on Italian cuisine, makes me want to drop everything and eat those heavenly pizzas with truffles, or perhaps pasta, tossed perfectly with the seasonal vegetables.. of course, its not just books that make me drool these days. Blogs are far more efficient, what with pictures and recipes to boot, is there anything stopping me? My weight ought to stop me, but even that isn’t a strong enough deterrent.

I just realized that life has come a full circle. Now, I have company. My six year old comes up and tells me, ‘ oh, this sounds so delicious, Amma, rosemary bread with wild mushrooms! Please can I have it! I feel like eating it after reading this book’. Of course, that has me grinning like a Cheshire cat and I guess the least I can do is bake her some bread, if not rosemary bread, right?

Venice Day 2 – Part 1 Murano and Burano

We had a late, leisurely start on the second day in Venice.

We lazed around, had a nice huge breakfast. Did I mention the coffee in Venice? I must have, but delicious as it was, it is certainly worth mentioning again. Such delicious, flavour-full coffee!

The plan was to visit the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. There are tours from Venice but all the reviews and traveogues I read recommended using the public transport to get the real feel of the place. So we decided to use the public transport instead. We went back to the vaporetto station and took a 12 hour ticket which allowed us to use any water bus for 12 hours. Later we realized that we should have gone in for the 36 hour ticket – would have been far cheaper in the long run, but at that point, both of us missed it.

On route to the vaporetto station, we stopped at a church. Check out the ceiling!

We decided to go to Murano first. Murano is the island famous for the glass factories. The water bus that we took, actually felt like a ‘bus’ in the real sense. Check out the crowd. Clearly loads of tourists had read the same travelogues as me 🙂

The sights we passed enroute to Murano..

The wooden pilings apparently show the route that the waterbuses have to take. We saw these sort of pilings on the way from the airport as well. Apparently the whole of Venice stands on millions of pilings like these. The wood came from Slovenia, which now has barren regions because of all the wood that was cut and used to keep Venice afloat.

As soon as we landed on Murano, we were directed to the glass factory, which would close at noon. We hurried towards the factory, along with all the tourists from our water bus. In the factory, we were treated to a wonderful exhibition of glass blowing, and the art of making glass artifacts. He made a glass horse in minutes! It was breath-taking to watch.

And he blows it out!

Look at him fashioning a horse from molten glass!

And within minutes the horse is ready! What expertise!

After the session at the glass factory, we refused to get seduced by the charming salespeople at the glass exhibitions, and decided to walk the streets of Murano instead.

Fodder for the boats – a filling station for boat.

I loved the look of this boat, full of vegetables! I couldn’t help wonder if it were a vegetable shop or just the way the restaurants get their veggies delivered.

Murano has glass everywhere.. Glass Flowers..

Glass gardens…

As I browse through my pictures, I realize that we have loads of lovely pics, but all of them with us in them, so I’ll just skip ahead to our next destination – Burano. I found the way the Italians pronounced the word, so very charming! So off we went, back to the water bus station, and got on the water bus to Burano.

We saw some abandoned islands with ruins of houses on them.. Doesn’t it make you wonder who lived there, in the middle of the sea, all alone on an island? I’m not surprised that whoever lived there decided to abandon it..

Burano, I understood from what I had read was famous for it’s lace and its coloured houses. Here’s a picture that captured both.

Another thing that struck me about Burano was the greenery. It was the greenest among the islands we visited. May be it just was not as populated as the others..

The multi-coloured houses of Burano.

When daughter was little, she used to watch a programme on Cbeebies, and it had coloured houses(to teach the little ones colours), and the houses in Burano reminded me of that!

And soon it was food time. Hitchy, finally some food pics, that can be posted 🙂

That was one of the most delicious meal we had in Venice. The bread was oh-so-delicious! Dipped in Olive Oil – yum!

Grilled veggies – we polished off a few before we remembered to take pictures!

The pasta I fell in love with. I don’t remember the name, the menu was in Italian, all I knew while ordering was that it was a vegetarian spaghetti, but the taste! It was amazing! I think it was spaghetti in pesto. I came home and tried to replicate it with basil pesto, and the taste was quite similar. Delicious! The thought of it makes me drool!

And the pizza.

We also had a delicious dessert, a local biscuit and ice-cream, drenched with chocolate sauce! I can’t find any pictures of it. Clearly, both of us were more interested in attacking it rather than waste time taking pictures 🙂

Tummy satisfied, we walked around the little island. Colours everywhere! Such a lively, cheerful looking place it was!

The plan was to visit Murano, Burano and Torcello, but it was almost 3 in the afternoon by the time we were done with lunch, so we decided to skip Torcello and return to Venice. We had booked a day tour to the Hill Towns of Veneto for the third and final day in Venice, so we really wanted to experience more of Venice. Torcello seemed less attractive than Venice.

