May 31, 2010

Linguistically biased?

PS: This blog is a reflection from the same situation I've been faced at many stages when I meet new people. Nothing happened recently to prompt it.
Have you ever been faced with this situation? You're in a group of Indians predominantly speaking one regional language. And it happens to be your Mother tongue too. Yet, there are some people who assume you don't speak it well. While I've found that preposterous and ultra-presuming each time, I thought I should dig a little deeper to see what makes these people assume such things. And conclusively it was one of two things -
1. My English is so well-developed that they've assumed that I speak English with everyone around and just a smattering of the regional language, to my family included. Loosely translated: Pure BS. I mean, just because I am one "Mary" (English speaking Tamil woman - read "Peter's" female equivalent), doesn't mean I can't speak  great Tamil. Come on!
2. Dialect: Being from a TamBrahm family means that my Tamil has remained sheltered in spite of all the Chennai glory years probably because most of my closest friends are TamBrahm as well. So sure, we have a lot of specific lingo which the others probably don't understand sometimes but hey, it's a two way street . And even if it does sound different, you don't hear me mocking your poyirchu to my poyiduthu , both essentially meaning "it has gone" or use the age-old wise-crack of naan kolathuku poren (I'm going to the pond) while I ask "aathuku polama?" (Brahmin lingo for "shall we go home". Basically aar(th)u also means river in Tamil). And speaking a different dialect doesn't preclude me from understanding others. And just 'coz my vocabulary in galeej words may not match some others', it needn't lead to the conclusion that my Tamil isn't proper. 
I'd love to extrapolate that logic to English and see how many people actually know English. Now wouldn't that be fun... throw in the word play and we'll have a riot. Nakkal? Not really.

On the other hand, out of the blue, time's freakin' flying, don't you think?  It's the end of May!

May 30, 2010

Vaux le Vicomte

So I was on a picnic to Vaux le Vicomte on a trip arranged by my college. Here's a panorama from the day trip.

Hint: Click on the photo for a full image.

Well the Château has a sad history but we had a great time being there. And the college treated us to a day of fun.. what lunch on a bateau, day at the Château and what not! The day played a bit of a spoilsport though.. it was raining in patches. But the gardens of this Château were spectacular and apparently a huge influence on Versailles' ultimate design. Anyhow, what it did accomplish was get me wholly interested in French history. And so I have been devouring reading material and Youtube videos since. Will keep you posted on what happens from that (if anything does).

May 24, 2010

Last of the tofu: Tofu masala puris

I didn’t plan on this one. I actually wanted to make tofu ice cream but S discouraged me of the idea in such a manner that I was a bit apprehensive to try. And so? Tofu puris.

IMG_6588 Crispy soft tofu masala puris.

Interested enough? You should be. Of all the 3 tofu dishes I’ve made over the past week, this was hands-down my favourite. It was crispy yet soft, flavorful yet subtle. The perfect dish to conclude the long weekend. So here’s what you need -



1. Tofu

300 g, finely crumbled with your hands

2. Atta 400 g or 2.5 cups
3. Oil 2 cups for deep frying and 1 tablespoon for mixing into the dough
4. Water Enough to make dough of the right consistency, approximately 1 cup
5. Dry spices

Salt to taste, 1 tsp of dhaniya-jeera powder, 1 tsp of red chilli powder, 1/2 tsp of sugar, a pinch of turmeric

IMG_6607 Serve with any hot subji and you’ve got yourself a killer combination.

How? Just mix all the ingredients to make a consistent dough like chapathis or parathas. Let it sit for at least an hour. Use some fresh atta  to make small balls from the doiugh and roll them out into puris of the size you desire. Heat the oil for deep frying sufficiently before frying your puris. Test with a bit of dough. Do not keep the flame too high or the puri will cook only externally but not all over in addition to “drinking in the oil”. Next.. just deep fry and drain the excess oil on a paper towel before serving piping hot with the subji of choice. Bon Appétit!

IMG_6617a Served with Mughalai Subji (Holler if you want a recipe).

