Kitchen and food, Recipes

Tandoori Gobhi

Every party needs a plat du jour or the center piece, and if you are a vegetarian, the choices are few. Presenting the very fancy and delish Tandoori Gobhi, the perfect center piece for your vegetarian dinner table.
The best part of this dish is that it does look elaborate but is really easy to make. The ingredients are also readily available in most Indian kitchens. So, lets see how you can surprise your family with this deliciousness. 
What you need:
  • 1 head of Cauliflower – choose the whitest, and freshest one you can find in the market
  • 1 cup Hung curd (I didn’t have time to make hung curd so used greek yogurt, its thick so worked equally well. if you are making hung curd at home please note that you will need to hang about 2-3 cups of fresh curd to get 1 cup of hung curd)
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ginger paste (I used store bought but you can use fresh)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Garlic paste (I used store bought but you can use fresh)
  • 1 tbsp Oil (whatever cooking oil you use)
  • 1 tsp Garam masala
  • 1 tbsp Kasuri methi (crush in palms and warm in microwave for 15 seconds)
  • 1 tsp Red chilly powder
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 2-21/2 spoons Tandoori masala
  • A pinch of Ajwain
  • Salt to taste (I used 1 1/2 tsp for a big head of cauliflower)
  • Lemon, Onion and Chat masala to serve
What you need to do:
  • Scrape all black bits from the Cauliflower and remove the stems. Cut the stem close to the base so that it sits nicely. Wash it well and  put it in a ziploc bag .
  • Microwave for 4 minutes. My Cauliflower was very big in size so I had to microwave for 6 minutes. For a medium size 4 minutes should be enough. Take it out of the ziploc bag and let it cool down.
  • In the mean time mix all ingredients to prepare the marinate. Get your hands dirty and apply the marinating mixture generously all over the cauliflower. Be careful to get the marinate inside all the nooks and crannies of the vegetable without breaking it.
  • Let it marinate for at least 30-40 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven at 180 degree Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the Cauliflower for 20 minutes and then broil for  5-7 more minutes. 


Your Tandoori Gobhi is ready! Sprinkle with lemon juice and chat masala and serve on a bed of Onion rings.

-A

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Book Review, Books

Big Little Lies – Book Review

I became a fan of Liane Moriarty when I read My Husband’s Secret (read my review here). She has a gift of writing complex stories with multitude of characters and effortlessly merging all small stories in the end that makes you wonder how could you not see it coming. Her books overwhelm me in the beginning – there are too many characters, too many details about them and a lot going on. I found myself struggle with it in The Husbands Secret but later realized its okay, it’ll all fall in place as I read further. Big Little Lies overwhelmed me all the same, especially with the story going in flashback and people’s comments going in the present after the ‘incident’. It took me a while to even know what the ‘incident’ was.

With her impeccable way of story telling and her complex but well carved characters Liane Moriarty has created a fantastic suspense thriller. She keeps you guessing right from the beginning – what’s the incident everyone is referring to, who was it, was it just one or were there more, who did it and how. Within a few pages she takes the reader from the innocent, almost boring musings of Mrs Ponder to a roller coaster ride through the lives of parents of Pirriwee Public School. Within a few chapters the unsuspecting group of parents become individuals with compelling personalities. And the best part is that each passing chapter unfolds a new motive making you uncertain of who could be the victim(s).

Like her previous books, Big Little Lies is a women dominated plot. It’s the story of women who are competitive, women who are insecure about losing their teenage daughter to the ex-husband, single mothers who are struggling to find a footing in a new place, women who want to protect their children, women who are dealing with an emotional trauma, women who are going through domestic abuse but justify it one or the other, women who bitch about one another and women who support each other, women who are willing to sell their virginity for women they would never meet, women who are willing to lie under oath for women they hate, women who are willing to kill for women they are not even friends with!! Oh calamity!!! 

The book moves at a slick pace and there is a big build up to the grand finale – the school trivia night. The book consumed me with its intricate plot and crazy anticipation of what happened at the fateful night. I couldn’t put it down, even when I did the book stayed on my mind. I found myself holding my breath at some places. When I finished reading Big little Lies it felt as if I just got off an emotional roller coaster. 

Liane Moriarty has again touched upon 2 very sensitive topics in the book – bullying and domestic abuse. (She did it earlier with infertility in What Alice Forgot). It’s commendable how she could weave such serious  subjects in the story and yet keep it fun.

