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Stir Fried Carrots in Chilli Onion Paste

Stir Fried Carrots in Chilli Onion Paste

Anjali Venugopal June 3, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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My love and passion for home cooked meals is not something that germinated in my veins overnight. I grew up in a household that took (and still continues to take) home cooking extremely seriously; to the extent that I can with the help of a negligible amount of effort to back me up, recall practically all the occasions my family has eaten out during my childhood. Both my Amma and my grandma are fantastic cooks with a convincing belief in a fact that they have proved time and again; that a wholesome, home cooked meal is the secret to fitness and good health. And this is possibly what got me hooked to the idea that the tastiest food, the food that gives a nudge to all your five senses, the food that lingers on in your mind for days after you have tasted it, can be whipped up within the confines of your own kitchen while you have absolute control over the quality and the quantity of every ingredient that goes into the wok.

Good food has always been held in great regard in my home; where every dish prepared is critically evaluated; praised when it was called for and criticized (constructively of course) otherwise; where a lot of love and effort goes into the preparation of a meal. As a Hindu household in Kerala, it should come as no surprise when I tell you that we have and continue to celebrate festivals of all other religions alike. I use the term ‘Hindu’ with caution, lest I should be brought within the ambit of the sheer mockery our country, headed by fanatic goons masquerading as saviours of this pure and noble way of life, propels today, shamelessly under the guise of this term. No, I am not one of them. And proudly so.

Let me not unnecessarily venture into areas that make my blood boil.

The term ‘celebration’ in my home had one, and only one meaning and that was to make a delicious, home cooked meal. I still see the twinkle in Amma’s eye when she brings up suggestions such as “maybe we should buy some tender mutton for Christmas” or “how about we prepare a yummy biryani for Eid?”

That would be followed by all of us sitting down together for lunch, laughing, smacking our lips in delight and wiping our plates clean. This practice went on meticulously for all the years I was at home and in all probability counts for a large chunk of the fondest of memories I hold within. Ah those were the days!

Today I share with you yet another incredibly easy recipe which you can whip up with around three ingredients. The base for this yummy recipe is something a lot of us don’t find too exciting; carrots. This has been a favourite dish all through my childhood and I have lost track of the number of times, Amma packed me this for lunch. Till rather recently, I was completely unaware of the possibilities of having this with anything else but rice, or Chapattis. A friend tried this recipe out and came up with the option of using this in a sandwich with some grated cheese. So, the possibilities are many, try it out and keep me posted as always.

Things you will need:

  • Carrots- 4 or 5 large ones (Chopped into round disks, not too fat)
  • Onion- 1 medium sized
  • Dried red chillies- 4-5 (vary according to heat tolerance)
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt

 

How to go about it:

  1. Grind the onion and the dried red chillies to form a roughly smooth paste.
  2. Heat some cooking oil in a wok, add the chopped carrots and the onion paste to it with adequate salt. Stir well to make sure the paste is evenly distributed. Add about ¼ glass of water, keep the wok closed and let the carrots cook well.
  3. Once the carrots are cooked, get the excess water to evaporate. Once that is done, add a bit more oil and nicely fry up the carrots. This should take about ten minutes or maybe a slight bit more. The key to this recipe is to make sure the onion paste is nice and brown, since this is what gives it that lovely flavour. So, as I always tell you, patience is the key 🙂

That was easy as pie wasn’t it? Serve with rice or chapatis and dal or even as a sandwich topping with some grate cheese. Yum Yum. This dish is quite a favourite in my part of the world and I feel it deserves a lot more. So try it out, and let me know!

 

Fried Eggplant in Coriander Chilli paste

Fried Eggplant in Coriander Chilli paste

Anjali Venugopal May 16, 2017 NO COMMENTS

IMG_4024Getting to leave work when the sun is still out is a lovely feeling. Also, this is something which I promise to never take for granted considering all the frowns (and mumbles) that I have had to put up with in India, if and when I ever had the audacity to as much as walk out of the office door any minute before the wee hours of the night (or morning). Yesterday, as I was skipping down the winding stairs in the old, beautiful Viennese structure that houses my workplace a little past 5, I gulped when I realized that this would have been treated as nothing but a half a day’s worth of work in India. This thought nudged that sense of gratitude in me for letting me escape the monotony in that part of the world where ‘work-life balance’ is just an unholy, fictional term which is never to be uttered and is treated almost at par with the term ‘remuneration’. On giving it a second thought, I think ‘remuneration’ still takes the gleaming trophy.

