A detox diet tale and a very healthy oats uttapam recipe

May 17, 2014 | By

I have had many weddings to attend in the past four months. Indian wedding food and the late night extravaganza can wreck the metabolism for a long, long time. By the time, I came back home reeling from the heady glitz of my best friend’s wedding, I could feel my body protesting. A detox was in order. On a separate note, I have been on a good gym schedule with a trainer for more than 6-8 months now and needless to say, I have been feeling fit end very strong. But even such a robust exercise schedule’s effects are nullified by the sullied food and sleep cycle on vacations. To start afresh, I jumped into a 5 -day juice detox plan with the help of my Bahraini friend and colleague. Eva is an expert when it comes to diet, detox, fitness and holistic health. She prepared a stringent 5 -day juice diet with her own ingenious juice recipes.

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Her plan consisted of Green, Red, Purple, Orange juices for five days with varied ingredient combinations under each colour group. On the fourth and the fifth day, she added a meal each rich in proteins and complex carbohydrates for lunch. Since I wasn’t used to anything this intense, I was very apprehensive. But with Eva’s gentle encouragement, I embarked on the diet. Each day I made a mental note of how I was feeling and this post is about these observations and a very healthy oats egg white uttapam that finds it way on my breakfast plate more often than not.

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The funny thing about starting a diet is that, the first thing you do is  to mentally prepare for the ‘deprivation’ from your favourite foods. The previous night, I filled myself with a dinner and ate till I felt my stomach could take no more. Post that I felt extremely guilty which was immediately replaced by a sense of ‘compensation” that for the next five days, I will have little or no solid food.

Day 1 : The morning wasn’t eventful as I was used to only juices and negligible breakfast certain days of the week. But then the realization struck that there would be no lunch – not the one where I would chew and spend time over. It would only be a glass of banana- strawberry smoothie with lemon! I had my smoothie lunch and  it was satisfying to say the least. But the mind is a tricky being and I can go ahead  and say at the risk of sounding silly that- the mind has a mind of its own! By mid – afternoon, I was feeling low – not on energy – but on feelings. Like all my restlessness was put to rest. All my nervous twitching settled down on my face and I felt peaceful. I wanted to be left alone and didn’t feel like talking to anyone. It was one of the best feelings ever. The day passed without any incidents and at night I slept peacefully.

Day 2: The next day, I woke up feeling refreshed and lighter.  I followed the juice diet strictly for the day and I was full of energy. I struggled in a very minor way with not feeling full enough but quickly learnt the tricks of the trade. I felt full when I sipped on my juice slowly and in a relaxed way, rather than gulping it all down in a single shot. Constantly talking to myself that this is not going to my last meal and that I will be providing  my body more nourishing juices the entire day helped a lot. I continued with my regular gym sessions with my trainer during the diet as well to rev-up my metabolism. I found it easier to run as I was breathing better.

Day 3; If you think that all the bodily functions would shut down because you haven’t been eating solid food, then you are in for a surprise! Well I won’t go too much into the details here but definitely say that I hadn’t felt this bloating-free in ages. The third day was a clean sweep and I did not even realize how it passed. Mentally, I was feeling lighter and happier and my cravings had diminished and I was breathing more easily. My trainer noticed I had more energy during my intense circuit training sessions.

Day 4: I had never thought I would look forward to a day so much. I was sleeping so well after a long time. Couple of times I did weigh myself but my weight hadn’t budged. It was a bit demoralizing for a second or two but the happiness of the lightness I was feeling clouded any feelings of sadness or depression. Also, I reminded myself why I was doing this. I was doing this diet to get a boost, free my body of the toxins it had collected over time and extract maximum from my work-out. Once you have certain fundamentals set straight, it becomes quite easy to stay focused. The fourth day had a lunch- meal in it which was a small bowl of mushroom -quinoa and grilled sweet potato. Post my lunch, I felt extremely uncomfortable. The solid food felt like an intruder in my system but soon by evening and after my work out the solid meal intrusion was vanquished.

Day 5: I woke up with a feeling of sadness inside me for I had grown attached to this way of having juices as meals. I wasn’t ready to give up this feeling of being so happy and light. It does drive  home a point that we are what we eat. What we eat /drink creates a deep impact not only on our physical being but also on our mental health. It is a science in itself but at a basic level, it taught  me to be extra careful about how I nourish my body. Like they say, each meal time is an opportunity to nourish your body and post this detox, I have been quite careful about it. The fifth day also included one meal which was lunch. The solid meal felt much at home and I enjoyed every bite of it.

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Notes: This was a detox diet for 5 days which included very specific juice recipes meant for the purpose. 

It was NOT a weight loss diet plan at all.

It is safe to do this diet plan atleast once in six months to boost your sluggish metabolism

My initial thoughts about the diet being very difficult were  unfounded. It is moderately easy to follow this juice plan. 

The difficult part of this diet is the juicing bit. Chopping of vegetables and fruits and then juicing them fresh is advisable. Juicing is tedious and on a work day it seems a bit of a task. 

There are only advantages in exercising while doing this diet. In my personal opinion, I did not feel there was any calorie deficit at all and that is perhaps why I didn’t find it difficult to stick to gym schedule.

I did lose in inches after the diet but nothing on the weighing scale (which wasn’t my concern anyways)

Post the diet, I still juice atleast 3 times in a week.

I have only Eva to thank because she inducted me into this juicing habit which has really altered my way of thinking. I also have to thank my husband who took over the task of juicing every morning.

To end this post, I have a wonderful oats egg-white uttapam recipe to share that I found on Bulbul’s blog. The original recipe does not have egg whites but I added it for a protein boost. Bulbul has some very yummy, tried and tasted healthy recipes to try. Do hop over to her blog to find out more.

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It is very simple to whip up and makes for a very satisfying meal  and guilt -free too. I had this with the green cilantro and mint chutney. But I bet it will taste good with coconut chutney too.

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The recipe is as follows;

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Hope everybody is having a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

I have been getting on..

.. and getting myself into more things than I can manage. This year has been very exciting but its not all hunky dory. Everyday there is something new that life throws at me but I am not complaining. The last 3-4 months have weathered me well. Lessons have been learnt but I have been getting on. The most amazing bit that has happened in all this chaos and confusion is clarity of thought has emerged. A pristine clarity of thought which is not only such a relief but also great for bolstering my shaky confidence.

In the coming months a lot would have changed in my life and I pray to God it should be for the best.

(source: google image search)

(source: google image search)

In the meantime I have a few interesting updates to share.

1. I went to my bestie’s (Namit ) wedding in Mumbai and it was so much fun dressing up, getting henna done,  dancing and meeting people. The bride looked absolutely stunning with all the elaborate jewellery and garments. If you have been following me on instagram, you’d know! If you haven’t been, here’s your chance @sliceofmylyfe

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2. Mimi made me this lovely mother’s day gift which I cannot get over

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3. Attended a social media workshop for professionals conduct by the Social Media Club of Bahrain ( @SMCBahrain on twitter). Here I learnt about how important it is to project a consistent brand image throughout. The speaker, Ernesto Verdugo also emphasized on the various social media tools and tricks to use to make life easy.

 

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4. My baby can make her own cake!

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5. Couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to attend a arts and crafts exhibition. It was conducted my La Creation who host series of workshops for anybody who is interested in learning crafts like quilting, painting, baking and such. In a place like Bahrain where if you are new to the island it can get quite lonely. Groups such as this are such a wonderful way to get in touch with the community whilst being creative. This exhibition was a treasure cove of hand made lovelies such dream catchers, necklaces, household decoration pieces, trinkets, quilts, paintings and what not! Here, I share with you some pictures from the event.

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The next post, I shall share a wonderfully healthy oats and egg white uttapam recipe which I love so much! Until then, have a good week ahead people!

A chocolate frosted peanut butter cake and what is to feel trapped in a time capsule

April 5, 2014 | By

Some of the best books  grace my book shelf but I have no time to read them. I look at them with guilt and they look back at me with a lot of contempt. They don’t say much, mostly because I don’t give them a chance. I turn away to tend to some of the more ‘urgent’ things that need my attention. My bedside table has some of the lighter reads and some cook books. Nigella’s cookbooks are always at my hand’s reach. I flip through some recipes and read a line of two from the novel who’s name I forget until I close to book to look at the title.

