Movements and Mah di Dal or Dal Makhni

If you live in India then you have all just been witness to a new kind of activism – the non-violent, light-a-candle protest for a cleaner, corruption-free India.  You may well ask what is new about that – did the Mahatma not start it all those years ago?  I beg to differ.  Those were sustained movements that had mass support from people who knew what they were struggling for.  Anna Hazare rightly said that the struggle has just begun.  But the masses that turned up to support him, especially those in this most corrupt of cities, do they really know what it means to be part of a clean society?  I will be amongst the happiest people if Delhiites really want to be honest and clean.

But I seriously doubt we understand the meaning of signing up for never paying a bribe.  It will mean waiting in line for our turn.  It will mean following rules and living by the laws.  Even when we don’t agree with them.  It will mean no unauthorised constructions, building within prescribed FAR, no encroachment on public land.  It will mean paying our taxes.  It will mean jail time every time we break the law (imagine that!).  It will mean being civil! Those who were there at Jantar Mantar the past week to support Anna in his mission, do they understand the full portent of being part of a non-corrupt society?

The visual media came into its own and declared it a revolution.  If these journos spot a white person in a crowd they assume them to be experts and ask, “So, do you think India has changed?” ??? What kind of a question is that for a tourist?  The forthright white woman told this senior journalist she couldn’t answer that but she might call what she was witnessing a spark perhaps. I think it was lost on our reporter from NDTV who (and many others like him) went on to then compare it with the recent uprisings in the Arab world!  Don’t ask.  Here’s another perspective.

Continue reading Movements and Mah di Dal or Dal Makhni


Getting it Right

the cup that cheers

Thank you all, for making time in your busy and (sometimes) maddening lives to indulge me once again this year.  Many of you out there (even the silent ones who show up only in the stats!) have become like friends over the last few years, and what better way to celebrate with all of you than by having a virtual tea party! This annual Party happens around India’s Independence Day, and this year, aptly, it is also about our Rights and the Responsibilities that come with them.

There can be no Tea Party without cake and we had plenty of those in all shapes and sizes and flavours! There were spicy puff pastries, savoury and sweet scones, hot chillies and bhel, cooling ice cream cakes, all accompanied by pots and pots of hot teas, and cold coffee! Continue reading Getting it Right

It’s the Recipe, Stupid!

Happy Independence Day everyone!

Discussing the big deal about blogging, India Uncut in a recent post, outlined what it means to blog. One of our jobs seems to be that of critic and opinion maker.  Self-criticism cannot be left out.

“Blogging keeps bloggers honest. Bloggers need watchdogs as much as the mainstream media does, and the Blogosphere plays this self-regulating role. Every post you write, every errant sentence, is liable to be taken apart by a fellow blogger somewhere—especially if you write about hot-button topics like politics, economics or Himesh Reshammiya. Trust me, the criticism is never-ending, and while much of it can be superfluous, some of it can also be sharp and precise. The result of that is that you cannot slip up, and be sloppy in either your thinking or your writing.”

The food blogging world may seem less serious (unless we are talking food sustainability and its environmental implication) but here too we must fulfill the responsibilities that come with the freedom of speech and expression, a Fundamental Right enshrined in our Constitution.

I wasn’t planning to bring it up. With time you develop a thick skin and wonder if there is any point. There is a general lack of ethics in our society today which manifests itself in all spheres of our lives. It would be naive to expect the blogosphere to be exempt. There have been umpteen cases of plagiarism in the blogosphere and we have all tried to highlight it every now and then. The Net is vast and there is plenty of room to get lost in the labyrinth. On this hope hang many a blogpost.

But it being Independence Day and all…and maybe the defiance of the offender in this latest episode of unethical behaviour tipped the scales.

Continue reading It’s the Recipe, Stupid!