We live in a world where it is somehow illogically unpardonable to speak about money at your work place, lest you should be seen as “money minded”. When being confident of your own worth (on monetary terms, of course) was deemed to be an outright crime I will never know. So, in short, once you decide to take up an employment in an organization, you are expected to erase from your memory the fact that you have a home to go back to; the fact that you have people in your life who would want (maybe need) a fraction of your time every day; the fact that you had something called a ‘life’ right before you made up your mind to inscribe your initials onto that sheet of white paper with fine print which is your employment contract. And all this without being as much as concerned about the sum that is expected to hit your bank accounts (hopefully) by the end of every month? Really now?

I am not one to preach about high flying deals like “quit your job and travel the world”. On a side note, I have always thought that such ideas are nothing but absurd, and propounded by kids who have a tad too much in their respective bank accounts all thanks to the gold plated spoons they were born with in their mouths; gold that came from the lives of toil their parents lived. Coming from an upper middle class family, I don’t need to be taught about the importance of being able to fund for yourself and for the people you love. I do not need to be taught the sheer delight a well-earned pay cheque brings. All that bothers me is the fact that the term profession and all that it stands for in our world today, is seldom seen as the ‘means to the end’; the end which is your happiness. Instead, it is seen as the end in itself and that my friend, I feel is ridiculous.

Yesterday, as I walked back home from the subway station in the warm sunshine, with the lovely, cool spring wind on my face, I felt strangely content. I was happy to go back to our warm, cosy little apartment while the sun still streamed in; while I was still pepped up as opposed to my Indian law firm days when all I would have the energy to do once I got back home in the dead of the night was to change in to my pyjamas before hitting the sack. I was in such a light mood as I got back home, that I wanted to cook something elaborate for dinner. So, I changed into one of my oversized tees and a clean pair of stone washed denims, made a visit to the supermarket round the corner, came back home and prepared a feast for the two of us, opened a can of beer each, chattered about my day to the Husband, watched a movie and went to bed early. This was the kind of day I had always dreamt of while in India. And today, as I live the dream, I cannot help but wish the same for every one of us.

Anyway getting down to business. A lot of you had written to me with suggestions for the blog and I could not be any happier. Something that I come across a tad too often is that I should concentrate more on vegetarian dishes and this is something I plan to take up very seriously. So today, I share with you a recipe to a vegetarian dish which you can whip up in practically no time. This is something I chanced upon during my pursuits to get to something more complicated which a friend of mine had suggested. Although I did not quite get the dish I had in mind quite straight, what came out of the experiment was delicious. So, here goes.

What you will need:

  1. Brinjal/Aubergines/Eggplant- 250 gms (cut into long pieces)
  2. Coriander leaves- 1 small bunch
  3. Green chilies- 4 or 5 (vary according to your heat tolerance levels)
  4. Turmeric powder- ¼ tsp
  5. Cooking oil
  6. Salt
  7. Curry leaves (optional)

 

How to go about it.

  1. Make a smooth paste of the coriander and the green chilies and keep aside.IMG_3949
  2. Heat some cooking oil in a wok and temper some curry leaves. Add the cut eggplant to the wok and sauté well. Add the salt and turmeric, mix well and keep the wok closed to make sure the eggplants are cooked well. Once they turn soft, add a bit more oil in case you feel the wok is running dry, and fry the aubergines till they are almost well done. This should take about 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Add the coriander chili paste and mix well. Fry the eggplants well in the paste till you lose the raw flavour of the coriander.IMG_3955
  4. All you need to do for this recipe is to make sure that the eggplants are fried well. They taste the best when they are fried till they are a step away from burnt.IMG_3960

Your eggplants fried in coriander chili paste is ready and tastes great with some hot rice and dal (lentil curry). Give it a try and let me know 🙂

 

 

 

 