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I am drifting. Again. This happens when I get too busy in my busyness. I read a post written by Saheli called Floating and I knew I was feeling the exact same thing. What’s reassuring is I know its just a phase and it will pass, so I am not despairing.

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Initially I used to fight it but it never helped. Now I just drift along only because I know it will end. There are few things I know make me feel better and one of them is baking.  So I baked a chocolate frosted peanut butter cake. It was a friend’s surprise baby shower. I poured myself into it and even before I prepped for the cake, I hadn’t a shred of doubt that it will be wonderful.

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The pictures are pathetic because they were rushed, but who cares! The cake was fantastic. I didn’t need anybody else to tell me that and I didn’t even have to taste it. I just knew it. There are a few things you should know about the cake before you try it.

– Its barely sweet and that allows the peanut butter taste to shine through.

– It uses no butter. Only oil and the cake is soft as a baby’s bottom.

-The sweetness is from the chocolate frosting which if you avoid, you’d be doing the cake a lot of disservice.

– The recipe has been adapted from here

For the recipe, click on the recipe card below.

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Before I end this post, there is a video I would like to share here. It is a Ted talk by one of my favourite writers – Elizabeth Gilbert of the Eat, Pray, Love fame. She talks about the creative process and of managing our own expectations that we have from our creative selves. It made a lot of sense to me. I watched it twice and each time it felt like she was talking to me. Here you go.

Happy Weekend!

{Breakfast Banter} New York Coffee : Restaurant Review

Restaurant Reviews | March 29, 2014 | By

It is no secret how much I adore this first meal of the day. Breakfast was and shall remain the single most important meal for me. I plan my breakfast carefully and take time to enjoy my breakfast, however meagre  because that sets the mood for the rest of the day. Weekend breakfasts are even more important because that is the time I take out to spend with the family while having my favourite meal of the day. For this very reason, I was extremely excited to visit the New York Coffee outlet with my family at The Walk in Riffa. To begin with, I have to say, this newish New York Coffee outlet is impressive – full of sunshine, large, spacious, and airy – it gives you a feeling of a relaxed setting.

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Within one quick glance several things caught my eye with regards to the decor. Modern and contemporary with an easy vibe is how I can describe the decor of the cafe. I was overcome with a sudden urge to sit down with my laptop and start writing a new novel or a blog post such as this whilst enjoying a nice cup of cappuccino. My thoughts were interrupted by the cheerful staff at the Cafe who welcomed me with great enthusiasm. The smiling server explained to us our breakfast and brunch options and also made explicit mentions of the offers of the day. We settled for a sumptuous American breakfast and an omelette (my way) while my daughter ordered for a sugary crepe along with a carrot cake.

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While our orders were being prepared in the kitchen, I took the opportunity to walk around the cafe. They have a small outdoor seating area which was dappled in the mid – morning sun. I also loitered around the shelves that housed different coffee and tea selections. The aroma of coffee was so inviting that I was half tempted to ask for an espresso instead of the orange juice I had ordered.

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I also happened to have a quick chat the General Manager of the outlet who filled me in with all the details about the outlet.  The New York Coffee outlet at the Walk in Riffa is open 24 hours. I was also told that it is the only coffee outlet in Bahrain that roasts and grinds their own coffee locally. Armed with this interesting trivia, I went back to my seat as the server had brought our piping, hot breakfast.

My husband had the omelette (my way) with brown toast and a large glass of fresh orange juice. He was enjoying his breakfast so much that I did not feel like interrupting him to ask how he found the fare. My daughter tucked into her sugary crepe on which there was  a pool of melted butter. Light and mildly sweet, the crepe was just perfect.  As for my breakfast platter – two fried eggs (runny), chicken sausages, salad, brown toast and fresh orange juice – was sumptuous!  I have an aversion towards sausages but these were done so well that they seemed like a treat. Later when my husband finished his breakfast and was sipping his orange juice he mentioned that he wouldn’t mind coming in here for this very plate of omelette every weekend. My daughter enjoyed her slice of the carrot cake mumbling “mmmm, mmmm” in between. That itself was a good indicator of how much she was enjoying her treat.

 

 

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Finally, when we were patting our warm bellies the server asked us to try their special drink. We couldn’t fathom eating or drinking anything more but he insisted and we thought ‘why not! It’s the weekend!” . He brought in two icy-looking drinks called Honey dew and Mango -tango. While placing these drinks, the server informed that these drinks are special because they are ‘low cal. In my experience, I know of many drinks that are supposedly low cal but are full of sugar. So I challenged him, “ How low?”  ”

“Only 7 cals!!“, he replied

That was ridiculous. I couldn’t believe it. We went to the counter and he showed me his premix and described to me the method of preparation and I realized it was true. I enjoyed my drink with a greater gusto. The honey-dew was refreshing and I have a feeling its is going to be hugely popular this summer. 

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All in all, it was a wonderful morning spent savouring one gastronomic delight after the other. Bahrain!! Chuck your usual breakfast dos and go to New York Coffee. I dare say, you won’t regret it!

*This is a sponsored post but all the views and opinions expressed are my own.

Mumbai through #Instagram pictures

Travel Diaries | March 23, 2014 | By

I don’t usually fall in love with places like I do with people. With people, I am easily impressed and I instantly like anybody and everybody at the very first meeting because I genuinely think everybody is just as wonderful. But with places I am a bit of a skeptic. I look at any new place through the glass of a cynic. I take a lot of time to see the beauty of a city’s /country’s buildings, its roads, its waters and its skies. It takes me a terrible amount of time to unravel and enjoy the beauty of the place unless its just unquestionably beautiful like Edinburgh or Paris. While I am open to cultural experiences, I am always on my guard as well. One can always argue that people maketh the place but in my head these are two different elements.

Very frankly, I never liked Mumbai because I found it was too fast.  Fast is such a relative term really. Now I understand. But as a 22 year old when I last visited Mumbai, I was overwhelmed by the number of people, their sense of urgency, the sight of the mad rush in the local trains and the muggy weather. I wanted to get away from Mumbai as soon as I could. Fast forward, 2014 and am back in the city for work and that is a transformation story I am going to tell in my post today.

Everything is affected by relativity. I have lived in Delhi, some time in Cochin, in Birmingham and on and off in other cities around the world for work. So when a certain “Mumbaite” comes to me raving about his /her ‘Maximum city’, I make a face. An unhealthy debate ensues about Delhi Vs Mumbai and ends inconclusively. In my 15 years of adult life, I have learnt to value certain characteristics of a city more than others. What makes a place livable and hence likable?

1. Safety

2. Easy access to places that we frequent on a daily basis

3. Quality and options for a thriving social life

Somewhere I had made up my mind about Mumbai.

My recent trip about Mumbai changed my perception. I enjoyed the sights, the sounds,the energy and the pulse of Mumbai. Ofcourse, I avoided the local trains and the other avoidable facets of the city’s personality. I even avoided the usual touristy things to do except for the lure of street shopping at Colaba. I dove deep into the life of the city which happened both by chance and by design.

Street shopping at Colaba, a quick drink at cafe mondegar,  peek into cafe Leopold and blissful coffee and cookie at the Star bucks at the Taj

Street shopping at Colaba, a quick drink at cafe mondegar, peek into cafe Leopold

Mandeep enjoying  her blissful coffee drink and cookie at the Star bucks at the Taj

Mandeep enjoying her blissful coffee drink and cookie at the Star bucks at the Taj

What I loved about Mumbai:

1. Work ensured that I met the most enterprising of individuals who were informal as they were professional. Nobody wasted anybody’s time and everybody aimed to extract maximum value from the time expended. I found this extremely impressive and comforting.

2. This city knows how to have fun. Almost every evening I headed out for dinner and to try out some interesting places. Each night was a new experience and every place was packed. Nobody was in a hurry to get back home though it was a weekday!!