One thing’s for sure though… I bet all of you are as done with tofu as I am. Whoosh! Here’s hoping for wider ingredients to feature here soon. :D

P’Arc de Triomphe: The urban jungle

You have to hand it over to the French. The most famous road in Paris, probably even the world, Champs Elysées, was turned into a garden. For 2 days. At a cost of 4.2 million euros. You can see the news item here. And it was a sight to behold -

IMG_6526a The Arc de Triomphe at the head of the world-famous Avenue de Champs Elysées.

And boy, did the people turn out or what! I have never seen a rush like that in Paris. Sure, Champs Elysées is always crowded. But the crowd yesterday was such that if you happened to drop something, it would cascade through at least 10 people before it reached the ground and inevitably got stampeded. It was an exhibition by young French farmers, displaying everything from their crop to their domesticated animals. However, the “natural” greenery was far less obvious than the urban jungle on display. The people who thronged the place in millions in the sweltering heat braving it all just to witness the miracle of having paved away the traffic from this amazing street and fill it with mud and trees, flowers and animals. I’ll admit. All we saw was people. Joie de Vivre!

IMG_6537a The urban jungle. The street was so crowded it was impossible to see the Louvre at the far end of Champs Elysées.

Beat the heat: Strawberries ’n cream

Ah Paris has dived into summer, skipping Spring entirely. The temperatures are in the late 20s-early 30s, and believe me when I say that it is hot. Sure, a lot of you are wondering if I am not from Chennai, where I’ve faced only 3 seasons – hot, hotter and hottest. But there’s something about the Parisian air.. the humidity perhaps, the sheer intensity of summer is just as cold as the winter  is, the temperatures never telling the true story. Here’s one of the sure-fire ways to beat the heat. Dessert.

IMG_6575 Serve in a chilled wine glass for that extra oomph.

This time it’s the Wimbledon favorite – Strawberries and fresh cream. There’s really no great secret to this one right. You just can’t go wrong when you mix two amazing ingredients to create a dish, better still a dessert. However, some tips might go a long way in enhancing the experience.

1. Keep the strawberries refrigerated until the last minute before you dunk the cream on them. There’s no need to cut it. Just remove the stem, rinse them well and go.

2. Pre-chill the wine glass/dessert bowl in the freezer for a couple of minutes so that the cream doesn’t “melt” right away.

Serve chilled, indulge and enjoy. Bon Appétit!

IMG_6579  Wimbledon’s favorite dessert served chilled.

May 22, 2010

Saturday Brunch: Bread Upma

So it’s typical… you get up late on a Saturday morning. In a short while after a tea/coffee your stomach starts signaling to you that it’s about time to break its fast. But you are just not in the mood to make anything elaborate. And something like cereal or toast just seems boring. Bread upma is perfect for those days… minimal effort, mildly spiced, the perfect, warm, carb-fest to kick start your senses for the weekend.

IMG_6475 Getting started. Bread slices broken into bite-sized pieces.

I am sure every house has a “different” recipe for this dish. My house has a minimalistic delicious one. What do you need? Of course you need about 6 slices of bread broken into small bite-sized pieces. Additionally,

Veggies: Just one small onion and tomato, finely chopped.

Spices: Salt to taste and red chilli powder. I’ve also used a pinch of turmeric.

Seasoning: 1/2 tsp each of mustard seeds and channa dal.

Garnishing: 1/2 a sprig of fresh coriander.

And how to? Please, I am sure you know how. Heat 1/2 tsp of oil, add the seasonings, fry the veggies, add the dry spices and finally the bread. The bread should not get soaked by the masala, it should remain dryish and just get coated with all of the spices and the veggies. Turn of the gas once the bread gets “heated” and garnish with coriander.

So there you go.. under 10 minutes you have a simple, sumptuous and tasty breakfast/brunch. Serve piping hot. Bon Appétit!

IMG_6483 Pictured here garnished with curry leaves.