Kerala Beef Roast

Kerala Beef Roast

Anjali Venugopal April 28, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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It’s a cold, cold day in Vienna. We even had a snow shower this morning and all this in the middle of April when it is supposed to be bright, sunny with all the flora in full bloom, occasional showers here and there and all things happy which we associate with Spring. However no, Vienna chose to play a wet blanket this week and I can’t offer any prizes for guessing that all I would want right now is a warm, cozy blanket, a mug of hot cocoa (with maybe a few marshmallows) and a good book to take me to another world. But responsibilities, responsibilities.
As I sit back, trying to focus on my to-do list for the day, I can feel my mind wandering away to the good old days, a little less than 2 decades ago, when I would spend most of my holidays in bed, reading. Apart from the frequent visits I made to the refrigerator to replenish the chocolate bars I kept munching on or to the kitchen to refill the tall glasses with more lemonade infused with dried ginger, I don’t think I ever moved from under that large worn out blanket I still hold dear. My dad made it a point to buy me books from every city he visited on work. Most of my birthday gifts, if not all, have been books. My dad was the one who introduced me to the magical world of Harry Potter before it became the life blood of my contemporaries. I remember re-reading the Enid Blyton books so many times that I can still recall the food spread on the table, complete with the large jug of warm, creamy milk, fresh from the dairy, Philip and Dinah were welcomed with, on their first trip to the farmhouse nestled in the Welsh mountains. There was something in the books that I read and re-read countless number of times, that instilled that yearning that continues to draw me to the countryside.
Among the various compartments I have meticulously segregated in my memory for all the places that have pulled at the strings of my heart, the people who have walked in and out of my life, the food I have relished, the scents I have known and the lessons I have learned, the fondest compartment would be the one where I have saved all my memories from my innumerable trips to the Munnar, the upper middle class version of the Welsh mountains for a Malayali like me. In fact, as far as my family is concerned, there is much more to Munnar than just being a summer holiday getaway. My dad was born and raised there, among the trees and the flowers, the woods and the brooks. He lived and breathed the mountain air. Needless to mention at this point that the emotion called Munnar was injected into my veins long before I knew it.
Even today, as I sit thousands of miles away from the nook that saw our little family drive through the narrow, winding mountain roads, scale the mountains covered in the majestic green velvet woven by the tea leaves, sit on the rocks by the stone chapel counting the tulips by the stone graves, all I need to do is just close my eyes and I can feel the cold mountain breeze on my nose; the scent of freshly cut tea leaves stronger than ever before and the cool of the pristine water lashing against those round pebbles as I gently put my bare feet into that shallow brook by the woods. I go back to those clear, starry nights the four of us spent huddled around the fire talking about everything the sun shines on, laughing till we cried, singing odd Mohammed Rafi numbers, pulling each other’s legs. I go back to the incredible mashed yam and hot meat curry served in old rundown shacks in the mountains; to the scent of the fresh cardamom and ginger boiling in the tea served in the village in those tiny glasses made of steel.
The recipe that I share with you today, is one that reminds me of my trips to the mountains; the traditional Kerala style beef roast. Although this is quite a staple dish in Kerala, the memories I have attached to the exotic flavor of the whole spices and the heat from the red chillies are from the time I savored this spicy meat curry from one of the shacks on the wayside in Munnar. The taste of this dish from back then still lingers on my palate and without further ado I shall get in to how it is done.
Things you will need:
1. Beef- 500 gms chopped into small bite sized pieces
2. Onions- 2 large finely sliced
3. Tomatoes- 2 large chopped
4. Ginger- 2 inch stick
5. Garlic- about 10 pods, you can afford to be liberal here
6. Red chili powder- 1 tbsp
7. Coriander powder- 2 tbsp
8. Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
9. Ground peppercorns (powder)- 1 heaped tsp
10. Garam Masala powder- 1 tsp
11. Cloves- 6
12. Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
13. Bay leaf- 1
14. Star Anise- 1
15. Vinegar- 1 tbsp
16. Cooking oil
17. Curry leaves, mustard seeds and dried red chilies for tempering