3. The ‘concept’ restaurants in Mumbai are an experience. We had a chance to celebrate International Women’s Day at a restaurant called ” Haibao” which promised a shabu shabu experience – a Japanese dish wherein the different kinds of vegetables, meats, fish and other seafood are dropped into boiling broth (which is at the table itself) and cooked in front of the diners.  It was delicious as it was satisfying.

The Shabu Shabu experience at Haibao, Juhu

The Shabu Shabu experience at Haibao, Juhu

4. Yoga house was yet another cafe that I fell in love with. I would love for Bahrain to have something like this where you can just go and relax with your coffee served with jaggery, quiona salad and detox juices. No processed food is served here which includes sugar. I was completely bowled over by the ambiance and sense of harmony the cafe had to offer.

Yoga house was an experience

Yoga house was an experience

5. The most amazing bit about Mumbai was that I found it safe to travel alone or with friends at any hour of the night.  I had the shocking experience of walking past the crowd of the most drunk people and there weren’t any mishaps or cat calls. It was like I had almost expected it and was prepared to mentally ignore it and to my shock it did not happen. People were doing their own thing. More drunk people recommended one food outlet over the other. I haven’t experienced this much freedom for women walking down the roads in a long, long time. And I looked around to see so many more women just going about their stuff even as late at 1 or 2 am at night.  Hats off Mumbai for creating a culture  and environment so safe for women.

6. Mumbai experience was deepened in afterthought. After a long time I was by myself, responsible only for my own self. That was rare and somehow freeing. The sense of anonymity that Mumbai provided helped me be myself. I could easily shed my heavy cloak of self consciousness and enjoyed myself like I didn’t care. That feeling of anonymity can be addictive because even after days of coming back to Bahrain, I craved for it.

These were my reasons for loving a city that I once despised. Life is funny like that. The more severely stubborn we become about something, it has its way of bringing everything back full circle. I hope you enjoy Mumbai as I did albeit through the Instagram images. For most parts it was a great trip because Mandeep planned it so for me. A huge fraction of my transformation journey was possible only because of her – because she showed me that face of Mumbai that she intuitively knew I would enjoy.

A Guest post about the top 5 things to do in Bahrain for Amelia – Chai : A cup of Life

When Amelia  of Chai: A cup of life asked me to do a guest post for her, I agreed immediately without really thinking what I was going to write about. I know and appreciate the fact that Amelia wrote about her life as an expat in India and now Dubai. She gave such profound cultural insights about the Indian way of living that it sometimes shocked and surprised me how these escaped me when I lived there. Anyways, coming to the point.. I decided I’d do a TOP 5 Things to do in Bahrain post for her.

An excerpt from my post on Amelia’s blog.

“Living an expat’s life in Bahrain for the last four years has been the most enchanting one. Every single day, I get a new cultural insight that leaves me enriched with life lessons. Initially, I had reservations about adjusting to the Middle Eastern culture but I was proved wrong in no time by the openness and the warmth of the people of Bahrain. It has been four years now and I can confidently call Bahrain my home because even when I am on my annual vacation to India, I miss the comfort of my routine in Bahrain.

Bahrain, also known as the Kingdom of Bahrain is a small island-country on the western shores of the Persian Gulf. In four years, I have had a chance to enjoy most of the sights that the country has to offer. It cannot be compared to the touristy offerings of Oman or Dubai but it is quite special in its own way for its inhabitants and tourists alike. For the longest time, Bahrain was the financial hub of the Middle East and it still is in my opinion (though many would contest that because the 2008 financial downturn was hard on the Bahrain economy). Yet, the charm of Bahrain has to be lived to be experienced, which we as expats do every single day of our life.” 

For more head over to Chai: A cup of life

Meanwhile Happy Holi to everybody!!!

I share with you some instagram pictures of Holi Celebrations in Bahrain

Holi celebrations at the Temple in Manama - the capital of Bahrain

Holi celebrations at the Temple in Manama – the capital of Bahrain

"Gheear" A Sindhi Specialty like a Jalebi for Holi

“Gheear” A Sindhi Specialty like a Jalebi for Holi

 

Apple tarts for ordinary days and a poll

March 12, 2014 | By

All of us remember special days – birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and personal triumph days such as promotions etc ( its been long since I have celebrated that one!). I try and celebrate the ordinariness of each day. It gives me a special high. I try to have a special sort of breakfast or dinner or snack since its super fun to share on instagram, Facebook and twitter. People respond to my attempts to celebrate ordinariness which makes all the effort well worth it. That is why I am so glad that social media platforms like Facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram are around which make our daily routine stories sound fancy thereby giving us the strength to get past each day.

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There is a lot of criticism concerning these social media platforms where several people (including my husband) think that this culture of over-sharing is overbearing.  I agree to a certain extent but all in all I feel it has brought us closer as a community – of like minded people, friends, supporters etc.

Digital Media has got me so interested that the pros vs cons war doesn’t bother me. Like they say, you can love it, you can hate it, but you cannot ignore it. Social media is here to stay and its evolving and adapting to real life as I write this post. Soon there will be a time when there wouldn’t be any distinction between the real and the virtual life. Scary? Exciting?

What are your thoughts on it. Social media – love it? hate it?

Take this small poll for fun and it will tell me how many of us think social media is amazing and the single biggest invention after the world wide web and how many think that it is a high risk infection that needs to be stopped via a new antidote or vaccine!

Well apart from all the digital media debate on this post, I have a warm and a sunny apple tart recipe to share.

AT2This recipe is the easiest and absolutely no-fuss. The last traces of the good weather are leaving Bahrain and summer is setting in. I am not exactly ready for summer and continue to hold to my fall/winter/spring mode. The baked apple tarts is my way of expressing weather -related withdrawal symptoms.

AT3What is it about the cinnamon and apple combination that is so heavenly! Pair it in tarts or cakes or muffins with strusel, it just creates that quiet corner of heaven when you are eating them. I served warm these tarts with simple and the understated vanilla ice cream – symbolic of the receding winters and the entering summers.

The recipe has been inspired from here and the recipe card for the detailed recipe is below.

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Now bringing the discussion back to social media and the impact it has on our lives these days.I feel moderation is the key. I feel we have control over what part of ourselves we want to put out there for the unknown world to see. Ofcourse that balance comes through trial and error. As a blogger, I have realized that like – minded people connect when they read what I post is relevant to their lives. For that I post stuff about my life which I don’t mind sharing. It is also heartening when people come and validate that they feel the same, given a situation. For me personally, being a part of such an online community has been inspiring and each day I learn a lot which I then apply to my real life. Hence, I do not mind declaring that I am social media- happy and would continue my trysts in this medium.

Do you feel the same?

{friendship series} Bedmi Puri – An Uttar Pradesh specialty

Friendship Series | February 28, 2014 | By

As a continuation to my last week’s post, I have featured Ankur’s very own Bedmi Puri recipe. For the uninitiated, Puris are Indian flatbreads that are deep fried in oil and they take a puffed up appearance. Bedmi Puri is a Uttar Pradesh specialty ( a state in the north of India) which uses a unique blend of spices and urad dal.

Urad dal /www.foodsubs.com

Generally, I avoid making deep fried food at home but Bedmi puri is an exception. On days when I am feeling generous and happy such as some work -free weekends, I do make a lavish spread of bedmi puri, dum aloo and kheer ( rice pudding) for my family.

Post this heavenly lunch, we all take a much needed afternoon siesta until it is time to head out for an evening full of social hobnobbing.  Life is good in Bahrain but I still cannot help but feel that familiar longing for my old friends. This post is again about Ankur because I am not done talking about her. When I talk about Ankur, I cannot do so with talking about Deepa.  I write this post from India where I have come down for a short trip to attend a relative’s wedding. Being back in the old space – Delhi/ Noida, brings back a bucket full of memories of Deepa and Ankur. On this trip, I happened to read this beautiful book called “Sister of my Heart” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and I miss both of them even more. I feel compelled to constantly compare the two protagonists – Basudha and Anjali with Deepa and Ankur. If you are fond of beautiful, touching writing that evokes emotions that rise like tides on a full moon, you should read this book.