May 21, 2010


Everyone has been faced with stage-fright at some point or the other in their lives. It maybe something as simple as giving a presentation in front of your peers or something as life-changing as getting married. And very few people are very sure about the consequences. For instance, typically just before any presentation, my legs temporarily lose all feeling and my fingers are icy to touch. I have instant misgivings about the whole concept. At that instant, everything seems to be like a bad idea. It was a bad idea to recommend those changes to the experiment that brought about those new results... a bad idea to accept that it was you indeed who had to give the talk in front of everyone... bad idea to work against the close deadline and even worse idea to actually complete the job in the allotted time. But you know what? When I walk there to face everyone, if not instantly, slowly but surely the warmth spreads to my extremes - my fingertips and my toes. My initially high-pitched voice regains it's natural timbre and my poise and confidence increase exponentially as I make eye contact and start to explain. After all, it is my topic and my choice and I know it best. That reassurance carries me along quite well till the very end and all feelings of misgivings vanish. 

And no matter what the occasion, with every big event, come the nerves and the momentary self-doubt. And I have come to realize that very few people don't have the initial nerves... that split-second of second guessing the choices made. And of course I am not talking just about "presentations" here. Anything big... getting married, buying a house, etc. As soon as you add the "this is it" clause to it, it assumes paramount importance. And it's all in good humor too. According to me, if you didn't have those nerves, it wasn't as important to you. And if you're making a grand decision in your life, you might as well be as sure as you can be. Before you take the plunge and do the best that you can for the decision you entailed. Fair enough.

May 20, 2010

Exotic: Tofu koftas

Didn’t I say there would be more tofu recipes following? So here it is, as promised – something different yet something reasonably healthy for what it is – tofu koftas. Here’s a first look -
And if I say so myself, you’ve got to try this. So here goes -
Ingredients for the kofta
1. Tofu
300g, finely mashed
2. Dry spices 1tsp of dhaniya-jeera powder, 1/2 tsp of turmeric, salt to taste, 1/2 tsp of red chilli powder and 1/4 tsp of sugar
3. Oil 1 teaspoon
4. Corn flour 2 tablespoons
5. Rice flour 1/2 teaspoon
Ingredients for the gravy
1. Onions
2 medium-large, finely chopped
2. Tomatoes 1, medium, finely chopped
3. Tomato paste 1/2 tablespoon
4. Ginger garlic paste Make fresh equal to 1 tablespoon or use store-bought.
5. Fresh cream 1 tablespoon
6. Green chilli 1, finely chopped
1. Oil For deep frying
2. Coriander 1 sprig for garnishing
3. Jeera 1 tablespoon
The Koftas.
1. Mix all the ingredients for the kofta and knead well with your fingers. Bare in mind that the “dough” should be roughly the consistency of any chapathi dough and not wet at all. If your tofu is refrigerated, I would suggest letting it sit outside for a while to come down to room temperature.
2. Once you’re done, make balls roughly the size of a lemon and coat with corn flour and set aside. Make dumplings from all of the “dough”.
3. Deep fry in oil till golden brown.
So here’s the transformation - IMG_6414Dumplings of tofu set aside for deep frying
IMG_6443 Tofu dumplings after deep frying
I admit it was very tempting to stop here, nuke them with ketchup and just pop them in, piping hot as a snack. Maybe some other time. :)
The Gravy.
1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and allow the jeera to sputter once hot.
2. Add the green chillis and the ginger garlic paste to it after lowering the flame (so as to avoid them from sputtering and burning you), whilst stirring constantly.
3. Once the garlic has browned and ginger has cooked, add the onions and stir them in. Add sufficient salt to allow the onion to release its juices and cook well.
4. Once the onions are translucent add the tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir in well. You want the tomatoes to cook well and so let it cook for about 7 minutes while the pieces lose shape and the tomato lets the oil float up.
5. Add some water if the gravy is thickening too much. Now add the dry spices and stir well. Close the lid of the saucepan and allow it to simmer for a while.
6. After about 5 minutes of simmering, open the lid and add in the cream, give it a quick stir and turn off the gas.
Add the koftas to the gravy just before serving. This keeps their crunch intact.
IMG_6451 Pictured here with phulkas.
Serve with hot rotis/parathas/phulkas or good old steamed rice. It’s positively yummy and you won't regret the brief effort you put into it. So, all I have to say is Bon Appétit!

In case of emergency...