How to go about it:
1. Heat some cooking oil in a deep wok and temper the mustard seeds and the dried red chilies. Keep the curry leaves for later. Add the whole spices (cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and star anise) to the oil and let them release their aromas.
2. Add the finely sliced onions to the wok and sauté for a good ten minute or until the onions turn a lovely golden brown. This step is indeed important. Don’t be lazy, keep sautéing. You could add salt to the onions to make sure they brown faster.
3. Grind the ginger and the garlic to form a rough paste. Add this to the onions. Mix well and keep sautéing. Scrape the bottom of the pan as ginger garlic paste has a tendency to stick to the bottom of a hot pan. Add a bit more oil if you feel it is too dry.
4. At this stage, add the chopped tomatoes. Mix well. Keep the wok closed for about 1 minute to make sure the tomatoes are soft and cooked well. Add the powders and the vinegar at this point, mix well and keep sautéing till the oil starts to leave from the sides and the mixture begins to look homogenous, as opposed to the onions and tomato pieces floating around.
5. Add the beef pieces and mix very well. After that, transfer to a pressure cooker and cook for about 6 whistles on a medium flame or until the meat the cooked thoroughly.
6. Once the beef is done cooking, transfer the meat with the gravy back into the wok and leave it on the stove on high heat to get the water to evaporate and the gravy to thicken. Add the curry leaves at this point.
7. Allow the gravy to thicken while stirring occasionally until you achieve a semi dry, rich consistency.
8. Add a spoon of oil, fry up the meat and the lovely thick gravy nicely, one last time and your Kerala beef roast is ready! 🙂

Easy Chicken Biryani for Mr & Mrs Lazybones

Easy Chicken Biryani for Mr & Mrs Lazybones

Anjali Venugopal April 24, 2017 NO COMMENTS

IMG_3374It looks like I am still pursuing my goal of putting up one post a week. Last week was particularly busy (to be read as insane amounts of fun) with the sister around. We have been spending our days gawking at the sheer beauty this city encompasses, going on long walks on cobbled streets with tulips blooming all along the wayside, pausing at every little nook that catches our fancies, treating ourselves to an occasional ice cream cone or two. We spend all our time talking about everything the sun has ever shone on; about the challenges at our respective workplaces, the days that we spent in our childhood engaging in all sorts of mischief but sticking up for one another no matter what, about the time and effort wasted on people who least deserved it, love lost and found; in short, life in the greatest of detail.

We sat on a lone park bench in the woods for hours yesterday under the azure skies adorned with those white, fluffy clouds floating around like bits of cotton candy from the carnival, listening to the little birdies chirping away in the bushes and the trees all around, our feet softly brushing against the grass so green that it almost looked like Nature herself had decided to give the Instagram filters a shot, trying to count in vain the white and yellow daisies that seemed to have scattered themselves all over the grass carpet, chasing dandelions. It was just one of those beautiful days right out of a story book, when all you wanted to do was to spend some quality time with your loved ones talking, laughing, reminiscing, and we did just that.

With the sister around, it has been an easy week for the Husband and for me because it means that there is an extra pair of hands in the house, and that too, a pair that is ever so willing to help out with the household chores. Although we have been getting her to try out all our favourite joints in the city, we have still been cooking at least one meal per day at home. In other words, she is being bombarded with food and drink from all sides, every single day.

That brings me to the point.

I have been receiving quite a few requests for an easy biryani recipe, for some time now. And with two people in the house who are possibly the biggest fans of the enterprise called Biryani, I could not have been bestowed with a better opportunity to try out a recipe that I have been developing in my head for months. I do not normally deviate from my fail safe recipe for Biryani, but I did realise that the recipe does not exactly cater to the crowd that I want to help out; the beginner/lazy cooks, who enjoy great home cooked food nevertheless. A bad biryani is unpardonable in my books and this, in all likelihood, is the easiest recipe for a yummy Biryani and trust me, not a soul will guess the negligible amount of effort that goes in to whipping up this royalty. This took me exactly 45 minutes and that I believe is quite something. Added bonus, you end up looking like nothing less than an Indian chef extraordinaire. So, here goes.

Things you will need:

(Serves 4)

  1. Chicken- 500 grams (boneless, cut into small pieces)
  2. Basmati Rice- 2 cups
  3. Onions- 2 medium sized sliced finely
  4. Tomatoes- 2 medium sized chopped
  5. Cloves- 6
  6. Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
  7. Green Cardamoms- 3
  8. Bay Leaf- ½
  9. Garam Masala powder- 1 tsp
  10. Red Chili powder- 2 tsp
  11. Coriander Powder- 1 ½ tbsp
  12. Turmeric Powder- ½ tsp
  13. Ghee
  14. Cooking oil
  15. Cashews- 15-20 (broken into halves)
  16. Raisins- 15-20
  17. Fresh coriander leaves chopped- ¼ cup