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Deepa also worked with us ( Ankur and me ) in the same organization and I found her as someone who could charm through the coldest of hearts with her enticing smile. I met her at a time when career-wise it was possibly the worst period and I wasn’t in the best of moods to be friendly. But Deepa danced and sang her way through my coldness. Publicly known for her dislike for the culinary arts, Deepa never felt the strong emotions that Ankur and I felt towards food and cooking. But there were other passions that we bonded over such as shopping from thrift shops, office -pantry singing and late night partying.

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This post gave me a chance to look back at my life – the carefree life with fewer responsibilities. I took this opportunity to go through all my old albums where I reminisced about our last Goa trip, the trip to Binsar, many a late night dinners and late evening coffees at Cafe Coffee Day and Barista in Noida. Ankur, Deepa and I have way too many memories and even if I try and jot all of them it will take very, many posts. I am afraid, I will only fall short of words reminding me that certain emotions are better remembered and felt. Putting them down in words can never do justice.

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Food and memories are central to my blog. Being blessed with terrible memory, this blog is my only rescue. Through words, I greedily try and capture all possible memories which time is hastily trying to erase. On 24th of Feb, this blog completed 4 years. It just slipped past unnoticed – ofcourse only I remembered because like a mother who can never forget her children’s birthdays, I cannot forget my blog’s birthday too. This blog has been my loyal companion for 4 years, changing and moulding itself into any shape that I gave it over these 4 years. I had planned  a lot of things for my blog – a new look, a giveaway etc. but none of it materialized due to the lack  of time which is such a mundane excuse that I cringe as I write it. I know I haven’t shown as much affection to the blog as it has and yet it serves me uncomplainingly. I am determined to change that going forward.

Now for the recipe of the Bedmi Puri that Ankur shared with me – thank you Ankur! Miss you and Deepa a lot.

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{friendship series} A terrific Dum Aloo recipe

Friendship Series | February 21, 2014 | By

Two years back I badgered some of my closest friends to share their favourite recipes with me. Soon enough I collected a good number of their favorite recipes for the ” Friendship Series”. Now that I have tried their recipes and I think each of them is absolutely stunning and worthy of all the praises that I can possibly shower. Apart from the agenda that included collecting of recipes, I wanted to capture the essence of my relationship with all these beautiful people. In this post, I share a wonderful recipe of Dum Aloo that my dear friend Ankur shared with me.

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I met Ankur in 2005 as a colleague with the first company I worked for after completing my Masters. My first impression of her was that she was extremely fastidious and diligent as far as her work was concerned. Also, I noticed she laughed a lot. A lot. Her infectious laughter drew me to her and we started interacting a lot more. She admired the way I could put my eye liner in a few strong strokes while I tried to absorb her indefatigable zest for life. We bonded over office gossip, short lived crushes and conversations about food and cooking.

BedmiPuri9Ankur has always been a good sounding board and even after we moved countries with our respective spouses and (now) children, we never lost touch. An occasional email, a quick phone call or chats on gmail have been ways that we have kept in touch. Sharing recipes. pictures of our children helps us keep track of what’s going on in each other’s lives. Recently, Ankur has taken to baking like a fish takes to water and it is amazing how quickly she is churning out one baked treat after the other.

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Some of my favourite moments with Ankur have been on our all-friends trip to Goa. It was once in a life time kind of carefree trip where we roamed on bikes far and wide on the roads of Goa.

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Ankur is a terrific  cook and it is no surprise that I turn back to her recipes time and again. This Dum Aloo recipe uses next to zilch amount of oil and is so quick to prep and whip up. This has become my go-to recipe whenever I have guests to entertain. As a brilliant accompaniment, I serve this dum aloo with Ankur’s very own”Bedmi Puri” recipe which I will include in the next post. 

Sneak peek at the luscious Bedmi Puri ( next post)

Sneak peek at the luscious Bedmi Puri ( next post)

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My friendship stories with Ankur will continue in the next post with her luscious “Bedmi Puri” Recipe which is a western U.P. specialty.

Until then, a brilliant weekend to one and all.

P.S. If you are interested in reading some exciting fantasy fiction, you can head over to my other blog to catch up with a book I had written last year for a competition. I am posting chapter by chapter, once every week.

Parenthood and other things + Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

Musings of a New Mom | February 19, 2014 | By

Being a parent is the most fortunate thing to happen to anyone -  seems like an overstatement but I think it’s absolutely true. When Mimi was born, it took me a while to step out from the state of awe. Tiny and vulnerable, my new-born looked like the most exquisite thing I had ever laid my eyes on. Unfortunately, unlike most of you, I didn’t take to motherhood naturally. It took me a great while to figure her out. I was too scared to trust my instincts or for that matter even my husband’s as far as Mimi affairs were concerned. Be it her colicky experience, her natural tendency to run before she started walking, her difficulty in pronouncing ” Y” and “Th” words ( words like yellow were pronounced as Lello and Bath was Baff).  Rather than trusting my own instincts, I would look up the internet or talk to my mother who I thought is the authority in raising a child since she managed to make something out  of me! But over a period of time, I have understood Mimi and my instincts are better positioned to work and deliver.

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Despite having four solid years of experience of raising a child, both my husband and I still struggle when it comes to trusting our instincts as parents. It becomes increasingly difficult especially when a credible source like school and especially your child’s teacher tells you certain things about your child that you find difficult to refute. It was when Mimi joined nursery that I went back to work. It was  a trying time for both of us because we spent nearly 3.5 glorious years together before this abrupt separation happened. ( including the pregnancy months when I took a sabbatical from work)

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The first year passed incident-free but the second year onward we received a steady stream of complaints from school regarding her behaviour. Mimi suddenly resorted to displaying sudden bursts of temper and several cases of disobedience. These complaints did not cease even after several attempts of intervention with Mimi. We, as parents, were at our wits end. The teacher and school started to label her as someone with ADHD and that increased our anxiety levels beyond imagination. Every single day was spent trying to make Mimi understand about good behaviour but none seem to work. Somehow we resigned to believe that maybe Mimi did have ADHD and perhaps as the teacher suggested would need medical attention and therapy.  We spoke to several counselors, Psychotherapists and child psychiatrists and each one of them strongly recommended that we should wait it out because at 3  years it was too early to diagnose anything. It was the most grueling time for us as parents and midst all of this confusion, the school gave us a hard time questioning our parenting skills.

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Finally, after months of sleepless nights, we decided to trust our instincts and take her off the school especially when certain stray incidents of discrimination came to my knowledge. It was as if the school did not want her too. Truce was declared and Mimi spent  several months at home doing what she liked – painting, writing, watching her favourite shows, eating wonderful food and chilling out. What surprised me was that she was  a completely different person at home as compared to how the teachers projected her – A devil child.

For a parent, there no bigger grief trust me.

Once she was off school, there was collective sigh of relief and life went on.  Towards the beginning of a new year, I went up to one of the smaller nurseries in town and requested them to take Mimi. The new school gladly took her and Mimi began a new life with new classmates, new teachers and a brand new atmosphere. By the grace of God, she took to this new school rather easily and the positive environment did a good deal of good. Her beautiful character sparkled through and she started to enjoy the new tryst. There were never any complaints from school and we thanked our lucky stars that she found a loving environment that cherishes her for what and who she is.

We are so happy that we trusted our instincts and got her off the previous school without falling for the teacher’s random observations of Mimi having ADHD. These days ADHD has become the easiest label given to a child who is slightly naughty. I feel it is utterly unfair when schools and their ‘qualified’ teachers assume this easy way of relinquishing all responsibility when it comes to handling children with different capacities and energy levels by pronouncing them as either developmentally slow or suffering from ADHD.

Hence a lesson to learn from our bitter experience would be always, ALWAYS trust your own instincts in matters relating to your child.

Only yesterday we got to know that Mimi got accepted at the “Big School” after a thorough interview process and fantastic recommendation from her current school. We are so proud of her and how she has transformed in the last 6-8 months with the new school. It is a big milestone for us as parents and a beautiful opportunity for Mimi. This joyous moment called out for something sweet and beautiful and the chocolate pistachio fudge was the right choice – instinctively. :-)

It asks for very few basic ingredients and very little prep. It is fudgy and full of chocolate goodness. You would be surprised how quickly these vanish – these little bites of heaven. Enjoy these one at a time with your children and treasure every moment spent with them because time’s flying away. Wishing you all a terrific mid-week!

