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Friday, March 30, 2012

Penne Pasta in Green Sauce

Pasta is one of the most versatile dishes to work with. Unfortunately, while I am all for the red and spicy gravy, the partner prefers a white creamy one. Hence, the middle ground is definitely an exciting challenge. This green sauce was an experimentation - a very successful one at that. It had enough chillies to soothe me, and enough extra cheese to keep the better half satiated.



Preparation Time:

40 Minutes



Ingredients:

  1. Mint: Half a bunch

  2. Tomato: 1/2

  3. Green chillies: 3

  4. Ginger-Garlic Paste - 1 Tsp

  5. Milk: 1/2 cup

  6. Corn Flour: 1 tsp

  7. Cherry Tomatoes: 6

  8. Baby Corn: 4

  9. Mushrooms: 6

  10. Pasta (Penne): 200 gms

  11. Butter: 4 tbsp

  12. Cheese: 3-4 tbsp

  13. Salt: As required


Methodology:

  1. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Slice the Mushrooms and baby corn.

  2. Heat the vegetables with just enough water (1.5 cups would be ideal). Add 1/2 tsp of salt when the water starts boiling.

  3. Meanwhile, saute mint leaves, half a tomato, ginger-garlic paste and green chillies in one Tbsp of butter. After the mint leaves have reduced (it takes about a minute or two), let them cool and then grind them int a smooth paste. Add water if required.

  4. In a wide and thick bottomed vessel, heat about 3 tbsp of butter. After it has melted, add the corn flour and stir it for a while.

  5. Add milk to the corn flour. After the milk has started boiling, add the vegetables.

  6. Meanwhile cook the Pasta in salted water. As soon as the pasta is done, drain the water and keep the cooked pasta under running water. Shake off the excess water.

  7. Add grated cheese to the sauce. After the cheese has melted and been mixed well, add the mint paste.

  8. Finally, add the pasta. Mix it well and serve, topping it with grated cheese if required.


Notes:

  • I added cheese because the green chillies I used were unexpectedly spicy. If you don't like cheese much, reduce the amount of chillies added.

  • If multi-tasking is difficult, finish the sauce before cooking the pasta. The lesser resting time for the pasta, the better.

  • Adding salt in the boiled vegetables and in the pasta, not to mention the inherent saltiness of the processed cheese requires a lot of intuitive balancing. If in doubt, just add 1/4 a tsp in each case.

  • I cooked the vegetables in "just enough water", since I wanted to add the water to the sauce. The vegetables were semi-cooked, and I didn't want to lose the nutrients.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Posing Lifecycle

There is something about a camera which brings out the extreme in us. For example, take my grandmother. Even at my unbiased best, she is the prettiest 80-year old I know. So, everyone likes taking photos of/with her. Except her that is.

At a recent wedding, when I asked her to pose for a group photo, she snapped:


Paati: Aama!! kovama varudhu. Elaarum velaya neeruthi “EEE” nu pose kudukara.
Me (ROFLing); Vera eppaddi Paati pose kudukardhu?
Paati: Yein Siriche aanuma? Pallu kaataadhe pose kudukka mudiyadha?!
Loosely translated, it means:
Paati Ya right! It makes me very angry – everyone going “EEE” while posing.
Me (ROFLing): How else can one pose?
Paati: Is it absolutely necessary to laugh? Can’t you give a pose without showing teeth?!
While we have the extremely camera-averse Paatis at one end, we have the photo obsessed ones on the other. You know who I am talking about. The 100-plus photos uploading, the self-shot taking, the photoshopping people. They can be broadly classified into:

- The Interesting-Wannabes/Jokers
Jokers are fascinating. They love to mime. Silent screams, pouts, frowns, anger – you name it, they have done it. They practise making faces in front of the mirror, making parents wonder where they went wrong.

- The scary-self-shots/Enhancers
Self-shots can be done in so many angles, and with such creativity. There are pouts, lazy eyes, different hairstyles, pets and quirky looks. In fact, at one time, one of Enhancer-girls started a poll. She would post a self-shot and ask “Which caption do you think suits the photo best? - Cute, Sexy, Naughty, sweet, beautiful”. And no, crazy and stupid were not listed. All my gag reflexes went on overdrive.