We've all heard of  tourists being robbed (not at gunpoint or anything like that) when they were unaware of their belongings under various circumstances. It could be on a commuter train where the getaway was easy (read this) or in an extremely crowded tourist spot, like the Eiffel Tower on New Year's eve. And until my friend here in Paris, NN lost all her belongings at a beach in Spain, the magnitude of the deed didn't strike me. I mean, while we all know we have to be careful with our things to the best possible extent, not too many of us are prepared for the worst-case-scenario where the thief succeeds. She for one, lost all her papers - her passport, her French residence permit, student IDs, etc., all her keys - home, office, hotel room, all her money - cash, ATM cards, credit/debit cards, her return tickets to France and her mobile phone (which means she had none of her contacts)-  all with her handbag which she had set down next to her for a second while taking a picture of the sunset on the beach. Yes, she shouldn't have set it down. But on a vast, open space of a beach, you think it's fairly unlikely for someone to swindle you of all your belongings in one millisecond. Yet it did happen. What then? Luckily for her, she was traveling with a friend who was able to buy their tickets back and with a police report, she didn't need emergency travel documents for within the Europe. And because of the friend and all their reservations and the common nature of touristic fraud, they weren't required to disprove any illegal entry. She was able to travel back here and in a quick act of non-bureaucracy, she was able to get most of her papers replaced under a week's time. Of course it cost her heavily, but nonetheless.

Which set me thinking. What if you were traveling alone and this happened? And the thought was truly scary. What if indeed all was lost and you were alone, penniless in a foreign country? Sure you could get to the hotel somehow and scarper the rest of your belongings and owe a fine on your credit card for the keys. But what about your way back? You'd probably have to call a friend (on hotel charge) and have them wire you some immediate money to some place known and what not. Everything, a far bigger hassle than you'd want to find yourself in. And not worth any trouble at all. So what do you do?

1. Do not carry your most important papers when you are out sightseeing. Most hotels have safe deposit boxes with locks, the keys of which you can carry. It's probably prudent to stow it away there on hotel property and risk it on their safety procedure than carry it with you in a bag and risk the million thieves out there out loose. Better yet, if possible stash it on the inner coat pocket or something similar which remains close to you at all times (unless you remove your jacket at a restaurant and hey presto, it's gone again). This includes your return tickets, and other things that you wouldn't immediately be using in your short outing of the place.
2. Money matters. Weird as it may sound, it's best to leave some cash (a couple of 100 bucks) taped to your passport (in which case we assume you keep your passport safe) or inside your toiletry /makeupkit or in an equally unlikely place as a backup. And again, maybe it's best to avoid bulky wallets and the likes, which are primary targets anyways.
3.Contacts. Emergency contacts are there for a reason. Like for health emergencies and for situations like this. Either carry their information on some part of your luggage or have them memorized. Or have them stowed away in your email which you can hopefully access freely enough, thanks to all the hotels now having atleast lobby-enabled free wifi.

None of these apply to youth hostels. If you are staying in youth hostels, it's best to travel light, carry all your terribly important things, which should be minimal, on your person.

Is there anything I missed out? Is there anything you'd handle differently? Other than hitch hike your way back into town? Voice up.

May 19, 2010

Protein powerhouse: Tofu parathas

As vegetarians in France, we have to grab the olive branch to any decent ingredient out there, which is out of the ordinary. And tofu is definitely one of those ingredients we are going to pick up only outside of India. I mean when paneer is so vastly available, who’s going to pick tofu? Well, not me. But I chanced upon this really fresh, home-made tofu supplied to us by our cafeteria manager lady (she is Vietnamese) and I took a kilo (that means you are likely to be receiving tofu recipes for a few days).  And so, I made a dish I’ve made many times in the past but have only been lazy to blog about – Tofu parathas.
Food 013 Pictured here with Aloo Matar.

The other reason I like making tofu parathas  is that I face the perpetual problem of making the really bland ingredient taste interesting. And I came up with a couple of recipes before. You can see them here. As for this recipe, because it’s so ordinary, I am not making any hue and cry of it.