Click to see the enlarged picture of the recipe card

Click to see the enlarged picture of the recipe card

 

On why there is no need to lead a deficient life & a healthy Vegetable Couscous recipe

February 15, 2014 | By

Now if all the Valentines gifts have been unwrapped and the chocolate puddings have been licked off the spoon, can we talk about something serious today? Not serious as much as important. Have you been feeling a little under the weather lately? For the past lets say one or two or three months or even more than a year? When I say under the weather, I mean a few aches and pains in the body, wee bit tiredness to chronic fatigue and mild depression even on a sunny day. Well then it is something you should not simply sit upon and do nothing about.

I started experiencing these symptoms for as long as I can remember. A year or two years perhaps but I attributed it to the fact that I was prone to depression from time to time. But lately for the past several months I began to experience chronic fatigue. The inability to get up from my bed to do normal chores and to go about my hectic day made me feel terrible. I suspected it had something to do with the new work-out routine or a change in diet perhaps. I respected my body’s wishes and didn’t push myself and waited for it to reach back to me with refilled buckets of energy. Unfortunately it did not happen. This lack of energy, a general lassitude and mild every-day depression began to affect me and the people that I love the most in my life. It was during a rigourous interval training session with my trainer that I confided feeling low and he remarked that I wasn’t giving my best to the routine. He then suggested to get my blood checked for Vitamin D deficiency and Thyroid. I got my tests done and found out that I had a Vitamin D deficiency. I was prescribed Vitamin D3 along with Calcium by the doctor.  It has been two weeks since I have started with the medication and I feel better already. I feel energized or perhaps these are my normal energy levels that are being restored. My moods aren’t dark and gloomy and I look forward to each day with renewed optimism.

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There is no feeling bigger, greater than feeling like your own self. 

Couscous

Couscous

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Vitamin D deficiency occurs for the following reason:

  • Darker skin. The darker your skin the more sun you need to get the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person.
  • If you spend a lot of time indoors during the day.  I stay indoors in office most of the time and when I go home its quite late.
  • If you cover your skin all of the time. If you wear sunscreen or wear full sleeves clothes
  • If you have been a vegetarian all your life. Growing up I have had a vegetarian diet thereby excluding crucial Vitamin D food sources such as Fish, eggs (very sparingly) and liver.
  • You are obese. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells and people with body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.

And many more. You can look up for material on the internet to educate yourself on the causes of this deficiency.

Suffering from Vitamin D deficiency can have several implications:

  • Not having enough Vitamin D through food sources or the sun or supplements can lead to your body absorbing less calcium and there by affecting calcium metabolism in the body
  • The above reason would lead to the general aches and pains in the body
  • Not feeling enough sun is a common cause for depression as well
  • Above all the fatigue is killing.
  • Long term deficiencies lead to  increased risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, asthma in children and even cancer.

I am not a medical practitioner but since the time I got to know of my deficient levels which in turn made me live a deficient life, I educated myself about its implications and causes. Hence by all means you can question all the matter that has been included in the post but if you do feel any thing like I have felt in the past 1 year or so, its worth considering a blood test.

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Since good health is the topic for the day, I have included a healthy couscous recipe which is not only filling but also extremely healthy. The couscous that we get in a packet here is pre-cooked so all that is needed is soaking it in hot stock or simply boiling water. The coucous fluffs up beautifully absorbing the flavour of the liquid of choice. To this I added some stir fried vegetables such as broccoli, aubergines, beans, carrots, onions etc. Basically, you can add any vegetable that you like. I used up the lot that was in my vegetable tray for a week and couldn’t think of a better way of using them up.

It is one of my favourite recipes that is extremely easy to whip up and is delicious too. I alter the quantity of couscous and use more vegetables to make it healthier. You can reverse the equation and make it couscous heavy and less vegetables. The other option to make this dish rich is to add lightly fried paneer or even raisins and nuts. Eggs match well too. So the versatility of this recipe is boundless. You can use a vegetarian stock or a chicken stock and the couscous swells up beautifully to the chosen flavour.

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With this I come to the end of my post. My next post would be about a chocolate pistachio fudge which is beyond addcitive. I share my foodie life on Instagram at @sliceofmylyfe and if you like what I do on my blog, I am sure you would love my Instagram feed even more.Happy weekend everybody!

Hello, I love you….

Musings of a New Mom | February 12, 2014 | By

It is that time of the year where corny rules and cheesy is the flavour of the day. Valentine’s Day is a week away and my inbox is spammed with emails from chocolates and flower companies with shopping suggestions. As years have rolled on, Valentine’s day for me isn’t about fluttering heart beats and romantic cards anymore. As a matter of fact, the only times I have been aware of this love-day was when my husband surprised me with gifts. Even he knows that this day doesn’t stir me though I appreciate all his efforts. But this year, it was different. This new person in my life just blew my mind away with the most wonderful gift. I know now that you can never be too old for mush.

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Do you see that little red heart in the center of the red velvet I and U?

My baby made it for me. She drew a heart which she claimed was only as big as her own heart that beats “thud thud , thud thud”. She coloured it with her red colour pencil and used her child-friendly scissors to cut the heart out. She came up to me while I was busy with something in the kitchen and called out, “Hello, I love you..”

I turned around to see her holding out this little red paper heart out to me.

“Happy Valentines Mamma. Keep this in your purse. I made it for you. Don’t ever lose it.”

I took it from her tiny fingers that were dented from the intense pressure of colouring the paper heart.

RVB3I stood in the kitchen holding the paper heart long after the little artist was gone. I placed it delicately in the palms of my hands wondering how much I loved this little person. To have her reciprocate in this fashion was the ultimate joy I have ever experienced. My child is growing up and she is exploring different emotions. I sense a change in her and in the way she reacts to the world around her, including me. Her reciprocation blew my mind away. For that moment, I felt she loved me more than I thought I loved her. I slid her precious heart in my purse and as I looked up I saw her observing me. She smiled because she was happy I was following her instructions.

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When I got back to my chores, I noticed her rummaging through my purse to make sure her heart was in the right place and safe. Satisfied, she went back to doing her own thing. That is when I thought of making these lovely red velvet chocolate brownies to show my 4 year old how much I appreciate her gift of love. I used a red velvet recipe to capture the colour of her red paper heart that went “thud,thud thud thud”.

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The recipe makes a very small batch – just enough to please a 4 -year-old girl. 16 pieces in all but full of chocolate and red velvet goodness. I refered to Averie Cook’s recipe to make these decadent plum coloured beauties.

The recipe is below in the recipe card (click on it to see the enlarged version). I urge that you make this small batch of beautiful red velvet brownies and see how happy it makes your loved ones.

RVB5It is remarkable how love takes different forms as we grow older. Its meaning and its essence changes over time and becomes mellow and enduring. My daughter’s eyes lit up the moment she saw this chocolate covered squares and I realized I hit a home run.

Hope everybody has a beautiful Valentines.Celebrate love, celebrate closeness and feel lucky.

“Crabby” Chocolate Croissants from Nigella Express & why cooking can change your life

February 7, 2014 | By

My love affair with Nigella’s recipes is legendary. I already have all her popular cook books and by the end of April this year, I will have added another one of her books to my ever – burgeoning collection of books. My poor book case in groaning under the weight of so many books and soon I would have to buy a new one or build a make shift one to accommodate the new ones.

On back to the point of this post. In this post, I share Nigella’s Cheat’s chocolate croissant. When I watched the video, I couldn’t believe making a croissant could be this simple. Well they are cheat’s croissants and so they had to be quick and hassle -free. This year, I hope to undertake the real croissant challenge working my way through the layers of pastry sheets and tubs of butter.