So off we went, back to Venice, and what we did there, shall be fodder for the next post 🙂

PS: Remember me moaning about not being able to select pics to post? Well, WP decided it for me – no more pics. Apparently I am the limits of my media capacity, so I had to delete all my headers, and ran to Hitchy in tears, thanks so much, Hitchy, for all your help 🙂 So has any of you faced this problem? Any option, apart from using Flickr?

A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller by Frances Mayes

Not having read Mayes, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, I had no expectations from this book, apart from the fact that TGND loved it, which itself was good enough for me. I wanted to read ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ first, but am still on the waiting list, so decided to go with this one first.

Frances Mayes goes around the world, well, not exactly the whole world, Western Europe, to be more accurate. She and her husband Ed, travel to Spain, Portugal, France, South of Italy, took a cruise on the Aegean Sea, touched North Africa, visited England and Scotland, chronicling their journeys with vivid descriptions of the places, the people, and most importantly the cuisines.

Reading it was a wonderful experience. It took me a longer than usual time to finish this book, because I kept going back and re-reading passages. It made me yearn to go to all those places and live like they did. Rent a house, buy at the local supermarket – which incidently, I always wish for when I am on holiday. Somehow, I always feel like that – that grocery shopping in a place, makes you feel at home. Even in India, when on holiday, I wish I had a kitchen all to myself and could shop and cook- and this coming from someone who normally does not like to cook, is a big thing.

They got invited into kitchens of restaurants, got themselves cooking lessons, rented houses on the internet, only to be thoroughly disappointed when they got to see them- at times. And at other times, loved the accommodation to bits. I loved the way she picked up interesting things like vintage baby clothes for her grandson. I was especially chuffed to read about her visiting some of the places that I had been to and loved. Her descriptions of food, were just fabulous! I found myself wishing that I had it in me to try things out of my comfort zone.

While it was a wonderful book in many ways, I did feel that she was a trifle too judgemental about tourists, especially those on the free cruise that she went on, for instance. It was a little off-putting at times. Despite that, I would still re-read it. It is a very interesting and captivating read.

I would certainly recommend it to people who like to travel(and try local food), but it is a rather verbose book, so it might put off some.

Remember the cake I mentioned here. Well, I made it! *Jumping around the room in joy*

Now that was the easy part. Keeping myself from sampling it – that is far more difficult. We are having friends over for dinner, and I have to somehow restrain myself from cutting into it 🙂 I did lick clean the ‘Tres Leche’ mixture. Yum!!!  I am feeling too lazy to take a picture right now. I will update the post if I do take pics.

While I was preparing ahead for tomorrow’s dinner, I realized how much my style of hosting dinners have changed. A few years ago, pre-Poohi and while working, to be precise, planning dinner was so different. We never had the time to do even the basic grocery shopping in advance. All shopping would be done on Saturday morning, lugged home, and the actually cooking would start only by 3 or 4 in the evening. Some how, cooking, cleaning, sorting out everything would be done and completed by the time our guests arrived. Most of them were in similar phases of life, and would be perfectly at ease with our offerings. I would not even think of making desserts – that was one luxury I never had. Store bought desserts were the only option.

These days on the other hand, I plan in advance(does not mean that I do not remember things last minute). Today for instance I ran out out oil – I barely have enough to make do for tomorrow. But still, a fair amount of things do get planned and sorted in advance. Not just the food, the decor, flowers, candles etc etc etc all get a looking into…

As I do all this, I can only shake my head and wonder – how much have I changed, Five years ago, I would have dismissed it as impossible, if someone told me that I would be like this. Much less be writing a post about it 🙂 Who had time to blog in those days!

Some things however, are still the same. I still hunt for recipes on the internet, I still go a l still love having people over, and I still agonize over my food – I am always worried that something is not quite right with my cooking 🙂 , I still try to read something in the middle of all the mayhem 🙂

Some things, as they never change!

PS: Post written was written yesterday – I just never got around to posting it!

Memories.. Old and New..

Some thirty years ago, one of the things I remember clearly are the annual circus visits. I think it was during the winters, when the little town I grew up in had visiting circus companies set up camp at a certain ground, and all of us would wait for a chance to go there.

I think we did it regularly, until it stopped somewhere down the line. I actually don’t even remember when. What I do remember is the excitement, the awe that we watched the performers with, the animals( I do realize that it was so cruel, but for a young child, it was still something out of the world). The clowns and their antics – it  even made grown-ups laugh!

Last year, we were in Blackpool, and were thoroughly disappointed with the place, when we got to know that there was a circus there. We went to watch it, and really enjoyed it. It was not the same as the ones back home. It was inside a building, and too posh? Maybe? Something was just not the same. The magic that I remembered from my childhood was missing.  Of course, it can’t be the same can, it? I am a grown-up, now! Silly me!

