Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Turner Classic Movies (TCM), an era when movie meant something...

The TCM (Turner Classic Movies) channel is really entertaining, love those endearing old movies... those awesome dresses, the pretty girls, the dapper looking men, the less action more story script, the clean and entertaining fun, and the captivating song and dance routines. They don't make movies like this anymore...

Calamity Jane (1953) : This is one cute movie, the leading lady Doris Day (Calamity Jane) is like one of those rough and tough men, she can shoot and ride a horse better than any man, she even gets into fights with them. And her dressing is atrocious, she looks like a mean hard working cowboy... the soiled clothes, boots and the hip holster thing, not to mention her dirty blonde hair... yeah, she's quite a sight. Her friend Howard Keel, the only man in town who can outshoot her and who is allowed to make fun of her is a nice level headed guy, he is the only one who tells her to act like a girl from time to time. Jane has the biggest crush on the lieutenant in town, but he is oblivious to it. Now a new singing sensation enters town and she befrinds Jane, and slowly the makeover begins... Jane starts wearing frocks and her face is clean and she looks lovely, and all the men start noticing her. But the one person she wants to be noticed by, the lieutenant... starts to like the singer friend and Jane is heart broken. Howard Keel consoles her and tells her that the officer guy wasn't good enough for her anyway, and then through her tears she sees who she has really been in love with all this time... her own best friend! I know, sounds mushy and corny, but I loved the movie... the songs are really nice, and Doris Day as the gun slinging, loud talking and horse riding protagonist is adorable. Here's a fun song from the movie, Jane and her friend Howard get into a small argument and the lyrics are funny...

The Impossible Years (1968) : This is a movie I saw long back on TCM and loved it, its bout a father dealing with his teenage daughters. The father, a renowned psychiatrist hates it when his eldest daughter who is 18 years old starts taking an active interest in boys. He freaks out when she wears a two piece bikini for a pool party or when she mingles with those new age hippies. One day she announces that she just got married, and the dad  goes about trying to find out who she married & starts suspecting a hippie bike rider. This enrages the dad but he eventually discovers that she married his trusted and clark kent look alike teaching assistant. The harried dad is kinda relived that his daughter has chosen wisely and marrried a respectable & sensible young fellow, so there he is toasting the new couple and pouring champagne, when in walks the impressionable younger daughter in a two piece swim suit with a guy following her like a puppy and this is how the movie ends with the dad going bonkers all over again bout his younger daughters growing interest in boys. Very entertaining movie...

Romeo and Juliet (1968) : This has got to be the best screen adaptaion of William Shakespear's most famous pair of star crossed lovers. I aboslutely loved it, Juliet (played by Olivia Hussey) was amazingly beautiful, so pretty and radiant... Romeo was okay (somehow guys that age looked kinda girlish). The clothes, the setting and everything was just perfect. Even though you know how it ends (shame on you, if you don't) you can't stop the tears from welling up towards the end. The great bard sure had a funny way of talking though, but if you pay attention to the words its easy to understand what the characters are saying. I sometimes wonder what Shakespeare is doing now, like is he hanging out with the angel of literature and writing plays in heaven?
Juliet on the balcony dreaming bout Romeo...
The Girl Downstairs (1938) : Stumbled upon this romantic comedy one Saturday afternoon while switching channels and it was a rare treat. I like these kind of clean, old fashioned movies... they are like those good old Mills and Boons novels. Paul Wagner a wealthy playboy is currently trying to date Rosalind, the daughter of a rich fat man who despises the sight of Paul. When all of Paul's efforts to meet Rosalind fails, he is forced to befriend Rosalind's illiterate scullery maid, Katrina. Katrina who knows Paul as just another driver, starts falling for him and it isn't long before Paul himself is quietly drawn to her kind, generous and innocent nature. Cute movie for a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Here they are, the playboy holding Rosalind... discovers true love in the maid, Katrina. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Apple Upside Down Cake

If you have some apples lying around, then go ahead and make this delicious cake. You'll love it!


Apples : about 3 to 4 medium sized ones
Maida  : 1 and a 1/2 cup
Baking Powder : 2 heaped Ts
Sugar : 1 and 1/4 cup
Butter : bout 80 gms
Milk : 1/2 cup 
Vanilla Essence : 1 Ts
Eggs : 1 No.

Peel and slice the apple into wedges. 

Heat 2 Tbs butter on low flame, add 1/2 cup granulated sugar & stir constantly with a wooden spoon...

Till the sugar melts and forms this light golden syrupy liquid...
Warning: As soon as the light golden syrupy liquid forms, drop in the apples immediately. Do not delay (like I did fiddling with the camera), otherwise the syrup will crystallize and form a sticky hard chunk like toffee, and its difficult to work with that. You have to dissolve it again and use it.

Drop in the apple wedges and mix it up, till the caramel coats the apple pieces.

Cover and cook till the apples release their juices and become tender and everything is one gooey golden sweet smelling mess.

Grease and flour your cake tray, then line the bottom of the tray with this apple caramel mixture.