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When I made mine, they turned out to be slightly different looking as compared to Nigella’s.  Says a lot about my incredible crafting abilities. My chocolate croissants looked like crabs heavy in the middle after a large meal. But, but , but, they were enormously delicious! Isn’t that what we want at the end of it all. So I thought I should rightfully call these croissants “Crabby” ( only in the way they look and not crabby- mood inducing)

Step-by-step instructions

Step-by-step instructions

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For the recipe you could see this incredibly engrossing video of Nigella doing her cheat’s chocolate croissant for Nigella Express.

Usually I am a very keen cook and I love spending time in the kitchen dishing out home made meals. But off – late, I am all about lazy cooking and cheat’s meals. Guess its the weather in Bahrain that is making me snuggle up on my couch and eat whatever I can lay my hands on. It was then I came upon this very interesting video my Micheal Pollan ( Fantastic , fantastic author of the book called “Cooked“) To anybody who enjoys to read about now culture intersects with food and behavioral patterns, this book is for you. 

I want anyone who is reading this blog to watch this video with all the care and attention you can. In here, Micheal Pollan stresses why and how cooking can change your life! It completely transformed my perspective about how powerful it is to take control of what we eat and feed our families. Learning how to cook and/or applying ourselves in the kitchen can result in long term health and other benefits.

 

C2Michael Pollan’s empowering thought process sure had enough pull to get me off the couch and start cooking again instead of reaching out for comforting / addictive packets of food that are so easy to make. Hope it makes you all who don’t cook enough at home, sit up and make that conscious promise to cook and eat healthy.

Next weekend, I have my favourite comfort food – Couscous and vegetables – that I will cover on my blog. Make sure you come back for this healthy couscous recipe. Take care and happy weekend, all!

An exciting evening at the Burger Lounge, Amwaj enjoying the AliaApproved Burger experience

January 31, 2014 | By

There has been a sudden shift in the way this region (specifically Bahrain) has started to embrace social media and its power to influence. Since last year September I see an ongoing flurry of activities surrounding Twitter, Facebook and Instagram wherein all the PR and event management companies are roping in bloggers as partners. As a blogger and as someone who uses social media quite actively, I am quite taken by this new phenomenon. Winds of change are here and some very smart and intelligent PR companies like Obai and Hill understand that bloggers are that unbiased channel whose opinions people trust . This technology savvy bunch of girls at Obai and Hill have been creating events that are quite a new experience because they not only include the traditional channels such as magazines and newspapers but also bloggers who have their own follower base and influence on the WebSphere.  Perhaps Obai and Hill could be the trend setters here in the region who have begun branding their clients’ products and services and promoting them using all possible media.

Well done Team Obai and Hill!

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Alia Almoayed

Being a part of this sassy PR and Design company’s events means you are in for a good time. I say this with experience because very recently I happened to be invited to the AliaApproved Burger event at Burger Lounge in Amwaj. The Burger Lounge has launched its very first Local Celebrity burger Campaign opening with the “AliaApproved’ Burger. The place was packed with magazines and newspaper representatives and bloggers on a chilly Thursday evening . Burgers were being served with onion rings and dips. There were bowls of exotic looking ice cream desserts doing rounds as well. Everybody was enjoying their fare and the atmosphere was boisterous. I attended this with a dear friend of mine, Farheen and we had good girls evening out clicking selfies on Instagram. All in all it was an enjoyable evening where I met with some blogger friends whom I only manage to meet during such events.

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About the Burger : What makes the AliaApproved Burger special? Well, it is vegan! In a meat loving country, vegan options are next to impossible to find. But here we have Bahrain’s leading food and nutrition expert, Alia Almoayed designing a special burger that is vegan. People are bound to be curious and would definitely be willing to get a taste of the AliaApproved Burger. The burger has been made by grinding cooked brown rice, lentils, mushrooms, carrot and spices. These flavorsome patties are then topped with caramelized onions and nestled between two fresh and crunchy lettuce leaves. This was served with guacamole and sweet potato crisps.

A match made in heaven!

 My hearty congrats to Obai and Hill team for hosting such an exciting event and best wishes to Ms. Alia Almoayed and Burger Lounge for creating this special burger which is not only dairy free but also gluten free! All the readers in Bahrain, I urge you to go and try the AliaApproved Burger at the Burger Lounge in the Amwaj Lagoon to indulge in your favourite burger whilst remaining absolutely guilt free.

About the Burger Lounge

Burger Lounge is a unique concept restaurant that serves ‘burgers with style’ in a sleek and a stylish set up located directly facing the Lagoon in Amwaj Island. Burger Lounge specializes in creating and serving delicious, mouth – watering burgers made with the finest ingredients.

Goat Cheese, Prunes and Pistachio Savory cake

January 24, 2014 | By

Traditionally, cake would evoke images of sweet bakes with or without frosting. In France, cakes can be sweet as well as savory. The French savory cakes use ingredients such as strong tasting cheeses, ham, prunes etc. while the Americans call it a loaf or bread such as zucchini bread, tomato bread, cheese bread and such. These savory cakes/ breads are  served in France as before dinner treats along with drinks. This particular savory cake that I share with you today is a Rachel Khoo recipe. I have been following Rachel Khoo’s inspiring story and her videos on BBC. You can read her story in this interview here.

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Ms. Khoo calls herself a ‘Food creative’ which is a title good enough to create intrigue. She promises that her’s is a fresh approach to all things edible. Flipping through her recipes made me believe that she does keep her promise. Her recipes seem simple yet interesting enough through their flavour combinations. I have tried two of her recipes and both of them turned out marvelous. One of them was the flourless chocolate swirl cake and  then I attempted this savory cake.

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I was quite sure that my family was going to reject this unusual cake on the table for evening tea. The strongly flavoured goat cheese, the soft sweetness of the prunes and the nutty flavour of the pistachio rendered the cake an exotic taste. My family was hooked. I served it toasted and with salted butter. It is a match made in heaven.

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The next time I make it I would love to see how it would taste with whole wheat flour. If it works well, then I have a healthier version to keep for future use. What I also loved about the loaf is the fact that despite it looking so simple it photographed so well. The hint of green from the pistachio, the black from the prunes and the white from the goat cheese against the yellow-brown load looked wonderful.

CPPC4I see my list of bookmarked recipes and am startled to find that most of them are Rachel Khoo’s recipes. It goes on to show much her recipes have drawn me in. I have to get her “My little Paris Kitchen” or her latest cook book ” My little French Kitchen” which I hear has her own hand – drawn illustrations.

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For the recipe, here goes:

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Hope you guys try this cake and see for yourself how wonderful savory cakes are as well. I am a convert for sure.

The last of my bucket list : Khandvi

January 18, 2014 | By

How much I enjoy cutting off items on my list! I don’t regard myself as some one with an OCD yet when it comes to making plans and lists, I may just be one. The final item on my list which I finished before the end of the year was Khandvi. Khandvi is a savory snack from the Indian state of Gujarat. I am extremely fond of Gujarati food because I was brought up there. Though my roots are in Kerala, my heart is with Gujarat. I speak and write fluent Gujarati but not my mother tongue which is Malayalam. Every October, during Navratri, I pine to go to Ahmedabad (where I did my Engineering degree) to enjoy the 9 days of festivity. Then comes Uttarayan, the festival of kites in January which I miss more than ever. When I think of Gujarat, I think of vibrant colours, cheerful and hospitable people and lip smacking food. Gujarati food tends to be sweet, even the savory ones. It is believed that a meal is not complete until it encompasses all the tastes of savoury, pungent, sweet, bitter and tangy. This holistic approach to food makes Gujarati food satisfying.

K2My mother mastered a lot of typical Gujarati recipes including dhokla and handvo. I have never managed to get any of these right at the first attempt. It only means these recipes are a bit tricky to master and require considerable practice. I had a similar experience while making Khandvi where it took me to two back – to- back attempts to get it right.