Stated simply, knead in the tofu (about 300g) with your hands to about 2.5 cups of atta. Make a smooth dough, adding 1 tablespoon of oil, salt-to-taste, a pinch of turmeric powder, red chili powder and dhania-jeera powder and sufficient water to knead into a soft, non-sticky dough (similar to chapathi dough). Let it sit for about an hour and roll out like chapathis but tava-fry them like parathas (without exposing to the naked flame). And this is a particularly good dish because the blandness of the tofu is masked by the typical blandness associated with the savoury Indian bread varieties and the side-dish is what spices it up. Plus, all that protein! So, no waiting.. Bon Appétit!

PS: The Aloo Matar was truly divine. If anyone needs a recipe, holler!

The upsurge

Maybe most of you haven't had time to react to the proposal of change or the change itself on the blog. But it did work for me "hit-wise". 239 unique visitors yesterday! Yoo hoo.. Thanks and keep them coming!

May 18, 2010


Here goes nothing. Love it? Hate it? Indifferent? Give it sometime and let it grow on you. Thanks for the votes but I realized this was one of those things I wanted to do than consider it a burden.

Here's hoping the template has nothing to do with why you visit MindBlogging. Keep coming!

Should MindBlogging be remodelled?

Hello hello,

Having reaped the benefits of renovating this blog layout after some hard work for over a year, I've decided it needs to change. And this time I am going to go very plain jane and probably very ordinary. But before I make the massive switch, I'd like to poll you all.

And of course based on your responses, I am going to act on it and may take a hiatus from blogging accordingly. Thanks for voting!

May 16, 2010

Postcard from Luxembourg

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg isn’t “Grand” in the French sense (meaning big) at all. Rather it’s small, sweet and not over imposing at all. Makes it a simple destination for a weekend getaway. And that was just what it was… Here’s a postcard from the Chateâu of Viaden which boasted fabulous views of the valley below. Enjoy!


May 13, 2010

Indulgence: Channa Batthura

If you’re Indian, you’ve sure as hell had this delicious treat at any of the numerous chaat places strewn across our fabulous country or at one of the numerous Indian restaurants that fulfill our needs when we our out of the country. But if you’re not Indian, then you’ve missed out on something BIG if you’ve not had this yet. Ok, without further ado, presenting one of the titans of the Indian chaat world - Channa Batthura.
Ah… bliss.. Now instead of flaunting my own “skill”, let me give the credit for the batthura (the fluffy soft yet crisp Indian bread) to where it’s due. It was Vahchef’s recipe. As for the channa/chole, it was my own improvisation. And the combination is simply perfect. If you want to taste the channa for yourself, here’s what you need -
If using fresh, it needs to be soaked for about 6-8hrs or overnight. If using canned, use one small can (for 2-3 persons). Make sure to wash the chickpeas thoroughly in water (it’ll bubble and foam and you want the water to run clear after washing).
2 medium-large, finely chopped for the gravy and 1 small in ringlets for the side garnish.
Tomato paste
2 tablespoons
Green chilli
1 large, slit in 1” piece
Ginger garlic paste
Make afresh if possible totaling to 1 tablespoon or use the store-bought paste of the equivalent quantity.
Lemon juice
1 teaspoon
Channa masala
2 tablespoons
to taste
1 tablespoon
For seasoning
1/2 teaspoon jeera
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
A pinch of turmeric
For garnishing 1/4 piece of lemon, a few ringlets of fresh onion and a sprig of fresh coriander.
And how?
1. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the 1 tbsp of oil till it’s hot.
2. Sputter mustard seeds and jeera seeds in the hot oil. Lower the heat a little and add the ginger-garlic paste and green chillies. Keep stirring to avoid the burning of any ingredient.
3. Once the garlic turned golden brown and the ginger has cooked, add the onions. Allow them to bind with all the other ingredients and go ahead and add the required amount of salt to make sure that the onion releases its own juices.
4. Once the onions have become translucent bordering on browning, add the tomato paste. The tomatoes/tomato paste needs to cook very well such that it starts separating from the oil. The raw taste of tomatoes is awful so try to cook on a low flame for about 10-15 minutes with occasional stirring.
5. Add the channa masala to this mixture now. And that smell, that delightful wonderful smell is what makes the difference between an ordinary chickpea subji and the rocking channa masala. I attribute it to the amchur powder in it.
6. Stir in the masala and allow it to cook well. At this stage, you can add the chickpeas into the mixture and close the pan with a lid and allow it to cook well for about 10 minutes.
7. After about 10 minutes, check the subji for consistency. All the ingredients should be fairly dry and cling to the chickpeas. You can use your ladle to press down and crush a few of the chickpeas into a paste which adds to the consistency of the subji. Add the lemon juice and stir it in.
8. Finally, turn off the gas and garnish with coriander and serve the onions and lemon on the side.
Et voilà…
And like I said, the combination, one without the other is just wrong. So go ahead… make it a day of indulgence, make the batthura and enjoy this sumptous meal – channa batthura. Bon Appétit!!