Like I mentioned in my earlier review, Liane Moriarty has original stories but her characters resemble each other more than they should. This was the reason I gave a long gap between What Alice Forgot and Big Little Lies. I still feel the overlap between her characters in the two books but having read the previous book some time ago I don’t remember the details too well to really draw parallels. 

The book scores full marks on entertainment. It’s an intense enthralling read and I enjoyed every minute reading it. One of the best murder mysteries I have read lately! 

Bedtime, Parenting

15 ways to ask your kids about school 

Starting school is a big milestone for a child as well as the parents. It’s the beginning of your child having a life independent of home and family. Most parents look forward to this big step and almost all parents are anxious to know what their little ones do at school. Parents religiously ask the child what he learnt at school only to receive vague replies, if anything at all. 

What I have learnt over the last couple of years since darling daughter started school is that children get bored answering the same “What did you do at school today?” everyday. If we want detailed answers from them we need to get creative with our questions.

Here are some tips and questions to get your child talking about school and more:

  1. Make it a point to know the names of other kids, all teachers and nannies in your child’s class/school van. With random names ask questions like Did your friend XYZ come to school today? What color was Miss ABC wearing today? 
  2. Did you have fun at school today? When the child answers usually it’ll be accompanied by what made the day fun and vice versa. If not, you can ask what made the day fun.
  3. Did you play any new games at school?
  4. Kids are usually very excited about birthdays. You can ask if any of their friends are having birthdays in the next few days. 
  5. Who did you sit with today? Did you enjoy sitting with this friend?
  6. Did you learn anything new from a friend today?
  7. Did you learn anything new at school today?
  8. Did you learn a new word today?
  9. Did anyone get a timeout at school today? Why did they get timeout?
  10. What was the best part of your day at school today?
  11. Did anything make you sad at school today?
  12. Did you help someone at school today?
  13. Did someone at school helped you today?
  14. What did you play most with today?
  15. What was the best thing your teacher did today?

These work well if asked at bedtime as well since many kids are usually chatty just before they sleep. Don’t go about asking all the above questions in one day, pick a few randomly and play it by the ear. 

Do leave us a note on the tactics you use to get your kids talking. 

-A

Kitchen and food, Recipes

Grilled Paneer

Who doesn’t love Paneer! The creamy crumbly texture of cottage cheese goes well with a variety of flavors and is a treat for the taste buds. Here is a very delicious recipe which is surprisingly easy yet high on taste.

Ingredients :

250 gms Paneer (Cottage cheese)

2 tbsp chopped green cilantro

2 tablespoon Srirancha sauce (a kind of Chinese hot sauce. If you don’t have it use a mixture of chilly flakes and vinegar)

1 tablespoon white Vinegar

1 tablespoon Soy sauce 

2 tablespoon finely chopped spring onion (or regular onion if spring onion is not available)

Salt to taste 

Few drops of oil to brush the pan with 

Method:

1. Cut cottage cheese in medium sized pieces of about 1/2 inch thickness 

2. Add all other ingredients and mix well 

3. Marinate the Paneer pieces in the marinating mixture for about 15 minutes 

4. Heat a shallow pan (I used indian cast iron tawa) and brush it with a little oil

5. Once the pan is hot put the Paneer pieces on it and cook until it’s nicely cooked and crispy from one side

6. Flip the pieces and cook the other side too. On a hot pan it’ll take about 8-10 minutes to cook both sides. 

Your yummy starter/side dish is ready. Serve it with green cilantro dip (Green Chutney) and onion rings. 

Enjoy!!

-A

Kitchen and food, Recipes

Red Chori (Adzuki Bean) Salad

On my last visit to Indian store I picked up a packet of small red beans called Red Chori. I had never seen or heard of them before so did a quick google search to find that they are a nutritional powerhouse.


These are also called Adzuki beans and are quite popular in Japanese and Chinese cultures. Like other beans Adzuki is high in nutritional value – rich in protein, fiber and folic acid. 100 grams of cooked beans contains about 28 grams of carbs, 8 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat. Carrying about 1.3 calories per gram, Adzuki beans make a low-energy-dense food, meaning they are a dieters delight!  

In addition they pack good amounts of Potassium, Iron, Phosphorus, Copper, Folate and Manganese and are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. While having a high protein content, Adzuki beans do not contain all of the essential amino acids, making them an incomplete source of protein. It is therefore required to supplement your diet with other protein rich foods. 