K4Khandvi is prepared usually from bengal gram flour but it can also be made using moong dal/ mung bean flour as well. The flour is mixed thoroughly with yogurt or butter milk and spiced with tumeric and ginger-green chilly paste. This is cooked on a low flame until the flour-yogurt mixture is done well. There is a test to figure out whether the Khandvi will roll without breaking. For that, you need to scoop a spoonful of Khandvi batter and apply it on a greased plate ( with oil). Let the Khandvi cool and with delicate fingers try and roll it out. If the Khandvi does not roll it means the batter is not done and needs more cooking. Sounds easy? Its NOT!! After rolling out the Khandvi, it is tempered with sesame seeds, mustard seeds, dried red chillis and curry leaves. The final touch is to garnish it with chopped, fresh coriander leaves and fresh grated coconut.

Khandvi should melt in your mouth! Mine did and I was happy the way it turned out.

K9I used the Late Tarla Dalal’s recipe – the pioneer MasterChef of India. She passed away last year leaving behind a legacy of amazing regional recipes and ‘Continental’ ones too. If you want to take a look at Tarla Dalal in action, here’s the link.

Here’s the recipe for people who are intrigued enough to try it themselves. It is a great recipe and so simple too. But simple doesn’t always mean easy.

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Now that I cleared my bucket list, I was meandering  around my statistics and discovered what my top 5 recipes posts have been in 2013.

1. The Apple turnovers

apple turn overs

2. The Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

blueberry swirl cheesecake

3. Poached eggs in baked beans

poached eggs

4. Flourless Chocolate – Orange Cake – Nigella recipe

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5. Chocolate Mousse

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It has been a fantastic year for me as far as my culinary achievements go. Crossing off a culinary bucket list, visiting France and enjoying oysters  on my birthday, contributing recipes and other food related articles to magazines and attending several food related events in Bahrain have been the highlights. All this reflection and contemplation on the year gone by only tells me that there is so much to do in 2014 that I can hardly wait to start. I take this opportunity to thank each one of you readers of  my blog who take time out to come to my space and leave your thoughts in the comments section. Reading these comments always, ALWAYS  makes my day. It only means that you do enjoy my words and this creative space of mine. Thank you again!

On being purposeless and a chocolate swiss roll

January 13, 2014 | By

How is the New year treating everybody? Mine has been quite a confused one. Usually the one to plan and fret about new year resolutions, I decided to take a detour.

I decided that I shall stay purposeless for as long as I can manage.

For someone who is easily distracted and needs a million things to feel entertained, it is a big step. Those who know me, know exactly how difficult this is for someone who is forever busy in her ‘busyness’. So come this new year, I decided to take a break from thinking. And planning. And all the things that stop me from living in the present.

As a planner, I am always in the future state while my present is royally neglected. It is a shame considering there are so many moments that I would have loved to capture but I never even got around knowing them. That is because I am zoning out into the future with my plans. This realization  put me on pursuit of being purposeless. I wanted to experience a state of no-thinking. My early morning to-do lists were torn to shreds in my imagination and I let the day happen to me rather than me taking on the day. For a short while, I must admit I did feel a bit free and also had a chance to notice the beautiful rainbow in the sky from my office window. I also observed how the sunlight played a relay race with the shadows of the clouds on the beach front. Being purposeless felt good. But I also realized I wasn’t a natural at embracing this alien concept.

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Stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things taught be a great deal but relinquishing control by letting go of the planning aspect was difficult. The first few days were quite easy since it was an experiment and I was having fun with it. But after the 3rd or the 4th day, I started to experience a familiar feeling of restlessness. It started with the involuntary movement of my legs under my office desk and reached to a point where every 2 seconds my mind would be pulled by some invisible force and was made to submit itself to the planning of the future.

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I forced my mind back to being blank and to stay so. It was such a pull and tug game that lasted for some hours until I was tired. I closed my eyes for a bit in office and thought about the whole exercise.

I realized that in my efforts of being purposeless I ended up planning my pursuit of being purposeless thereby defeating the very objective.

It felt silly and so far -off from my basic instincts. My instincts asked for me  to plan, have achievable objectives and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Not doing this, goes against my nature and hence feels like punishment.

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You may ask  – How did this idea of staying purposeless come about?

Well a particular chocolate strawberry Swiss roll is to blame. One of the final items on my culinary bucket list for 2013 was ticked off before the year ended. I planned to blog about it earlier but my purposeless state disallowed me. The month of December was a gruelling one. There was way too many commitments on the personal and professional fronts. I planned relentlessly and met each one of these commitments without caring how quickly I was feeling burnt out. I attempted the last two items (the Swiss roll and the Khandvi) on the same day. Khandvi was just as tricky and I found success only in the second attempt. As for the Swiss roll – The first time round, I finished baking the cake and had kept it aside to cool. But in my haste, I let the tray and the cake fall on the kitchen floor. My heart broke thinking about all the effort that went to waste. But cleaning up the cake crumbs off the floor got me thinking and I felt like I did not have any energy to pull through to make another batch. I felt like giving up altogether.

It was my culinary bucket list and there was no bucket list police out there to get me in case I don’t finish it before the year ended. 

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But I am a Taurus and we don’t give up. I made another batch of cake, frosting et al and assembled the Swiss roll as delicately as I could. Towards the end of it, I was thoroughly spent. I did not want to look at another recipe or go to my oven again. I wanted a break from it all. And the thinking in particular. From here stemmed the whole idea of being and feeling purposeless. It was an experiment that lasted less than a week but I am glad I did it. Maybe it is still not the right time for me be purposeless considering there are so many things I plan to achieve. Perhaps on a endlessly tiring day, I might resolve to feel purposeless again but I don’t see that day coming anytime soon.

Now for the recipe – All those who are familiar with Rachel Khoo would know that her recipes are just as gorgeous and reliable as Nigella’s. I have tried two recipes so far and I loved both of them. This Chocolate Swiss roll recipe is delightful and finds it place in the top 5 recipes of 2013 ( post to follow). The most interesting part is that, it is flourless! I made this around Christmas which also happens to be my wedding anniversary day. This festive cake fits the bill perfectly.

Rolling of the sponge requires some skill but apart from that the log is pretty easy to deal with. Mine was extremely flawed in its appearance but it was compensated by the splendid taste.

When I think about it , I feel , may be it was the end of the year that made me philosophical and prompted me to experiment with my own psyche. Well, whatever it was, it was quite interesting.

Dineout Bahrain: Changing the ‘eating out’ scene in Bahrain

January 4, 2014 | By

I always approach the new year with new ideas and great optimism. The new year for me is about new beginnings and about discovering new things around me. If you have lived in Bahrain, you would know that, no matter if you are a local or an expat, the options of discovery and entertainment lie between going to movies and eating out. Movie choices are relatively easy to figure out but it is the eating out options that can baffle you. Bahrain has a HUGE ‘eating out’ culture and by that I don’t just limit it to the posh restaurants, I also include the tiny specks of eateries that are just as popular and throbbing with patrons day in and day out.

Weekends and some weekday lunches are my ‘eating out’ days. This gives me an opportunity to try out new restaurants as well as go to my old favorites. But sometimes it becomes extremely difficult to reserve places over weekends because practically everybody is out and about in Bahrain filling up all the seats in my favourite restaurants. It is then I feel like kicking myself for not reserving my table  earlier. Funnily, it never strikes me until I reach the place to find out that it is fully booked. Also sometimes, it happens that I go to a restaurant expecting good stuff and return feeling cheated because of the awful food and service.  I always wished in those moments that I had some kind of a restaurant guide and preferably something that I quickly use on my phone that would help me pick out a restaurant, make reservations and give me tips about how my experience might turn out. Incidentally, a colleague and I discussed this over some Chinese food and decided that we should try and build a website that was easily accessible on phone and would give the user all the desired experiences regarding the dining scene in Bahrain.