- The Wannabe Models/Stylistas
To give them some credit, these people don’t handle the camera much. They contend themselves by showing their chiselled profiles, ruffling their hair, jutting out their butt (or chest as the case may be), crossing their waxed legs and shopping with their designer sunglasses etc. Beautiful creatures that they are, they rarely photoshop, unless of course, its on instagram.

- The Memory-Keepers /Realists
Realists can be boring and easy to work with, depending on your perspective. They know precisely what they are doing – posing, and think they have too much dignity to make stupid faces. They practice one tilt and one grin (or the at-ease or ATTENTION pose with a severe face), and methodically go about distributing it to all the camera owners.

- The one-track-mind/Naturalists
You can go “Meh” looking at their photo-klutziness. They don’t care about the aesthetics, lighting, camera quality or the way the face is looking. Make no mistake, they do like taking photos. They take out their camera and start clicking, without breaking a stride or stopping to pose. The result is a set of blurred images, girls with cakey make-ups, pimple prominence, and usually, part of some one’s back. Somehow, it becomes a part of their charm and endears them further.

I have been through all these phases, but am glad that the enhancer and the joker phase were very short-lived (four years, to be precise). It makes me wonder, if everyone goes through a posing lifecycle:



I think the forces above and beyond us created these jokers, Enhancers and Stylistas just to provide a few much-needed laughs in the midst of scams, leaks, rapes and bribes. So, this post is a tribute to these people – who selflessly look ridiculous just to add some humor into our worlds. Thank you.


PS: Archana has tagged me, for the Versatile blogger award. Before you shout - WTHeyy, Arch, I will do kickass justice to that tag soon.


PPS: Unexpectedly, this post is one of the spicy saturday picks!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dhoni is lucky.

Bullshit.

Like every other Indian cricket watcher, I am way more passionate about cricket than is healthy. But I am glad I haven’t, in a fit of passion, written stupid articles like Biswajit Jha

Until now that is.

I am a Dhoni fan. Make that a proud Dhoni fan. Before that, I was a Ganguly fan, and before that, Mohammad Azzharuddin’s. Now, I am ok with the Dhoni bashing – as long as it is just a whine and meant to be a release of all the bottled-up frustrations. We lose a match and we have to blame someone – who other than the one who has the unenviable task of speaking/defending/answering at the presentation ceremony?

But, based on a couple of series, we end up calling him selfish, biased and short-sighted. On the other hand, all the team’s victories are because of his “luck”. We worry about India’s performance overseas and start doubting whether we deserved the world cup.

Invariably, anti-Dhonis are also pro-Ganguly. Now that IPL is coming, and Dhoni (and his team) will, without doubt, perform well, all this frothing will only increase. That’ll make me see red, so I want to put my views out there.

Let us first compare Saurav and Dhoni’s records:

I see what the hue and cry is about – it is the 26% winning chances Dhoni has when playing a test match outside India, as compared to the 39% guaranteed when captained by Ganguly. We are looking at three years (2009-2012) of Dhoni’s captaincy versus five years of Ganguly’s (2000-2005). Fair comparison? I think not, especially looking at the rest of the data – even if if we let Dhoni go easily on his “luck” on the home ground (66.67% versus Ganguly’s 47.6% in tests, and 65% versus Ganguly’s 50% in One-day Internationals), Dhoni still has won more International One-day matches outside India, as compared to Ganguly.

Just because he had a poor run in overseas tests, we cannot call him “just lucky” or a bad captain. That is terribly short-sighted.

Let us look at the averages:
 

So, if all the blaming is going on about Dhoni’s average of 37.32 versus Ganguly’s 42.17, I hope it is offset by Dhoni’s one-day averages (with a more prominent difference).

Finally, if Ganguly was indeed a better captain, Kolkatta Knight Riders would have won the IPL. If you just retorted that the team or the coach are to blame for a team’s loss, I rest my case.