May 9, 2010

Mum’s the word..

In honour of Mother’s Day, no matter how recently we started celebrating it in the form of gifts, ecards or otherwise, I am not going to crib about how the gift giving industry has commercialized every relationship we’ve ever had with cards, gifts and a “day” to celebrate. But this being one of the most significant relationships of all for all the fortunate people in the world, it’s special. And no word brings a glow as strong as the word “Mom”. Now, please decode into your respective languages or the respective ways you address your moms. Because to me, somehow, “Mom” signifies a person in a pristine white apron baking some goodies over the kitchen oven, thanks to the stereotypical representation in various contexts of the western world. So for me, it’s always been “Amma”. But, of course. And I am not here to belittle her accomplishments, her sacrifices and her irreplaceable role in my life by putting them into mere words. Instead I am going to keep it short and keep this as a dedication to all the Moms in the World.

Happy Mother’s Day! Love you, Amma.

May 3, 2010

Reverse psychology

While reverse psychology is potentially powerful, usually against kids or easy-to-change-their-minds adults, I've found it an impressive tool... against myself. Typically when I tell myself I can do something, I tend to slack at it and vice versa. And of course my theory is best tested against the joy of eating. You know how the moment you decide to go on a diet, there's an overpowering craving for usually something either fatty or chocolaty or ice-creamy? Exactly. It's like our heart's making a mockery of our brain. And worse, once you decide it's okay and try to quench the craving, you never stop where you should have. And before you know it, you're throwing an empty 500ml carton of Häagen-Dazs into the trash (not necessarily from the start, but certainly to the finish). 

These days I've told myself that I am allowed to eat everything. And the consequence? I've had cereal for lunch/dinner a few nights last week. Just like that. Because I actually like the cereal I have. Because I can eat anything, I prefer to eat normal. And I haven't bought ice cream or chocolates or desserts in 3 weeks. And I haven't fried anything other than 1-2 appalams some night. See? Reverse psychology can work. Sometimes.

The art of being polite..

Etiquette 101. Try to be polite as far as possible with people you meet on a regular basis.

Well, you're probably thinking that it's more like common sense than etiquette.. but believe me, some people neither know the difference nor have any regard for them. As a generation that has to deal with a variety of people, from colleagues to family to friends to strangers, we have a wide variety of social behavioral expectations bestowed upon us, whether we like it or not. And society judges us on not just how we treat our peers but also those superior or inferior to us. Somehow, the superiority takes care of itself...maybe because you’re trying to impress the people above you in professional/social standing, maybe it’s out of reverence, but mostly because you want to play it “safe”, many people end up treating their superiors better than they would, their peers. See with the peers, there is no telling who is better than whom and some people just cannot waste their precious breath in being civil around everyone else but would rather their snooty behavior do all the talking.

But let's be honest.. no one likes impolite people. And a little bit of niceness may go a long way in cementing something as unlikely as a work-level friendship even. And lets face it - the more number of trustworthy and in general nice people you have around you, the more likely they are to help you with something when you need it ; And of course the ball is set rolling only if you are a bit nice yourself. A pretty decent barter and really, what's to lose? Some sort of plant a tree.. save the environment -type motto. Be nice and you'll be treated nicely too. Ok.. that sounded better in my head, but you get the point.