Tuesday, October 28, 2008


A better view of the dessert I made. Pound cake, coming soon.

Apple Galette

Galettes are rustic french tarts. This was the first time I made then and I'm in love. Their rustic appearance belies the richness within. A salty, crumbly buttery crust filled with juicy apples, cinnamon and raisins. Utterly toothsome.
Lemon pound cake coming up next. Stay tuned.
Oh and if anyone wants the recipes, leave me a comment.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Home cooking

I'm at home for the next two days folks, so Colours is to become a food blog. You see, I've always wanted to become a food blogger, but sitting in a dusty hostel room, that wasn't really an option. So expect daily posts here on all the stuff I'm cooking.

Yesterday, Amma and Appa were to throw an official lunch. The spread was lavish- four starters, three main courses and two desserts. I was in charge of two starters, one main dish and of course the desserts. We had two cooks to help out, so everything went pretty smoothly. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to snap pics of the final dishes- I had to sit at the table and concentrate on not dropping my napkin as the waiters brought the food in. I did snag a few preparation photographs though. Please excuse the bad quality- I'm new at this.

One of the starters was tandoori vegetable- speared on toothpics and baked in the oven. This is the first time I tried them- I had to play about with the masala a little to get it right, but these little morsels were absolutely delicious.

Here the tandoori vegetables are baking in my trusty little oven alongside my other starter- cheesy eggplant. Eggplant was rubbed with lemon juice, smothered with creamy cheese and spices, then coated with breadcrumbs, spotted with butter and baked. I didn't get to taste these, 'cos none of them returned from the service.

My main course dish, in preparation. This was actually the filling for this trusty little invention of Amma's that we simply call bread dumplings. The recipe's very forgiving. Just throw together any ingredients you like, stuff the mix into moist slices of bread to form balls, and smother with spicy curd. This one's always a winner. The filling I used yesterday had pomegranate, coconut, ground peanuts, green chillies, mint, sultanas and roasted almonds. Yum!

Stuffed capsicum- this was made by one ofthe cooks, but the capsicums looked so pretty and shiny with their paneer and corn stuffing, I couldn't resist posting a picture.

The table looked pristinely lovely with all its cutlery and flowers. Again- not my work.

And finally- one of the desserts. This was actually the one that required the least work. It's coconut barfi and jangris from Pahalwan-di-Hatti in Jammu- they make the best jangris in the world. Appa brought them back from his recent trip to Udhampur, especially for me. In the centre is homemade rabdi, and it's dotted with tuitty-fruity, simply to provide a colour contrast.

The other dessert I made was a sophisticated take on the standard brownies with ice cream. I decided to turn the dessert topsy turvy, making it a scoop shaped brownie atop a square of ice cream. This was then topped with rum- caramel sauce and a chocolate coated hazlenut. The brownies were my old favourite- trusty cocoa brownies. They always bake up densely fudgey with a sugary crust. The caramel sauce also came out shiny and deliciously boozy. Unfortunately, since I wanted the brownies hot and the ice cream cold, I had to serve these up quickly and couldn't pause to snap pics.

Do visit again soon. I'm baking apple pie today with the Kashmiri apples Appa brought.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Festival of Lights

Up till 10th standard, we would write essays in Hindi class about our favourite festival. I would always pick Diwali, mostly because I knew that essay by heart. But when you pause to think of it, A festival of lights... how wonderfully evocative that sounds. Even if I was a foreigner who had never seen Diwali before, that description alone would let me picture it. Homes lit up with glowing lamps, skies brightened with sunbursts of colour, music, laughter and sweets.

This is a really wonderful country we live in, isn't it? We have festivals of light and colour, of harvest and rain. We have music festivals that last for months and dances for every one of our thousands of Gods. We have more languages than states, and poetry in all of them. But, I digress from Diwali.

