Friday, June 24, 2011

Avocado Relish


Holidays get over too quickly if you ask me.  A holiday can be for a week or a month – it still gets over to quickly.  We cannot make holidays last forever because then they would not be “holidays” but just “normal” days.  I especially like that one month before the holidays – the purchasing of gifts, the packing, the anticipation and the excitement.  And for some reason that one month before the holidays lasts like forever.  However, it is still an interesting time and the countdown towards the D-Day – the Holiday – begins.

So we now have another 3 weeks before our vacations to India.  I have already started the little purchases and am already checking where we would visit, what we would do and how we could spend our time best.  So it is like the prelude to the vacations.  We have already been planning to visit a few places in India with the family.  I would really like my children to see the real India.  Being brought up here they take a lot of things for granted and every time we go back home, they realize that what they have is not the norm but a privilege.  My children also go for some short arts and crafts courses, or sports or computer classes in the summer while on vacation over there.  It is the only time they get to learn and indulge in something other than academics, and they like it.  It also gives them an opportunity to be with the locals and somehow with sign languages they get by.  Besides all this, there is the usual eating outside, shopping and movies like all vacations.  Can’t wait for it already – 3 weeks more – here I come India.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 ripe and firm avocados
1 medium sized yellow onion
2 medium sized red tomatoes
1 green chilli
½ cup fresh coriander leaves
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method:

  1. Peel and chop the avocado into small squares.  
  2.  Peel the onions and chop and keep aside.   
  3. Tomatoes should also be cubes.   
  4. De seed the chilli and chop into very tiny pieces.   
  5. Chop coriander leaves and keep aside. 
  6. In a large bowl, mix all the above ingredients.   
  7. Add the salt, olive oil and lemon juice and serve immediately as a starter or a salad.
 

 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Braised Leeks

 
 How many of you work to live and how many live to work?  I have been coming across more and more people who seem to be living to work.  Their work is their life.  And mind you, it is not that they love their job a lot.  Many seem to have no other dimension in life.  Having a career is not a bad thing.  But how many of you would stab your friends and colleagues in the back to make that career?  Leading a one dimensional life where work is the only dimension you have, could lead to unpleasant effects. 

In today’s competitive world, everyone wants to leave a legacy.  But couldn’t a legacy be left in bringing up good children, in planting trees, in helping at the home for the aged once a week, in doing little acts of service?  Or do you leave your legacy by being the Director or Manager of a company following blindly instructions given to you by your seniors, rolling out new systems in countries which would be outdated in a couple of years anyway, boosting up your sales programs or then having a marketing campaign? 

Let us make this very visual – the word “leaving a legacy”.  Imagine spending some time every Sunday planting tender saplings in your neighbourhood.  Saplings that would in the next 20 to 30 years grow into trees that would provide shade, fruits, flowers, leaves.  Trees that would be a part of your neighbourhood long after you are gone.  Trees – that would be your legacy.  Now imagine spending your Sundays reading emails from work on all things gone wrong in the marketing campaign you are running, preparing for presentations you have to give the following week, restless nights you spend in bed figuring out who is trying to backstab you at work.  After months of intense work and pressure, you have a successful marketing campaign out, receive merit for the work you have done and the company goes on – with or without you.  What is the legacy you are leaving here?

Preparation Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients:
 
1 kilo leeks
115 grams carrots, sliced
4 green chillies
1” piece ginger, sliced
60 grams bacon
1 tablespoon coriander leaves
300 ml white stock
Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Cut the roots from the leeks, remove any discoloured outside leaves and trim the green.  Cut through lengthwise and wash well under running water.  Tie into a neat bundle.  Place in boiling salted water for 10 minutes.  Refresh and wash again.  
  2. Place sliced vegetables and spices in a pan and place leeks over.  Add coriander leaves.  
  3. Barely cover with stock and season with salt and pepper.  Add bacon strips.  Cover with a buttered paper and a tight lid and cook gently in a moderate over for about 1 hour.  
  4. Remove leeks from pan.  Drain well and dress neatly in a vegetable dish.  Check the liquid for seasoning and pour over leeks.  