As for Dhoni’s bias (in choosing Ashwin and Raina over Pathan and Tiwary) for CSk team members, please. In the match against Pakistan couple of days back, Ashwin managed 1/56, while Pathan managed a 1/69. Shall we write that off as “Ashwin got lucky?” The new guy, Dinda, managed a 2 for 47 – wonder who put him there, considering he is not in CSK. Ganguly?

Ashwin has a bowling average of 28.16 and a batting average of 19.6, while Pathan has that of 29.90 and 22.8 respectively. If we are talking about terming Pathan as an “all-rounder”, we can give that prestigious title to Ashwin as well.

Raina, the one who seems to be getting a lot of flak lately, has a batting average of 35.21, and Manoj Tiwary, who is seriously contested as Raina’s replacement, had an average of 33.0. Does making a “Maiden century” make Tiwary an obvious replacement?


Finally, the writer says that the Sehwag and Gambhir are out of the team (or not made captains) because they “spoke against” Dhoni. That one statement managed to insult Kohli’s outstanding performances and ignored Sehwag’s really long out-of-form stretch in one go.


Frankly, at the end of the day, as a country, we have no hope. We managed to term Sachin Tendulkar, one of our most accomplished and unselfish players, as selfish and slow. We demanded his resignation, terming it as a dignified thing to do. We blamed him for our loss against Bangladesh. So, Dhoni shouldn’t worry about us – If we can talk against Tendulkar, we, with the goldfish memory, the hypocritical and the sorry bunch of cricket watchers can do anything.

Monday, March 19, 2012

She wanted to know everything..

My first cheesy romantic novel was by Danielle Steele. If you like going through breezy ones and haven't tried Steele yet, I am sure you would enjoy it. That is, if you stop with one or two.
About three novels later, you will realise almost all her novels have a set formula:

  • The romance is always between thirty or forty-something young couples.
  • Either or both of them have children in their teens.
  • Needless to say, the-in-love couple have amazing bonds with their kids.
  • They usually meet under unfortunate circumstances (like accidents or war), and when they take a break for coffee, they ask a simple-yet-loaded question. Like, "Did you always want to be a doctor?" or "Do you like what do you do?". 
  • Invariably, this line is always followed by "She wanted to know everything about him". Or he about her, as the case may be.
Don't get me wrong. I am not anti-Steele at all - Her stories, sans the predictable background and romance, were worth reading. I particularly enjoyed "The Family Album" and "Mirror Image". But I digress. This is not meant to be a book or an author review (if it was, it would have been on my other blog).

Since I started reading her books at an impressionable age of 13, whenever I tried to make conversation with someone, my mind would go - "She wanted to know everything about him (or her)" - she being me of course. It took me a long time to let go of the thought that my life is parallely being written into a novel and that I didn't have to give live mental commentary for everything happening in and around me.

I digress again, Fifteen years later, I still want to know everything about everyone. Of course, I don't go - "Tell me everything!". But when i ask, "How was your trip?" or "How was your weekend?" or the desperate "Anything else?", I expect a mind-blowing and spicy reply. More importantly, I expect details. I do not expect, "It was good" or "It was relaxing".

A more subtle corollary is, when I ask that, I expect everyone to want to know everything about me too. So, when these amazing 1-line insights into the trip or a weekend is not followed by "how was yours?", I die a little inside.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fried Okra in Tomato Gravy

For about ten years (and counting), my mother's bhindi-ki-subji has been an absolute favourite. She would make it once in 6 months (if at all), and only if someone was expected for dinner (and preferred rotis over rice). I would always hover around the kitchen, and keep having one bhindi-per-visit, so much so that she always made extra to accomodate my cravings.


Of course after marriage, I tried making it and found that though the recipe was straightforward, making it wasn't as easy. Either the bhindi was half-cooked, or it was crispy-fried. The gravy was never the right consistency - it was too runny, the proportions were always wrong and what not. About 8 unsuccessful tries later, I realised that the key to making it right was "to not make it healthy". It explained why amma made it so rarely.