We celebrate our Diwali in the Indian style, with some allowances for Army traditions. We wake up early in the morning and bathe. Amma does her puja while K and I take turns ringing a little brass bell. Amma then force feeds us Diwali marundu (A mixture of herbs sweetened with jaggery, said to help digestion. This is served during Diwali in anticipation of all the feasting to come) We then sit about over a leisurely breakfast, wearing brand new clothes and awaiting our guests. Amma and I will have spent the past week slaving over the stove, and as a result the kitchen will be full giant plastic and aluminium tins holding fascinating things. Then our guests will come and we'll wish them and make small talk and exchange sweets.

Afternoons will generally be spent by K and me in a sugar coma, while Appa and Amma go about doing their social rounds. In the evening will be the military fireworks display, an event that takes weeks of preparation and planning. The first fireworks are timed to go off with the last rays of the sunset. They will be closely followed by wheels and snakes of fire, giant flowerpots and multi-colored sparklers. While the display continues, we delicately nibble on cakes and sip lemonade while trying to make polite conversation over the explosions.

Night time is my favourite though. When we return home and have seen off the last of our guests, we go to the roof and stand there watching the fireworks, just us four. It's like a giant show especially for us. We point out sunbursts to each other and exclaim over misfires. Gradually, we fall quiet and simply watch.

Happy Diwali everyone!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One from the archives

This is a post about a performance I gave over a year ago, that I'd blogged about but not published then. Now, when I read it though, I can still remember that sense of perfect calm I experienced that day.

Yesterday was a small triumph of sorts. I performed on stage after practicing intensively, for a lot of rather snarky reasons. But up there, with a spotlight glowing on me and my voice booming from huge amplifiers, I had a sudden moment of clarity. I couldn't remember my reasons coming here and singing any more, and I had to think up some new ones quickly, because the audience was waiting. So I took a deep breath and began to sing. My voice was shaky at the start, but it smoothed soon, and for the first time in my life, I experienced the novel sensation of singing without a single thought in my head. I didn't think of the sound or of how I was sitting, I didn't worry if I would forget the lyrics or try to pose to show the best angles to my face. I just sang. And for the first time in a very long time, music made me happy.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I should do this more often

This morning I woke up rather early and since there was no LAN yet and as usual, I had rather do anything but study, I decided to go for a jog along the lakeside. For company, I loaded the iPod with songs from Kandukondein Kandukondein and set off. Morning air is generally something I catch a few whiffs of while gnawing on a piece of toast and hurrying to class. Today, as I tripped down the steps by the guesthouse leading to the lakeside, I breathed it in deeply and it was strangely uplifting.

There were a few people around and lots and lots of trees. The Mumbai rains may be annoying but I could forgive them anything for the glorious wash of green they've given to the landscape. From lime to olive to emerald, every shade of green danced on leaves and blades of grass and mosses. The lake itself was very still with the occasional ripple from an adventurous tadpole. At its edges, the skyscrapers looked very small and far away. For a while, it was easy to forget I was in the most populous city in the country.

The music in my ears was the perfect accompaniment. The title song of Kandukondein... is this lovely soaring melody, the chorus covers a complete octave in each line. But more than the melody itself, I fell in love all over again with Hariharan's voice. I'm both jealous and mesmerised by his voice- of how he can so effortlessly sing the most complex of gamakas. For a singer, your voice is your instrument, and he has such complete mastery over his, I can only listen in worshipful silence.

So I stopped and stared at the lake and the grasses and the egrets and let the music and his voice wash over me. Then I turned around, climbed the steps up to the guesthouse and returned to reality.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Someone I could have loved has left. I might never see him again. We were very different- the two of us- and yet so alike. He'd pore over Mechanical Engineering text books, but always look up when I spoke. He'd always hold doors open for me and never let me stand in line. I'd drag him to concerts he couldn't understand and he'd come amiably and even tell me he enjoyed himself. He'd crack terrible jokes and then stare at me expectantly till I laughed, more at the expression on his face than the joke itself. He'd talk to me about his bike for hours but never get annoyed when I yawned. He loved cooking too and we'd swap recipes and plan the meal we were going to cook together someday. He'd listen patiently, with a smile, while I explained the meaning behind hand gestures in Bharathnatyam and he taught me how to do Fourier transforms in Matlab. We'd talk about our dogs and our families, then go on to talking about our plans for the future. He taught me to think of possibilities I never even knew existed, of how wonderful life can be if you do what you love.