In a bowl add maida, baking powder, salt and the remaining butter and sugar.

Add 1/2 cup milk and mix it up well, till you get a smooth batter...

This batter tastes awesome by the way... 

Add the vanilla essence and drop in the egg, then beat the mixture up again.

Pour the batter above the apple caramel mix and place the tray in the oven. Bake till the surface turns slightly brown and cracks... should take bout 30 to 40 minutes.

Isn't this nice.... evenly browned and cracked. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool down.

   Slowly run a knife round the edges of the pan and flip it onto a plate. Ta daaaa.... This gorgeous cake is so good, the caramelized apples melt in your mouth and for an even richer experience try eating this cake with vanilla ice cream... simply scrumptious! 

This cake is really good, I will definitely be making it again soon and I hope you will too. Have fun baking, eating and living.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Velankanni... also known as Lourdes of the East.

Somewhere in the 17th century, a few Portuguese merchants were caught in the midst of a raging cyclone near the coast of Bay of Bengal. Their ship got wrecked and they were starting to lose hope when they saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin holding her divine infant in her arms... they were astounded by this sudden appearance in the middle of the ocean and as they watched she guided them safely to dry land. These merchants landed in an obscure little place called Velankanni and they learnt that the Virgin Mary had appeared two more times in the same village during the 16th century, once to a crippled boy whom she cured and this other time to a Hindu brahmin boy who was resting near a pond with a pot of milk. She asked the Hindu kid a little milk for her son and the boy complied and today this place is called Our Lady's Pond. The Portuguese merchants then proceeded to erect a shrine to the Blessed Mother out of gratitude and  devotion,   they sculpted a statue of her in the image of the apparition and to this very day the statue holds a very sacred place in the Basilica. Legend has it that many decades ago during the church festival, while the faithful were carrying this statue of Mother Mary on a procession round the hamlet she suddenly disappeared... apparently the statue vanished into thin air and reappeared in the Basicila. The same thing happened next year and since then the statue has never been removed from the church. Millions of people visit Velankanni every year and Our Lady has been known to bestow her graces and miracles on the faithful. She is called Our Lady of Health cause she healed the crippled boy and people from all over the world go to her with various ailments and she cures them. The basilica itself is pretty awesome... here are a few pictures.

The church built near Our Lady's pond.
So it is a tradition in the family I married into to visit Velankanni once a year and I just returned last week. A whole lot of hindus and muslims visit the place and over time due to the conversion & intermingling of various faiths, a few customs get carried over... like the sacred yellow thread of the hindu faith, you find these tied at various places with a kerchief or a turmeric stub symbolising the need for a kid or a good spouse. People also carry coconut with a dash of red and yellow and some leaves as offertory...  
Hindu devotees who visit the shrine...
The yellow thread hanging from trees...
And branches...

And here she is taken on a procession (this is not the same statue sculpted by the Portuguese, but a replica) round the basicila and the faithful follow on either side praying the rosary... it was nice.

Well, that was my trip... and it was entertaining.

Faith can move mountains, but don't be surprised if God hands you a shovel.  Author Unknown

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shahi Chicken Kurma

Shahi means royal and Kurma refers to a dish prepared using either yogurt, cream, nuts or coconut milk. And this recipe is termed royal cause it makes use of most of the above ingredients... and it is truly worth all the effort. Its a typical north Indian dish and not something that can be made quickly... I make it when I want a change from the usual spicy curries that form the norm at my home.

First step, grind cashew nuts with ginger & garlic paste, cumin seeds and coriander powder.

Fry chopped onions along with cloves, cardamom and cinnamon till the onion turns translucent.

That's translucent enough... (I like that word, translucent)

Now add the ground cashew nut paste, chillie powder and the washed chicken pieces.

Mix it up well and fry for a few minutes...

Now add whisked yogurt, bout half a cup and mix it up well. Then add appropriate quantity of water, salt and pressure cook till the meat is tender (bout three whistles time).

Now add a little coconut milk, bout one third a cup and boil the curry...

Add raisins towards the end and boil till the curry thickens a bit... till you get the desired consistency. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve...

There you go, this delightfully rich and luxuriant curry is ready to be devoured... goes well with chappathi and roti. This dish has got a certain distinctive flair... the sweetness and creaminess caused by the raisins and the yogurt is in a way gratifying. So have fun cooking, eating and living.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Never ending love for Sherlock and nature....