Preparation Time:

30 Minutes



Ingredients:

  1. Ladies Fingers/Okra - 200 gms

  2. Onions - 2

  3. Tomatoes - 2

  4. Green Chillies - 3

  5. Ginger - 1 inch piece

  6. Garlic - 5 cloves

  7. Mustard - 1.tsp

  8. Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp

  9. Salt - as required

  10. Oil - for frying.


Methodology:



  1. Keep a thick bottomed vessel on stove with enough oil for deep frying.

  2. Cut the Okra into long pieces (roughly 2-3 pieces per okra).

  3. Start putting them in oil (about 10 pieces at a time).

  4. Grind the onions, green chillies, ginger and garlic together and keep aside. Also, grind the tomatoes.

  5. In another pan, heat a little oil, and add mustard seeds.

  6. When they cackle, add the onion paste. Add turmeric powder and salt.

  7. Wait for the pieces to shrink slightly, before taking them out.

  8.  After the paste becomes semi-dry, add the tomato paste. Keep stirring in medium flame till the gravy is thick and dry.

  9. Add the fried okra pieces, and mix them well.

  10. Garnish the subji with coriander leaves and serve.


Notes:

  • The dish is best with a higher ratio of Tomato:Onion.

  • The Okra should be fried so that it shrinks and is ready to absorb the taste of the gravy. The colour would have become darker green. If the oil is very hot, this usually takes about two minutes on low flame.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Scammed - Anonymous

Synopsis:
The story of an accountant-turned CEO, whose successful career is abruptly halted when he finds himself in the middle of an elaborate financial scam.

Category:
Simple, Serious

Genre:
Fiction

Language:
No profanity

Favorite Quote:
None

Review:
Most of the new authors specialising in short stories have a unique writing style – Simple and to the point, focussing on the telling of the story, rather than how it is told. I guess the idea is to hold the fluctuating attention of the reader. “Scammed” falls in that category. It gives a bird’s eye-view of the characters and the plot, so much so that it makes one wonder how much better the book would have been had the author put more meat into it.

Hitesh Shah is a hard working consultant who, despite deserving, is not recommended for a promotion, while his better-at-networking-peer has quickly moved up the ladder. Most of us can see ourselves in Hitesh – the high-life seeking, hot-girlfriend wanting middle-class Indian, who is constantly nagged by his parents. When he does attract the interests of a struggling model, he is ecstatic. She however, “wants to feel pampered”, and Maruti Altos, cheap-flights and budget deals are definitely not enough. That, more than anything else, nudges Shah towards signing up an exciting offer put forward by the head of an auto company – to start and be the CEO of a car-rental company. Knowing well that the new company was created to save the parent company from trouble, he uses all his acumen to turn both the companies’ fortunes around. While he succeeds, the ex-employees of the auto company, angry at being “wronged” by Hitesh, plan and execute their revenge. Hitesh, now on the run, gets help from unexpected quarters, and as happy endings go, is finally able to redeem himself.

The sub-title of the book reads “Confessions of a Confused Accountant”. However, there is nothing confusing about Shah’s actions. Contrary to what it seems, the protagonist has the strength typical of an ethical middle-class man – to not give in to pressure, and to believe that hard work is more important than networking or dressing up (not an entirely correct thought though). Apart from the protagonist, however, it is difficult to get into the skin of the rest of the characters. The parents are portrayed as “forever nagging”, the female colleague as “manipulative”, and girlfriend as “running after the money, and using him”. Though these simple and monochromatic versions of the sidekicks helped move the story in a single track and at a sharp pace, it left a lot more to be desired.
The author has written the book on the presumption that the reader is a common man, and hence, has simplified and gone easy on the jargons. Coming from a non-financial background I found that to be a positive thing. I am not sure how the rest feel about that.


Verdict:
Between pace and meat, the author has chosen the former. The author’s intentions are clear - he had an interesting and a complicated plot which he wanted to put across to a common (wo)man. Thus, he succeeded in writing a fast-paced short-story by skimming over the surface of what can only be assumed to be deeper turmoil of emotions. Though ideal for a light read, I hesitate to recommend it.

Note:
This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!