A couple of weeks ago, husband came across a circus being held here, near us. He booked tickets, because we thought it would be fun – much better than just eating out – which is what we would have done otherwise. Yesterday was the day. We(husband and I) did not have very high expectations, but daughter was super excited! All she wanted to see was the clown!

The very first sight of the circus made me strangely happy, and nostalgic! It was just the way I remembered it from my childhood. The pitched tent, and colourful decor. This was no posh circus, it felt real! It felt like those circuses that I had watched as a child! It was a Russian circus, and the performances did not disappoint either!

Two hours just flew by! We laughed at the clowns antics, wowed the acrobats, and the other performances. It was just perfect! The only disappointment, according to daughter, was the the popcorn was sweet 😦 Daughter and I like the salty popcorn, while husband loves sweet(he loves sweet in everything), and they only had sweet popcorn.

It was such a fun outing. Hopefully daughter will have wonderful memories of circuses – just like I have. I managed to take a picture of the circus tent, just as we were about to drive off, after the show. Does it bring back memories for you guys?

To make the weekend even more fun, we went to an Asian fair, this morning, at a park nearby. Had loads of chaat. For a change, the chaat here was delicious. Or was I delirious with hunger? Probably a combination of both. Husband and daughter feasted on jalebis. Daughter got into loads of kiddie rides, and we did a family ride which went on and on until we were ready to beg them to stop. Even the rains held off until we were ready to go home.

And a weekend, where we did not eat out. Not counting the chaats! I had food prepared, and ready at home, but we can’t resist eating when there is delicious fair food available!

Perfect weekend, by our standards 🙂 How was yours?

Lets chat about chaats? Post 22

I ran out of post ideas today. Started two posts and abandoned them. Sigh!

NaBloPoMo prompts are not all that appetizing either. The only thing that looks remotely appetizing is the thought of food. Some yummy, yummy chaat, which I have to make myself. Tough life 😦

I wish we could find one restaurant here which serves good chaats, have the time the sad excuses for a chaat make me repent the decision to eat out. I make better chaat than them, and that is something, because as you guys know, cooking and me are far, far apart. My friends however, make the best, tastiest dishes. One of them once made a delicious chaat with potato waffles, chopped onions, tomatoes and green chillies and chaat masala. It was so simple, and yet so delicious. All she did was toss it all together, and  it was ready. The most mouthwateringly delicious dish! I am drooling at the mere thought of it.

Another friend tossed up a chaat with similar ingredients, and everything else he could lay his hands on. It was, needless to say, delicious! We were on holiday, and I think that was the most satisfying meal during that holiday.

I grew up in a little town in eastern India. The golgappas and papdi chaats that we got there, was mindblowing. I still do not get that taste anywhere. It was only when I moved away for studies that I realized how wonderful they tasted. And also how tastes that we grow up with last us a lifetime. Some of the tastes that husband loves, I find flat, or boring, and he can’t understand what I like in some dishes. Also the addition of one little ingredient can kill the taste for some, while without that same ingredient, another set of people might hate the dish!

I had blogged about how I love fermented idlis and dosas. I just cannot eat unfermented idlis and dosas. On a side note, I have finally mastered the art of fermenting it. I found the right place to keep the batter in order to maintain the temperature to ferment the batter – perfectly! So as I was saying, I hate unfermented idlis and dosas. We know someone who hates fermented idlis and dosas – absolutely hates it! All a matter of taste, isn’t it? Husband hates orange and lemon cakes, while I love them!

So what is your idea of a perfect chaat? Do you like it hot and tangy or sweet and sour? Or do you like a good bhelpuri or is it the golgappas that you lust after? All I know for sure is, that I need to do some chopping and tossing now, if I need to get any work done. I have to eat some chaat, NOW!

This is what happens…Post 3

.. when we shop on an empty stomach..

And we refuse to learn. Despite our theory having been proven right umpteen times!

So much so, that I go shopping only at times when I am not hungry. I run to the supermarket, first thing after dropping off daughter at school, so that I don’t end up stacking up food that I don’t need. Husband, however, is a different story. I think he ends up hungry, whenever he lands in the shops. He is totally disinterested in grocery shopping until he reaches the aisles of his interest – Junk, in our words. Then there is no stopping him. He piles on everything he remotely likes. If the supermarket has a ‘world foods’ section, then there is no end to it.

Have I told you about our Junk cupboard? In every house we have lived in, husband has just one demand, he wants a ‘junk cupboard’ for all his ‘junk’ aka snacks of all sorts. Every time we go shopping, he adds to his collection, only to open the cupboard and realize that he has picked enough snacks to last us years.

He managed to buy this when we stopped at a rest stop on our way back from holiday. This pack of doughnuts though, did not last as long as I thought it would. I was aghast when I saw husband proudly carrying this, but I have to say, we managed to wolf it down, despite all my reservations 😦

I so need a workout now.