But now, we might never again run together laughing, for shelter from the rain, or stay up all night talking of life and philosophy. Now he writes to me of far away snows on mountains I might never see, while I write to him of traveling in autos and my literary ambitions. Between us, there was always this possibility. A delicious possibility neither of us chose to explore in our brief time together, in the fear of ruining what we had. But now he's gone, and I'm left... wondering...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Adventure Camp

I've finally finished that article on life in the Army that was harrying the life out of me. It took almost a notebook full of notes and two nightouts, but is still pretty terrible. It somehow reads like a bad recruiting brochure.

However, writing and researching it dredged up some long forgotten memories. Thanks R for that long reminiscing chat, it really helped. I recalled my experiences at the Young Lions Adventure Camp, that I attended in the summer vacations when I was 10 years old. I had quite forgotten about it (and this might've been my trauma response) until our chat that night. The camp was for the children of officers, to give them some experience of life in the wild. It lasted ten days, but after three, I called home and bawled so loudly, my parents came to get me. Three days were quite enough for me though K- trooper that he is- stayed the whole ten.

When they said the camp would provide hands-on experience, they weren't kidding. We lived in tiny tents pitched on grass. The facilities were rustic, to say the least. During the welcoming dinner, we were asked what our favourite music was. Everyone yelled either Ricky Martin or Celine Dion which were both names I hadn't ever heard of then. Their reason for asking was apparent the next morning when we were woken up at 4 am by Ricky Martin proclaiming his love for Maria. We had to rush, bathe in icy and not very clean water and then report for PT in the ground by 4:30. The end of some pretty vigorous exercising was proclaimed (rather ironically) by Celine Dion informing us soulfully that her heart would go on. It was in camp that I conceived my deep and lasting hatred for that song.

Breakfast would comprise muddy toast and a strange looking poha before it was off to the field for different sessions and workshops. In my three days, we had workshops on fire safety, horse riding, rope climbing and most interestingly, knot tying. Knot tying was most interesting because the first half of the workshop comprised only a lecture by this old JCO. He constantly mispronounced knot as nut. So, I spent the first half hour of the lecture wondering what thumb nuts were, till he finally whipped out a piece of rope and demonstrated.

Evenings were times of peace and quiet in the camp, we would gather in this communal tent and socialize. I made many new friends there, some of whom are in touch with me to this day. Camp wasn't all that bad, though I was horribly homesick and wanted my mother, after being woken up at 4 am two days in a row. Still, the event that pushed me over the brink was the snake's visit. On the second day, when we returned from morning PT (Celine echoing that her heart would go on) there was a tremendous commotion in the girls barracks. A snake had been found in a tent. Soon, these brave looking officers came running with pitchforks and killed it. After breakfast, the snake was displayed to us with its head cut off. We were all invited to touch it while an officer told us with relish that it was a harmless grass snake and that it would make a tasty meal on the field. I took the time to be quietly sick in a corner. That afternoon, the snake was cooked in gravy and served for lunch. That evening, I called home and bawled till my parents promised to come and get me the next day.

I was told that the day after I left, they demonstrated how to kill chickens. You're supposed to flick your wrist while holding a live chick by the neck, till the neck breaks.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Something to look forward to

Life would be so colourless if we didn't always have something to look forward to. There are the tiny things like birthday cake and weekends, and the bigger things like going home or the end of exams, but I always like to have some small secret pleasure tucked away in the recesses of my mind. Then, no matter how bad the day has been or how tired I am, I know there's the promise of something pleasurable ahead.
I'd love to know what you look forward to. Do tell me in your comments.