Having no previous knowledge of how to cook Adzuki bean, I looked for an easy recipe and came across a Japanese bean salad which I modified to suit my Indian palate. Here is the salad recipe I tried:

Ingredients :

1/2 cup dried red chori beans

1/4 cup finely chopped spinach 

1 teaspoon olive oil 

1/4 cup finely chopped coriander leaves

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 pinch crushed red chilly flakes

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 carrots, thinly grated

Salt to taste

* 1/2 cup chopped green onion (Optional)

* 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger (Optional)

*1/2 teaspoon grated garlic (Optional) 

Method:

Soak beans in water for about 8 hours. Drain them and pressure cook with fresh water and a teaspoon of salt. Turn the gas off after 1 whistle. Drain and set aside to let cool completely. 

Combine all other ingredients and gently toss with cool beans to make a salad. 

Enjoy!

– A

 

 

 

Book Review, Books

Karna’s Wife – Book Review 

Mythology was never a genre I paid enough attention to until I read The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni. I was highly impressed by the book (read my review on The Palace of Illusions here) and it made me want to read more books on the subject. 

While Mahabharat is full of interesting characters, I found Karna a tad more intriguing than others. He was a good man but he supported the wrong side in the war, he was a noble person but he encouraged public shaming of Draupadi, he was the most generous soul but he craved for his birth mother’s love until the end, he was the greatest warrior but he died a pitiful death. I hoped Karna’s Wife would shed more light on his mysterious personality. The book does that but there are many things I could not digest. 

For starters, the book portrays a larger than life picture of Uruvi, who by the way is a fictional character created by the author Kavita Kane. Since she’s the main protagonist she was everywhere, she was even one of the reasons for the enemity between Karna and Arjun. I understand why the story has to revolve around her but putting a fictional new character in the centre of an epic I have heard and watched umpteen number of times made it sort of confusing.

Quite surprisingly Draupadi is mentioned everywhere in the book too. When Uruvi is having an intense conversation with Bhanumati about Karna and Duryodhan they don’t talk about Draupadi or anything that could be related to her yet the author writes about Uruvi’s feelings about Draupadi and Karna pining for each other. When Uruvi and Karna are relishing family time and talking about Karna’s sons Uruvi brings up Draupadi out of the blue. These frequent and unexpected references start feeling repetitive soon and Uruvi comes across as highly insecure wife thinking of Draupadi and Karna all the time. 

The book has glorified Karna beyond reason. Everything about him has been revered, even his role in the Vastra Haran. What Arjun did, rather didn’t do was shameful but what Karna did was no less. Uruvi’s mother and Kunti both tell her Karna is a better man than Arjun and that’s good enough to stay married to him.

I’m not convinced how someone with a heart of gold can be so spiteful that he forgot all boundaries and dignity. And he’s supposedly in love with the woman he publicly wanted naked!!! What kind of twisted love is that? How can someone glorify this disgusting emotion? How could Kunti of all people say it was OK to call Draupadi a whore because that’s what she is…. Maybe that was the mother in her talking, but I was so disgusted that I almost stopped reading the book. I was as aghast as Uruvi herself and couldn’t buy the logic that because Kunti was called a whore herself its no big deal if Draupadi was called one too.

Because of the same premise I continued to compare the book to Palace of Illusions, I know it’s not fair but I couldn’t help myself. It doesn’t even come close. The language is fine but the author has spelled out every single thing to the readers which I found very annoying, especially because it’s something we have watched, read and heard atleast a thousand times already. For example there was absolutely no need to tell the Arjun and bird’s eye story, she could have just referred to it and moved on with her tale. Similarly few scenes between Uruvi and her parents seem to have more dialogue than required. Overall there seem to be too many words in the book, and considering Uruvi is the central character more than required are written on Draupadi and Karna.

Uruvi’s confrontation with Kunti is the best part of the book. It’s harsh but spot on. Although here also the author has said the same thing in a couple of different ways making her arguments a bit repetitive. 

While the book has its flaws, the author did her research well. I learnt some new things about Mahabharat which is a huge deal given the number of times we have heard the story before. There is a tale about Shakuni’s brothers which tells why he pledged to end Kuru clan, then the story of Duryodhan’s defeat at Dwaitvana and seize by Gandharva King resulting in his fast unto death and some more. 