For the marination

  1. Yoghurt- 2 tbsp
  2. Red chili powder- ½ tsp
  3. Turmeric- ½ tsp
  4. Salt
  5. Vinegar- 1 Tbsp

How to go about it

  1. First, marinate the chicken with all the ingredients mentioned under the head “for the marination”. Let the chicken marinate for about an hour, lesser if you are too hungry to care.
  2. Next you need to cook the rice. While cooking the rice (you may choose to use a rice cooker or pressure cooker or even an open vessel to cook rice) add ½ a teaspoon of salt, the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom and a little more than 1 tablespoon of ghee to the water. Once the rice is cooked well, keep it aside to cool. Important to ensure that you don’t overcook the rice since the consistency of the rice is what determines the texture of the biryani.
  3. Next, in a deep wok, heat some cooking oil and sauté the sliced onions till they turn a nice golden brown. Yet again, for the umpteenth time, the effort you put into sautéing the onions is what determines the final quality of the dish you serve.
  4. Add the tomatoes, mix well and keep the wok closed for about a minute so that the tomatoes are cooked well. After the tomatoes are cooked, keep sautéing for about three to four minutes or until the tomatoes lose their raw smell. Add the powders at this point and mix well and keep sautéing till the oil starts to leave from the sides of the mixture.
  5. Add the marinated chicken to the wok, mix well and keep stirring for about two minutes. Add a little less than half a cup of water to the chicken, mix well, check the salt and keep the wok closed till the chicken is cooked completely. Once the chicken is done, open the lid and let the water content evaporate till you reach a semi dry consistency. Make sure you don’t dry the dish up completely.
  6. Next, in a pan, heat some ghee and sauté the cashews and raisins till they turn a nice golden brown. Add the chopped coriander leaves to the pan, sauté well for about another 40 seconds. Keep aside to cool.
  7. Remove the chicken from the wok temporarily. Layer half the cooked and cooled rice in the bottom of the wok. Layer the chicken on top of the first layer of rice. Layer the remaining rice on top of the chicken. Garnish with the coriander, cashews and raisins sautéed in ghee. Close the wok, leave it on the stove on minimal heat for about three to four minutes and your biryani is ready to be pounced on! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Tastes like home, Part 2: Kerala style Parippu Curry, traditional lentil curry from Kerala

Tastes like home, Part 2: Kerala style Parippu Curry, traditional lentil curry from Kerala

Anjali Venugopal March 27, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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All our 16 year old selves have been found guilty of wanting to grow up, be independent and leave home eventually. The rules, the curfews, and the choices our parents made were never good enough for us. Life was “boring” as we called it. Especially for an upper middle class teen like me, the city wasn’t as “happening” as I would have liked and incessantly dreamt of a “cool” life in a bigger city.

My dream was to find my way, by hook or crook, out of that lovely, green corner I was born and raised in, which is home to the most beautiful rain I have witnessed; where it is commonplace to wake up listening to the birds outside your window at dawn; where it is the norm to know the entire neighbourhood by their first names; where twilight is welcomed by the soft scents of agarbati, where my happy family sat on the verandah, watching the sun go down, sharing a joke and laughing to our hearts content, where Amma would make a stern reminder about our homework at 7 PM on the dot as though she had some sort of alarm clock embedded in her system. A couple of hours of fiddling with my homework would mean dinner time and food would miraculously appear on the dining table and all I ever had to do was show up, washed and clean. Amma would serve the usual staple of some boiled rice, sautéed seasonal veggies tempered with a hint of coconut and some spicy fish curry or even some fried fish on the good days. My sole duty was to quietly wipe my plate clean but no! I would choose to make a fuss, making a face at the veggies and maybe even throw a verbal tantrum as I grew older. All this would last till Amma’s patience snapped or when she would just beckon to my dad to come take care of the situation, when all of a sudden, silence would fall like those thick velvety curtains back in my school auditorium. To think this was the life I wanted to run away from…

Somehow, in our eternal pursuit behind what will be instead of what is, maybe we lost out on the sweetest fruits of life. Today as we sit, laboring away at a corporate job, staring into the computer screens for hours at a stretch, nibbling at a sandwich made of some dry bread for lunch, struggling to pay our bills, craving for a warm plate of mom-cooked food, how many of us can say honestly that we are indeed happy? And how many of us would trade the lives we lead now to go right back to your wooden study desks at home racking your brain to somehow make sense of the quadratic equation staring back at you from those single lined note books, while you fiddled with the new gel pen that you proudly got for yourself after saving up 10 rupees from your pocket money?