 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Simple Turkey or Chicken Vindaloo


It is exam times at home and so like many parents, my husband and I are more stressed than my son who actually has the exams.  We constantly have to remind him to study, to be less distracted with the dog and conversations going around him.  Luckily the television and computer are locked for now, so less distraction on that side.  Does it help?  No.  He then distracts himself trying to figure out the child lock code on the television, bribing his sister into giving him the password of the computer and arguing with us on why we think he would not be able to study if Facebook or Youtube was open on his screen.  He claims he can multi-task – we disagree that he can.

But in all of this, I can see we are killing the creativity of this 13-year old boy.  He keeps thinking of alternatives to fuel for cars and comes up with some new ideas every couple of months.  Some days back, while studying for his industrial sciences, he came up with another idea which he thought should work.  We did not want to completely “kill” his creative thinking so agreed to let him make a model after his exams and only if his results were good.  A long shot now considering the fact that I think he did not study as much as he could thus spoiling all his chances of what I think a good result is and hence not letting him make the model he could have otherwise made.  Time will tell - a little over a week before the results are out.

I know I would be going too far were I to say we actually stopped “the next great thing for humanity” from happening.  But on the other hand, it could be that many of us as parents are indeed doing that – killing the creativity of our children because they have to focus and do well in the present educational system and thus maybe preventing "the next great thing for humanity" from happening.  I wonder sometimes if we would ever have the wonderful poems of William Wordsworth had his mother been like me and killed his creativity and asked him to focus on history and trigonometry and not waste his time on writing poems!

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 kilo boneless chicken or turkey, cut into medium pieces
2 large red onions, chopped fine
4 large tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoon sunflower oil
Salt to taste

Method:
  1. Heat oil in a skillet and when hot, sauté onions for 3 minutes.  
  2. Add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for 1 minute more.  
  3. Add the chilli and mustard powders and tomatoes and fry well for 10 minutes.  
  4. Add the turkey or chicken along with the salt.  
  5. Add the water and cook till done.  Serve with bread, rotis or rice.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hot Pumpkin Seeds


Let us not be naive and say we never make mistakes – because even the best do. I sometimes think that is how you get to be the best – by making mistakes.  I always remember my mom telling me, “you learn from your mistakes”.  This is so true.  But I think we should also remember that a good deal of us also “learn through others mistakes”.  Some mistakes can be costly, some others hurtful while many humorous on hindsight. 

Today I will share with you the story of one of my colleagues who made a genuine mistake, I am sure who learnt his lesson but very few of us admit that we too learned a lesson from his mistake.  So let us call him Rodney just to keep his name anonymous.  Rodney, like so many business travellers, has to travel a lot for his work.  Unlike many though, he has to drive 6 to 7 hours to travel from the UK to France.  Luckily, he travels with another colleague – so they share the driving. 

On one of these trips back to the UK after a tiring day at work in France, Rodney and his colleague were happy to hit the road and be back with their families for the weekend.  They estimated to be home by evening and called up home to let them know they would get some take-away to eat together once back.  So the channel was crossed and they decided to fuel up before the last leg.  Rodney volunteered to go out and fill in the diesel.  His brain thought diesel, his hands lifted and filled the car with petrol.  And he had decided to fill the tank – so a whopping 80 litres of petrol was put into a diesel engine car.  And then he shut the tank, replaced the pump back in place and then thought, “sh*t…did I just do that?”  He had to spend the next few hours with a very upset colleague who did not even want to see his face.  They waited for the road services to tow the car.