Despite the lengthy details there appear some gaps in the story –

“Arjuna shot another astra—the Aindrastra—at him. Karna could have invoked the invincible Brahmastra to counter it but he suddenly froze. It was as if he had lost all his ability to think! I tried to distract Arjuna so that Karna could have time to retaliate, but it was futile. It was as if no one stood between them now—it was just Karna and Arjuna.”

So what happened after the Aindrastra was shot but not countered by Karna?? How was he not hurt? 

Kavita Kone writes that Salya was impressed by Karna’s skills the day of his death and had apologized to him, if it was indeed so why did he not help when the wheels were stuck. Kavita Kone hasn’t mentioned Salya even once during the duel between Karna and Arjuna, even though Salya’s behavior that time ultimately lead to Karna’s death.

At some places the book lacked the right emotional balance. Like after the war when the Pandavas visit Vrushali and Uruvi, Uruvi starts naming the six people who deceived Karna and how. The facts she presents and the details she shares make it seem like a well rehearsed speech rather than a mourning wife telling Arjun to not feel guilty of killing his own brother. During the same visit Krishna telling Uruvi why they had to kill Karna the way they had to feels more like another way to sing Karna’s praises and lacks the right emotion given the situation. And why did they say they have come to take Uruvi and her son with them, why not Vrushali? Vrushali was their brother’s wife too!

Overall, it’s a very detailed and lengthy read which didn’t meet my expectations. I feel the book can be edited and made more crisp and enjoyable. If you do want to read it please do that before picking up The Palace of Illusions. If however you have already read The Palace, you should skip this one.

If you enjoyed this review and love reading books please join me on The Book Club .

-Aparna 

Book Review, Books

Shopaholic To The Rescue – Book Review

Shopaholic series was my first introduction to Sophie Kinsella and boy I was hooked! The first couple of books were so entertaining and addictive that I looked up her other books and over the years read them all. When my daughter was born reading took a deep dive. I was too busy being a mom that I forgot to take time out for reading.

Couple of years later I stumbled upon Shopaholic To The Stars in an in flight entertainment package and it ignited a spark. I had read every other book in the series and adored them all. Shopaholic To The Stars was not a great book but I sort of felt obligated to read it and when it ended with a cliffhanger I had to read the next part Shopaholic to the Rescue too!

Sophie Kinsella created a brilliant character of Rebecca Bloomwood. She’s silly but funny and charming, vain but generous, is extremely spendthrift but has a heart of gold. She is always getting in trouble but with a sweeping stroke of luck she’s not just able to fix everything but also ends up helping someone in a sticky situation. Her stories are shallow but fluffy and heartwarming at the same time. No wonder she was such a hit in print as well as on screen. But by the 8th book Rebecca started to feel more annoying than funny, more stupid than smart and her stroke of luck became all too predictable.

Shopaholic to the Rescue is too stretched and lacks the fun quotient of the earlier books. There were a few times while reading when I questioned myself why I’m reading this book. I do hope Sophie Kinsella doesn’t write another Shopaholic novel because if she does I will HAVE to read it and then I’ll curse myself for not reading something more worthy of my time.

Please avoid if you can. If like me you can not NOT read Sophie Kinsella then I hope you find it more fun than I did!!

I do like to emphasize that I LOVE Sophie Kinsella and would continue reading all her books, its just the Shopaholic series that I have gotten tired of.

If you enjoyed this review and love reading books please join me on The Book Club .

– A

Crafty baby, Parenting

DIY Diwali Craft – Paper Marigolds 

Every year we make Diwali decorations at home. This gives me an opportunity to get darling daughter excited for the festival and spend some more time with her. A decorated house is a bonus that we all enjoy 🙂

Marigold Flowers: 

When I think of Diwali marigold flowers are one of the first things to come in mind – bright yellow, orange and my favorite maroon ones. I do see marigold flowers in farmers market sometimes but their availability on Diwali is highly doubtful so I usually make paper marigolds to use for decoration. Last year I made these. They came out pretty well and looked real. This time I wanted to make marigolds another way just for the sake of trying a new technique. 

Method: Take a paper napkin (already folded in square) and fold it in smaller square. Put 2 staples in the centre in the shape of a plus + sign. Now cut the corners to get a nice round circle. Just do a freestyle cutting rather than drawing a circle and cutting. Make small incisions about 2-3 mm apart on the outside periphery of the circle. Now take each sheet of the tissue and crumble lightly in the center. Continued to do one by one until you finish all. Your lovely fluffy marigold is ready. 