Well, one can wish. As somebody once said, we are the oldest we have ever been and the youngest we will ever be, and keeping that in mind let us resolve not live in the past or whine about the present. I have realized that there are few things a warm, tasty meal cannot solve. Let me arm you with a simple recipe to combat that yearning to go right back in time to your mom’s kitchen waiting for her to serve you dinner. This is a Kerala style lentils dish that is extremely popular in my part of the world. This goes best with some hot, white rice with a generous spoonful of ghee drizzled on it.

Things you will need:

1. Moong dal (aka Mung bean, green gram)- half cup (peeled and spilt)
2. Coconut- 2 table spoons (grated or desiccated)
3. Cumin seeds- ½ teaspoon
4. Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
5. Green chilli- 1
6. Ghee- as your heart desires
7. Mustard seeds and dried red chillies (curry leaves if available) for tempering

How to go about it

1. In a pressure cooker, dry roast the moon dal for about 4 minutes or till you start to get the lovely, roasted aroma of the dal.
2. Add three times the amount of water and a tablespoon of ghee to the dal and pressure cook it for around 4 whistles on a medium heat. (dal: water = 1:3)
3. In the meanwhile, grind the coconut, green chilli, cumin seeds and the turmeric powder to form a nice smooth paste. Keep that aside.
4. After 4 whistles, keep the pressure cooker aside to let the pressure release naturally.
5. After the pressure is released, using a whisk, mash the dal very well to make the consistency even. You may also use the back of a large spoon for the same.
6. Add some more water if you feel the dal has become too thick for your liking. Put the cooker back on the heat, sans the lid, add the paste, stir well and bring to a boil.
7. While that is being done, heat a bit of ghee in a pan and temper the mustard seeds and dried chillies (and curry leaves if available). Add this to the dal, mix well and enjoy your happy meal.

Malwani Chicken Sukka

Malwani Chicken Sukka

Anjali Venugopal March 9, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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Realization dawned on me this morning that it has been six whole months since we moved to this enchanted city, Vienna. That thought, coupled with the fact that we are on the third month of 2017, leaves me with my jaw on the floor. I cannot for anything believe that it has been almost a full year since I said goodbye to my bustling and not particularly exciting life in Mumbai; when my mom had come over to help me pack, into twenty thousand suitcases, all the earnings I had fetched for myself in the form of all sorts of garbage, over the seven years of my stint in Pune/Mumbai.

Today, as I sit around munching on a bowl of dried fruits and crunchy nuts, I get reminded that this will be my first spring ever. Spring to me, has always been confined within the hardbound covers of the books I have loved or behind the screen of the television. The closest I have got to spring was probably in my Social Studies classes in third grade, sitting in a boiling classroom in Kerala, when I was taught the four seasons. That piece of information obviously made little sense to that 8-year-old who came from that part of the world, where people would refuse to give the weather talk a break, if the temperature dared to fall as much as below a solid 30 degrees Celsius; where we wore the same kind of clothes all the year over; where we were taught to shower twice a day from January to December. Now that I am in a place where I get to witness spring for myself, I can finally accept that it is not as mythical as it seemed to that 8-year-old.  Watching the trees, the shrubs and the grass coyly coming back to life, is as exciting as the child once imagined it to be.

Sorry, the powerful desire for an afternoon siesta took over my soul and I dozed off. Now that I am up and have stuffed my face with a second lunch that comprised another bowl of the leftover chicken pulao from last night with a cold glass of orange juice to wash it down, I am ready to talk more. Yes, coming back to what I was saying. I lived a score and six years of my life in India. Apart from the occasional holidaying abroad, I have never ‘lived’ anywhere else. So, it goes without saying that Vienna is a land of firsts, for me. It is probably my first time when I don’t know a single other person living in my building. Coming from India, where the line between friendliness and psychotic intrusion got blurred a long time ago, if I am honest I am sometimes torn between feeling the need for someone to know me by my name versus the absolute pleasure of just going about doing your own sweet thing. I can’t tell if this particular emotion is a tiny prick to the ego because I don’t seem to bear any significance whatsoever, in the lives of the people around or if it that feeling of utter cheerful abandon, where you are more than welcome to just do what your heart tells you without the constant anxiety of what the neighbourbood would say.