So Rodney is now known among his colleagues as “diesel boy”.  We laugh and joke about the mistake he made.  But all of us remember to make sure to pick the right pump when fuelling our cars to avoid this mistake.  So Rodney’s mistake was a costly one, but in the long run has perhaps helped many of us pay that extra attention when fuelling up.  And now sharing this story with you all, I hope you do the same.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin seeds
4 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ teaspoon rock salt
2 teaspoons crushed dried red chillies
1 teaspoon caster sugar
A wedge of lime

Method:

  1. Heat a small heavy based frying pan.  Add the pumpkin seeds and dry fry for a few minutes, stirring continually as they swell.   
  2. When the seeds have swollen, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more, stirring all the time.  
  3. Add the salt and the crushed chillies and stir to mix.  Turn off the heat.   
  4. Sprinkle sugar over the seeds and shake the pan to ensure that they are all coated.  Tip the seeds into a bowl and serve with the wedge of lime for squeezing over the seeds.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mango Crumble



What motivates you to get up every morning and get out of bed?  A couple of nights back we had a whole discussion about how much sleep is necessary for one to wake up fresh and happy in the morning.  For me it was a relative thing – some needed sleep more than others and it was difficult to give a round figure and generalize on the subject.  Personally, I need at least 9 hours of sleep to wake up fresh in the morning.

And then there was another interesting theory put on the table – your motivation dictates how much sleep you need.  If you are motivated and love what you are doing, you might as well require only 5 or 6 hours of sleep whereas if you hate what you have to do when you wake up, it could be your body’s way of avoiding it.

I have given this theory some thought in the last couple of days.  I realize there could be some truth in this.  For example on weekends, we are awake earlier and without buzzing alarm clocks even though we could have had a late night out.  Whereas on weekdays, the days you have to wake up and go to work, you have to punch the alarm at least 5 times before you are finally awake. And then I think of those days when I have guests over for lunch or dinner…the excitement of preparing something for them and having them over gets me out of bed earlier than any other days.  I am not sure if it is the excitement or the motivation but they should be related in some way to get me out in a jiffy. 

In any case I am sure there could be more theories about the topic above.  As and when I come across them I would be able to give them some thought.  But for now I am going with the motivation theory – makes sense to me for now.

Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 cups ripe mango pieces
4 tablespoons sugar
2 cups wheat flour
5 tablespoons clarified butter
½ cup whole milk
½ teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Mix all the above ingredients together lightly with a fork.  
  2. Transfer to a greased baking pan and bake in a moderately hot over for 30 minutes until the top is golden.  Remove and cool.  
  3. Serve with custard or ice cream.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chicken Afghani Kabab {Murg Afghani Kabab}



Learning about relationship and team building – try googling this and see the amount of seminars and courses and books written on the subject you can find.  All theoretical advice where you would then need to find ways to put what you read or learn into practice.  Sometimes we spend our energy, money and time into things which are so basic and which should be in our instinct. 

This week while I have been in Paris for work, I have learned a valuable lesson in human relationships.  I had the opportunity to sit in a room full of strangers.  People from the same company, but people I never met before.  People who did not speak or understand the language I know.  But who on coming in in the morning, came and shook hands with me, greeted me with a “bonjour” and a smile and some even gave me a peck or two on the cheek.  The sheer action of stretching out your hand in friendship broke all barriers and by the afternoon I was chatting and joking with them even though their English was broken and my French shattered!

And it was not just me they greeted – they greeted each other by kissing or shaking a hand.  In today’s busy environment where everyone wants to get to their desk as soon as possible and start their work and not have to look at or talk to anyone, my French colleagues took the time to go around, chat and greet before getting to their desks.  I have heard about team spirit and unity and friendliness – but this is where I was lucky enough to witness and feel it.  Today was my last day sitting amidst them and it saddens me to have to leave them even though I was with sitting with them for less than 18 hours in two days.  But I learnt a valuable lesson – reach out, kiss, greet, smile and you can bring down all barriers.  Make the effort…once made, it is not that difficult.

Preparation Time: 1 hour
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1.2 kilos chicken
Salt to taste
300 grams yoghurt
60 grams ginger garlic paste
200 grams cream
10 grams garam masala
Butter for glazing
Juice of three lemons

Method:

  1. Cut the chicken into small pieces.  
  2. Mix it with salt, ginger garlic paste and lemon juice.  
  3. Whisk yoghurt and cream in a bowl.  
  4. Pour this over the chicken.  Keep aside for half an hour.  
  5. Skewer the chicken with a gap of few centimetres so the meat is exposed to maximum heat while cooking. 
  6. Cook in a moderate oven for 25 minutes.  Serve hot with salad.