I have used combinations of napkins to make more colorful flowers. You can do that by layering them before folding.

These are very simple and quick to make. I did until step 4 myself and asked my 4.5 year old daughter to crumple them as per step 5. These marigold are flat at the base so can be stuck on a ribbon or used as a rangoli on the floor or table. I have tried with different color combinations. Make whichever color you like best. Stores are flooded with red, orange and yellow colored paper napkins to celebrate fall so you’ll not have any trouble finding the supplies. 

Happy crafting!!

-A

Recipes

Zucchini/Pumpkin Flower Fritters

I hadn’t heard of people eating pumpkin or zucchini flowers until last year. We were planning for a date night for my husband’s birthday and while researching the restaurant I saw pictures of these flower fritters. I was blown away and couldn’t wait to try them. At the dinner I asked the waiter to bring it without looking at the menu and was so disappointed when I was told its a seasonal item and wasn’t available at the time.


This week at our local farmer’s market my eyes lit up when I saw a vendor selling bunches of these beauties. Without wasting another moment I grabbed 2 bunches and secured them in my bag. The whole way home I day dreamed of those fritters I checked out last year and looked up for recipes online. There are a couple of different ones available but I tried one with chickpea flour batter which seemed easy and closest to what I had in mind.

It took all of 10 minutes to clean and get the crispy delicacy on the table.


What you need:

Zucchini/Pumpkin Flowers*

Chickpea Flour

Salt, Pepper to taste

Oil for frying

What you need to do:

Clean the flowers gently in cold running water. Be careful of the small insects hiding inside the petals. Dry the flowers on paper towels. 

Make a loose batter of chickpea flour in water and add salt, pepper to taste. Heat oil in a shallow pan, the oil layer should be about 1/2 inch deep. 

Dip the whole flowers in the batter, gently shake off the excess batter and put in on hot oil. Keep the heat on high throughout and flip gently after a couple of minutes. The flowers will puff up a little and turn golden brown. 


When both sides are nicely golden take them out on a paper towel and serve hot with tomato chutney. You can sprinkle a little chat masala and lemon juice for extra zing. 

Things to note:

  • *If you are using flowers from your own plant, be careful of picking only the male flowers. Female flowers form Zucchini and you will miss out on the fruit if you use female flowers for the fritters.      
  • Cook only a couple at a time, as overcrowding will cool the oil resulting in oily soggy fritters. 
  • Avoid making a thick batter as it will not bring out the flavor and texture of the flowers nicely.
  • If you don’t want to use whole flowers, you can chop them after cleaning, mix in the batter and make flat patties to fry. They taste like Zucchini. 

Like I mentioned earlier this is a seasonal item and is available for a very small window. Because of the short shelf-life you’ll not find them in super markets. Try your local farmers market in August/September and if you are lucky you may be able to find them. 

Happy cooking!

-A

Parenting

Second Child: Falling In Love All Over Again….

The thought of having second child terrified me. I was scared of not loving him enough. Lately I have heard the same thing from many other moms. It’s only natural to feel this way. 

Recently I came across this beautiful piece of writing by a mother who had the same doubts but learnt how easy it is to love your children irrespective of the order of their births. It warmed my heart to read my own feelings put into words, hope you love it as much as I did. 

“So, this is what it feels like to fall in love so hard, all over again….
I loved your dad with all of my heart. He filled up my heart from corner to corner. My heart shined every time I looked at him. I felt so complete.

Then, your brother came along…..
He rattled my heart. He stretched and shook it till I couldn’t breath. He made my heart bigger and settled himself right in, and every time I looked at him my heart skipped a beat. It’s a side effect of having your heartshaken so hard, I guess.
My heart was so full of love for your dad and your brother that it couldn’t possibly fill in any more or it will explode. There’s just no more room.

Then, you came along….
How can this be? My heart…. It’s beating so fast. How can someone so tiny have that much strength to open up my already filled heart and stretched it out even more? I thought I would need a new heart for each one of you. But mine just grew.

You looked up at me, searching…..
I took your tiny little hand and reassured you that all is right and that I would do anything in this world for you. You squeezed my finger and relaxed. I trembled and closed my eyes as my heart grew from out of me and shined on my face with the warmth of its sunrise.

– By Fam Chiem Saechao”