Mad Tea Party: Express Indian

It was hard to come up with a title that had already not been used!  Quick Indian Cooking, Express Cooking, Simple Indian Food, Quick and Easy Indian Cooking, and my own section, Under-30-minutes! And yet, people want to continue to shroud Indian cuisine under difficult and complex.  Complex – I sure hope it is!  How can you expect simple from a culture that can say ‘cook’ in 1652 different languages! Even when we use just 5 ingredients to create a dish, it still turns out with shades of complexity!  But that, I think, is the sign of a cuisine that has evolved… over millenia, in our case.

The notion that Indian Cuisine is too complicated, too time consuming, and too rich is widespread.  That should make us a nation of smart (though idle), fat people. Which, urban India might actually be – fat, not idle – but I digress.  We have another Party coming up.  For the First one we all fried poori and served it with potato bhaji.  For the Second Party we chose to share our deep fried love with batata vada in its many avatars.  For this Third Edition, I am thinking we should address some of  Manisha’s concerns and see how we can help dispel the notion that Indian cooking is all about toiling in the kitchen, deciphering complicated techniques and recipes, and dousing it all in some heavy cream before serving.

India is the flavour of the season.  Which means that more people than ever before now know where to look for it on the globe.  There is also a growing awareness about the  myriad mini-Indias that exist within her, complete with their own language, culture and, of course, cuisine.  In India there is nothing known as Indian Food, or curry powder, for that matter!  We do have Kashmiri, Punjabi, Maharashtrain, Bengali, Andhra, Tamil cuisines…. which itself is a nomenclature quite inadequate to express the distinctive regional variations found within the states!  In cultural complexity it will not be an exaggeration to equate India to the European Union where the States of India are akin to the European member Nations!  European – a complex cuisine?  You bet!  Break the whole into its parts, and the mist starts to lift.

So, how about we find some of the less complicated gems from within the regional Indian cuisines and bring them to the Party – A Mad Tea Party – III? The dish should have six ingredients (or less), and it should be possible to cook it in 30 minutes (or less).  Time needed for soaking ingredients, rising time etc, need not be included into this calculation.  Essentially time when you can be fully occupied doing something else entirely is exempt from inclusion.  If you like, you may also subtract unsupervised time such as “pressure cook for 10 min,” “cover and cook for 15 min,” if no stirring at all is needed, as in the cooking of soaked beans and lentils in a pressure cooker.  This will ensure that those of us not having access to canned products or not wanting to use such processed ingredients are not disadvantaged on account of time.

If you can make a meal of it in the stipulated 30 minutes, all the better for it.  Since frozen vegetables are part of our lives now, these are permissible.  For those who would like to use fresh, veggie preparation time may be indicated separate from the other preparation and/or cooking time.  The essential part being, that it should be possible to cook the dish in 30 minutes of active time, using whatever shortcuts available to us today.

The rules are simple:

  • Cook an Indian party dish* using  not more than 6 ingredients (not counting salt and chillies), in 30 minutes max. (from the kitchen to the table). The chosen dish need not be fat free but, must not be swimming in grease of any kind, including fresh cream.  Write a post about it (with or without a recipe D ; list the ingredients used and the time taken to prepare the dish) – the region it belongs to, how you enjoyed it, maybe a picture of the dish and/or the family enjoying the dish. (Old posts don’t count!)
  • Deadline: You have till September 13 to do this.
  • Too hot to cook? Go out and eat one of these light dishes at a restaurant! The portion will be right, and you don’t have to stew even for 30 min! Write a post about it, and how you really enjoyed it!
  • Link to this post. You may, if you like, use a Pingback and it will automatically show up in the comments here. Or leave a comment on this post which will lead us to your post!
  • Don’t have a blog? You can still join the party; just leave a comment here about how you enjoyed your easy Indian dish! You may, if you like, provide a link to any pictures you may have posted on a photo-sharing site such as Flickr or Photobucket.  I will include your name in the list of those who participated!

* Any dish that you think you will include in a Party menu for your friends counts as a Party Dish.

Have a Party!