Something else that is a first for me, is the miraculous public transport system here and how people, irrespective of their designation or bank balance, use public transport. I remember, in Mumbai, I would rather stay stuck in traffic for 2 hours than get my visceral organs squished out of my mouth on a local train. I used to be the one to call for an Uber every time I sneezed. Back in Kerala, beyond a certain level in the social strata (not that high up either), using public transport such as buses is looked at with disdain. Utterly illogical but that is unfortunately how a group of insecure people, who have nothing to their credit apart from the money they happened to recently get a hold of, living together thrive; the criteria that are prevelant while making the progress report for a person’s worth is ridiculously funny in most parts of our country but I shall reserve that for another day. Coming back to cabs, I learnt as soon as I moved here that I couldn’t do that primarily because the public transport is on point and also because I can’t afford cabs by habit.

What I am about to list out next, is something that warrants a longer rant, so, I shall leave just a precis here which will be developed on another day. It is nothing but the bizarre Indian practice of keeping people who speak English reasonably well, high up on a pedestal with a garland around their necks, and treating them like gods. Don’t be surprised to see other measly beings touching the god’s feet every now and then too. It could possibly be the aftermath our colonial masters left behind them, but it is more often than not, atrociously funny. I am used to seeing people around me being apologetic and filled with shame when (if ever they do) they need to introduce some family member of theirs who does not know English. It is invariably this line. “Hey, sorry man, my mom does not speak English.” I have heard that umpteen times since my Hindi was at that point, negligible and a work in progress. Why were they apologetic?! I was pleasantly surprised to see the change in how the same sentence is framed in this part of the world. “Oh my parents speak only Italian!” Do you spot the difference or are you thick? That was a first. When a single language became the yard stick for a person’s worth, I will never know. Most people in this part of the world are multi lingual to the extent that they are people who speak as much as seven languages fluently. That, I feel is reason enough to be proud. But you, measly creature, who barely manages to scrape the epidermis of English and says with utmost pride that you don’t understand/speak even your respective mother tongues, please go hang your head in shame for a good two hours. It really does not count for anything. And for those of you who think you have conquered the world with your subliminal English speaking skills, let me assure you, you haven’t. 🙂

Back in to business. Today I share with you the recipe for a dish that can make you look nothing short of an Indian chef-extraordinaire. It is a Malwani Chicken Sukka. Malwani cuisine comes from the Konkan region of Maharashtra and Goa. Typically a coastal area, the cooking in this part of the nation is extremely flavoursome and uses coconut liberally, which I love. So without further ado, here goes the recipe.

Things you will need:

  1. Chicken- 500 gms
  2. Onions- 2 medium thinly sliced
  3. Fresh coriander leaves- 1/4 cup

For the Malwani Masala

  1. Dried red chillies- 5
  2. Whole peppercorns- ½ tsp
  3. Cloves- 5
  4. Bay leaf-1
  5. Mustard seeds- ½ tsp
  6. Cinnamon stick- a small piece
  7. Cumin seeds- ½ tsp
  8. Star anise- 1
  9. Coriander seeds- 2 heaped tbsp.
  10. Turmeric powder- 1 tsp

For the paste

  1. Coconut grated- a little more than half cup
  2. Onion- 1 small
  3. Green chillies- 2
  4. Garlic pods- 3
  5. A small piece of ginger

How to go about it:

  1. Dry roast all the ingredients from 1-9 under the head “for the malwani masala” in a pan till they start releasing the aroma. Let the spices cool, before proceeding to make a smooth powder in a mixer grinder. Add the turmeric to this powder and keep it aside. “malwani spice mix”
  2. Next we move to the coconut paste. In the mixer grinder, grind all the ingredients from 1-5 under the head “for the paste” and keep it aside. “coconut paste”
  3. Next heat some cooking oil in a wok and sauté the onions till they are a nice golden brown.
  4. Add the coconut paste to the onions, stir well and keep sauteeing till the coconut is beginning to change colour. This should take about 7-8 minutes on medium flame. Keep sauteeing to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok.
  5. Add the malwani spice mix to the wok and stir well to form a homogenous texture.
  6. Add the chicken to the wok and mix it well to make sure the masala is coated well on all the pieces uniformly.
  7. Add about half a glass of water, mix well and keep the wok closed till the chicken is fully cooked. Open and check once in a while to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok.
  8. Once the chicken is cooked, open the wok and fry the chicken on a higher flame to ensure the gravy is thick and the dish attains the desired consistency.
  9. Add the coriander leaves, mix well and take the wok off the heat.
  10. Keep wok closed for about ten minutes before serving.
  11. Dig in! 🙂