There's a new man in my life and his name is Benedict Cumberbatch... he's the new Sherlock Holmes, and I can't get enough of him. There's this new BBC series called 'Sherlock' and its truly awesome, if you revere the guy like I do... this is the best screen adaptation you'll ever find. Here Sherlock played to the hilt by Benedict Cumberbatch is accompanied by a very able Dr. Watson (played by Martin Freeman) and they go about solving crimes in modern day England. Man! I love this show... the creators have portrayed Sherlock exactly the way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has described in the book. He has amazing powers of deduction, he knows he is amazing and he keeps reminding others bout it, he gets bored when there's no case to solve, he uses the homeless network to get information, he does weird things like placing a head in the fridge to study the coagulation of saliva (hilarious), he doesn't waste time with women cause they would hamper his powers of reasoning, he's a master of disguise... he's just the greatest literary character every created. 
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson at their residence 221 B Baker street...
I like the way they first introduce Sherlock Holmes at the press meeting, the way he sends those text messages to the reporters... cracked me up. Dr. Watson is pretty entertaining too, he's rather young... always ready for an adventure. Mycroft (Sherlock's brother, the only other person who is as smart as Sherlock and sometimes smarter too) is funny, apparently he is one of the creators of the show. But Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes is spell binding... I like his dapper look and his expressions when he pisses off people. One cool show, the best I've seen in a long long time... thanks to Megha my cousin who first told me bout this insanely captivating show.

What else, my place has this 'No Plastic Bag' rule, and I have been a huge follower of this rule ever since I started falling in love with Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin... these environmental conservationists have touched me with their passion, enthusiasm and unwavering love for nature and I try to do my part in protecting our beautiful planet from the filth of mankind. Of course, it would be a lot easier if the whole world followed suit and did the same...  Anyway, getting back to the plastic bag ban, cause of this new rule my place has come up with these really pretty colorful cloth bags... you see people walking around with them and its nice. The place is also so much cleaner and the people have become slightly environmental conscious too. Isn't that something... 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese...

So people have been telling me to start a food blog, my sister's (Nameeta) team at work were even discussing it during one of their meetings... how cool is that. Well, here I am with my very first recipe post and I hope you all enjoy the food that is gonna turn up here regularly.  

Macaroni and Cheese
This is some major comfort food, its easy to make, you can't really go wrong and it never goes to waste. So let's begin... 

Boil your macaroni till it is just right (don't overcook it) and drain it in a colander.

Heat bout 2 to 3 Tbs of butter on low flame.
Drop in a heaped Tbs of flour (maida) and keep stirring.
Add a cup and a half of milk, and keep stirring so that no lumps are formed. You gotta work fast here on low flame, cause the sauce thickens quickly. This sauce with a pinch of salt and pepper is what you call a basic white sauce. 
Remove the vessel from the flame and drop in bout half a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. The cheese will melt in the heat of the sauce.
Once the cheese has melted, add salt, pepper and oregano. 
I had some ham and salami at home, so I chopped them up and added them to the cheesy sauce.
Place the drained macaroni in your baking dish.
Add the cheesy white sauce to the macaroni, just pour it in...

Stir the whole thing, we want the sauce to cover everything.... so mix it all up a few times.
Sprinkle grated cheddar cheese over the dish before sticking it into the oven.  See, I was lazy and just tore off a few pieces and placed them here and there, don't do that... please. We want a nice even baked look.
Settle down near the oven with your book while you wait...
Remove the dish from the oven once it gets that nicely browned look, this should take bout 10 to 20 minutes. You can start digging in, you will enjoy every morsel of this... trust me.

You can stick it in the fridge and heat it up the next day, it tastes just as good. I haven't given any exact measurement, cause I really don't know how to... its all about the feel, use whatever amount feels right to you. Enjoy cooking and eating and living.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

My Detox center

A trip home is like a soothing balm that eases the flakes of corrugated dust that settles on the soul after months of living in a place congested with people, vehicles and the smoke produced by these too. I can never get used to living in a city, at least an organized city can grow on you... but a city bustling to the seams with people and vehicles, not to mention the pollution that follows is enough to make someone like me go into a funk. (yeah, heard this word on Glee). Here's why...
See, that expanse of green fields and the clear air above it... isn't that soothing. Well, these fields and the western ghats near by keep my place clean and pretty. I don't have to walk around like a snob there, but in the city you'll always see me with a clean white handkerchief pressed to my face, partly suffocating partly breathing. You can't take a leisurely stroll in the city, you can't go out just because, you can't just saunter over to a friend's place.... its the small stuff like this that I miss. And that's why I wait for these trips back home... its like detox.

Went to Santhi Nilayam (the special school I used to work in) after so many months and it was overwhelming, those kids who used to hug you and climb onto your lap have suddenly grown up. Gone is that mischevious little grin, those little eyes sparkling with unbridled enthusiasm, those spry little bodies that used to dart in and out of classrooms... instead there was the faintest sign of whiskers accompanied by deep gruff voices. And I was filled with a momentary pang of loss entwined with happiness for the way time has changed these little friends of mine. 

Visited the chapel of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at Bishop's house (this huge place that the Bishop resides in, it has a school, a seminary, a convent, and huge acres of plantation crops) and its the most peaceful place of worship I've ever seen. There is absolute stillness here and the nuns live in constant prayer and silence, their communication with the outside world is limited. They are called the cloistered nuns, they live a secluded life. This congregation of nuns pray solely for mankind and for all the problems that are out there in the world, most importantly world peace. This is their whole life, prayer and silence... they make their living by preparing the host that is distributed at communion, they grow their own crops and live on what others donate to the convent. Theirs is a very simple and humble existence... am in awe of them.
The Chapel
Inside the chapel...