But before our fledgling plan could see the light of the day, I came across Dine out Bahrain. It happens to be a one stop shop for all things related to restaurants and eating joints in Bahrain. I personally scrolled through their website and was quite impressed. Dine Out Bahrain is the island’s first independent online service that unifies the islands favorite restaurants with their hungry diners. Encompassing a state – of – the art website and mobile application it has simplified eating out like never before.

dob_logo_print

This is how it works:

  • Bahrain’s top restaurants manage their own pages within the DineOut site providing customers access to the most up-to-date menus, promotions and events all in one place.
  • It allows for easy browsing and booking at the click of a button, with the users receiving a booking confirmation instantly.
  • The go-to service for all moods, DineOut’s quick search feature filters options precisely by type, cuisine and location. You can download food menus and see photographs of restaurants
  • Whether diners wish to glam up and dine out in style or casually hang out with friends at a shisha cafe close to home, all the possibilities are at their fingertips.
  • It provides stress-free directions of Google Map’s to guide the Users to their intended destination
  • DineOut Bahrain is constantly adding brand new eateries everyday
  • The customer review feature even makes it easy to find out what friends thought of the experience giving useful feedback to diners and the restaurant management
  •  Download the DineOut Bahrain app, compatible with both Iphone and Android systems
  • No hassle, no extra cost and no login pages

iphone_and_andriod_dineoutbahrain

With Dineout’s services at my disposal, I feel mighty relieved that my weekend restaurant hunting is no longer going to be a stressful activity. So if you are  someone who  loves eating out just like me, I recommend you install Dine Out Bahrain’s app on your mobile right away. In case, any of you has any queries, feel free to contact Dine Out Bahrain at the following email address: info@dineoutbahrain.com and don’t forget to check their website at www.dineoutbahrain.com

To download Dineout Bahrain on your mobile:

iOS DOWNLOAD – https://itunes.apple.com/bh/app/dineoutbahrain-restaurant/id699475597?mt=8
ANDRIOD DOWNLOAD - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dineout

……and I learnt how to pipe and frost

December 28, 2013 | By

I am happy to announce that I completed the last of my culinary bucketlist items yesterday. So the 2 posts that would follow after this one would be all about my culinary bucketlist for this year and I have quite some stories to tell.

At the risk of repeating myself over and over again, I  have to say this again, when you truly want something the Universe will find a way to make it happen. Given my hectic work schedule it was nearly impossible for me to attend any piping classes because most of them happen either in the morning or in the afternoon. Since I am not the most artistic person on earth, I could never grasp the subtle art of piping by watching youtube videos. Must I also add, I never had a lot of patience to do so either. So the piping exercise on my bucketlist seemed like the most daunting one for all the reasons mentioned above. But then like I said – the Universe came to my rescue. Through a colleague of mine, I stumbled across Gehna’s wonderous Facebook page. I gasped and sighed at the beautiful piping work and the creative fondant work that Gehna has showcased on her page. I made up my mind to ask her to help me out. Even if it meant I had to beg and plead.

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A rosette with a 2D star tip

Well, I didn’t have to do any of that. Gehna was kind enough to oblige and she offered to help me with the basics. Gehna runs a home cake baking business in Bahrain. Her Facebook page will give you details of how you can contact her. Her specialty is eggless cakes and her pretty fondant ‘concept’cakes/cupcakes. Make sure you check her facebook page and book orders with her for your next big celebration. I guarantee you that you wouldn’t be disappointed.

Bouquet with a 18 star tip

Bouquet with a 18 star tip

Now back to my piping class-

Gehna and I spent nearly 3 hours going over the basic piping and frosting concepts. I learnt essential basics like :

  • How to fill a piping bag;
  • How to hold it and maneuver it;
  • The different types of piping tips and the effect that they produce such as the
  1. Star tips – 1 m , 2D, 18, 21 ( are useful to make rosettes, bouquets and shells etc)
  2. Round tips – 2, 12 ( make rose buds and beads)
  3. leaf tip – 352 ( leaf designs)
  4. petal tips- 104 ( rose petals)
  • The different types of support paraphernalia meant for piping such as – nails, stoppers, couplers, turntables etc.;
  • How to pipe – ofcourse!
  • Practiced different designs over and over again;
  • Learnt how to pipe cupcakes with designs that would suit them;
  • Learnt how to ‘crumb coat’ a cake before frosting it;
  • Made decorative chocolate flowers; – my favourite!
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Shell design (left hand side) and petal design (right hand side)

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Chocolate Rose in bloom

Chocolate Rose in bloom

Frosting the cake and then decorating it with chocolate roses and sprinkles

Frosting the cake and then decorating it with chocolate roses and sprinkles

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There are various technical points to be kept in mind while piping such as the angle at which you would hold the piping bag, the amount of pressure to be given, the distance between the cupcake /cake and the piping tip, the consistency of the buttercream/frosting etc. A 3 hour session was like a movie trailer for me; just enough to whet my appetite. With Gehna’s help and guidance, I felt confident that I am not completely hopeless as I thought I was. I feel inspired to do a ‘Wilton cake decorating’ course in the future when I have some time on my hands but in the meanwhile, I can hone my newly acquired piping skills by practicing as much as I can on the cakes and the cupcakes that I bake at home.

A big thank you to you, Gehna. I am grateful that you ever so kindly agreed to help me cross this tough one off my culinary bucket list. I dedicate this post to you. Cheers to your future cake empire!!

P.S. you are yet to let me know what you want!

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Bahrain’s 42nd National Day celebration with Baklawa

December 20, 2013 | By

Bahrain celebrated its 42nd National Day on the 16th of December. The entire island country is painted in the colours of red and white – the colours of the National flag. At night, it is a spectacular display of red and white lights which illuminate every road and building and turn it into something like a set from a Baz Luhrmann movie. However busy our lives might be, it is difficult not to get caught into the whole festive spirit of the nation. We enjoyed our long awaited 2 day off (16th and 17th December) from work and packed it with exciting things to do. Most of the restaurants were running  discount in the honour of the National Day and the Accession Day (17th of December). Most of the malls were jam packed with people shopping and dining. There were bands playing and entertaining the crowds too.

We managed to savour some authentic Bahraini breakfast at the Saffron in Muharraq. They have a set menu that they never change and despite that they are ever so popular. The breakfast is an extended affair so be prepared to be served courses after courses of wonderfully unique breakfast savories and sweets and breads. All this washed down with cups and cups of hot, karak tea.

Breakfast at Saffron, Muharraq

Breakfast at Saffron, Muharraq

On the personal accomplishment front, I managed to tick off two items from my culinary bucket list for the year during the mid – week holiday. One of them was baking my favourite dessert – The Baklava and the other was learning how to pipe. The piping post will follow soon.

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Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. The Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of phyllo sheets, separated with melted butter, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts are also sometimes used is placed on top, then more layers of phyllo. So you have alternate layers of phyllo sheets and chopped nuts. Before baking, the dough is cut into regular pieces, often parallelogram, triangles, or rectangles.

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A syrup, which may include sugar, honey or rose scented or orange scented syrup is poured over the baked baklava and allowed to soak in for many hours. Baklava is usually served at room temperature, often garnished with ground nuts. I attempted the Turkish baklava which is traditionally  made by filling pistachios, walnuts and almonds  between the layers of phyllo dough soaked in cold orange-lemon sugar-honey syrup.

I used the recipe from the Purple Foodie’s blog.

I was less than satisfied with my attempt and wouldn’t mark it as a roaring success. After baking and post soaking the phyllo+nuts filling with the citrus scented syrup, the phyllo layers were quite flaky and not soft from the syrup. But from a taste perspective, it was beyond delicious. After much contemplation and reflection I realized my folly. I finished the ritual of laying down sheets of phyllo and buttered them with melted butter and then a layer of nuts on top and let it rest for more than 2 hours before putting it in the oven to bake. The butter sheets hardened and after became quite crisp. So if you attempt this recipe which is seriously amazing – DO NOT LET THE BAKLAVA REST FOR MORE THAN 15 mins and immediately put it in the oven to bake!!!

B2a

Despite that technical hitch, I shall confidently cross of the Baklava off my Culinary Bucket list and move forward to attempt the next one.

Here I share some random pictures from in and around my visits to different places in Bahrain and the interesting things that caught my eye.

The local Superman

The local Superman

The traditional Spice Market /Souq in Muharraq

The traditional Spice Market /Souq in Muharraq

Picture 11

A traditional kebab shop

A traditional kebab shop

Arabic Bread baking in a traditional bread shop

Arabic Bread baking in a traditional bread shop

fish monger

fish monger

Arabic Coffee flask

Arabic Coffee flask

Traditional Coffee shop

Traditional Coffee shop

Kebab

Kebab