Thursday, March 28, 2013

An enchanting hour at a book fair...

Visited a book fair today and it was wonderful poking through second hand worn out books. They belonged to some library, so there were quite a lot of romance novels; the Mills & Boons and Silhouette types to Barbara Cartland and Nora Roberts. Then there were the usual Danielle Steel and Jude Deveraux books that usually span centuries. The staple teenage fodder was there too: The Hardy Boys ( I used to love the Hardy Boys, had a huge crush on Frank Hardy, growing up), Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High and R.L. Stine. Saw some Archie comics lying around... the others were just the usual Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Harold Robbins and James Hardley Chase. Surprisingly I didn't see any John Grisham or Crichton or Cook. There were a few Maeve Binchy's, Patricia Cornwell and Jeffrey Deavere's too. I saw an A.J. Cronin book and my heart skipped a beat, I've been in love with him since I read his autobiography. Then picked up a Maeve Binchy and a few other random books because the outline at the back seemed promising.
Rows of books crammed into shelves and most of them were Mills and Boons... picked up a few for a friend. Was reminded of my favourite place, The Owen Trust Library, a library I used to frequent back home, where sunshine and angel dust lingered on the books and lent the place a magical glow. This book fair was quite small, probably bout eight shelves packed with books, and hardly any folks around. The place can be difficult to spot too, no banners out front and a nondescript building that seemed a bit shady from the entrance.
Purchased ten books for a mere two hundred rupees. Anything with a remotely legal term on it was duly picked up, as you can see from 'The Juror', I hope it's interesting. If you are in Madras and would like to visit this fair,  do check this link to know more bout the venue and details regarding the book fair.

P.S: Thanks CBC (Chennai Bloggers Club) for bringing this book fair to my notice...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jeffrey Archer...

So Jeffrey Archer was in town recently and I went to see him at one of the Landmark outlets. I am not that into him, I've read only two of his books: 'Kane and Abel' and 'Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less' and both of them were lent by friends. While I remember thinking Kane and Abel was nice, I loved Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less... only a very brilliant mind could have weaved such an enticing and hilarious story. I've never read any of his other books, I guess it was because most of his characters seem to resemble their creator, in the sense that it is not hard to imagine Archer being convicted of whatever he was convicted of, because his characters are unscrupulous like that. Jeffrey Archer is in the midst of penning down his Clifton Chronicles, and as he admitted at the meet, these series are more or less autobiographical in nature. I think he was here to launch the third book in the Clifton Chronicles, and the crowd seemed to love him. He enthralled the audience with his wit and humour, age is no barrier for this man, he exuded a zestful charm and his enthusiasm was contagious. I got a book signed by him... I wish he had used a blue pen though, can't really make out the difference.
Okay John Grisham and Harlan Coben, time for you guys to come to India...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bailey's Irish Cream Brownies

I had a little Bailey's lying around, so decide to make some Irish cream brownies. These were really good, not too dense like brownies not too light like cake, it was in between, and I loved them.

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate chips
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup Bailey's Irish cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Getting started heat the butter in a saucepan and while it starts melting...
Drop in the beautiful chocolate chips...
And stir them around till they dissolve... this is paradise in a saucepan. 
Remove from heat and keep it aside to cool down a bit.
Now, sieve the all purpose flour (which is basically maida and baking powder) and baking soda into a container. Add the salt too.
Drop in the cocoa powder...
Now add the coffee powder...
Close the container, and give the whole thing a nice shake. This is the easy way to mix dry ingredients, just take everything in a container with a lid and then vigorously shake it so everything forms a coherent mix.
Now that the chocolate has cooled down, pour the contents into a bigger mixing bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
Add the sugar... and give it a mix.
The vanilla essence goes in next...
This is the Bailey's that was lying around... drink some as you bake.
Measure 1/3 cup...  
Add it to the bowl and beat again. 
At this point, stop using any electric beater and stick to folding the flour in with a spoon. Add batches of flour and gently fold it into the mixture. Now would be a good time to light the oven too, once the batter is ready.
Grease and flour a cake pan...
Pour the batter into the pan and stick it in the oven till...
A knife or a toothpick inserted comes out with little clumps of the brownie sticking to it.
Here they are, just out of the oven...
Check them out... a nice squishy and dense interior coupled with a flaky crust.
Store them in an airtight container... these were wonderful. I loved the taste of bailey's with each bite...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cumin and Coriander rice...

This is quite beautiful and stunning in its simplicity and ease of preparation. When I am held up with work or am loathe to stand in a hot kitchen, this is the lunch I invariably end up making. With a couple of masala coated eggs (which can also be cooked up in a jiffy) this is the best way to live. I hate all the coconut scraping and the grinding and the avial /theyil/ poriyal drama. 

Anyway, first wash and soak your rice. Measure the quantity of rice, you'll have to add double the quantity of water later on while cooking. 
Wash and grind a whole bunch of coriander leaves...

Now heat some oil in a pressure cooker, add some jeera / cumin seeds, a little garam masala powder and mix it around. Then add the coriander leaves paste, saute a few minutes.
Add double the quantity of water to this green masala...
Take a cube of vegetable or chicken stock in the spoon... 
Take a little of the warm water from below and using a knife, break it down...
until it disintegrates, then drop it in and mix the whole thing.
Now drain the rice and add it here... add a little salt. The vegetable stock is already salty by nature, so taste and add appropriate quantity of salt.
There is this man who comes around selling awesome home made ghee, it looks like liquid gold when he mixes it and pours it into the container, smells wonderful too.
Some of the awesome ghee goes in and then you can pressure cook it, on high flame for one whistle. Then lower the flame all the way to its lowest level and let it cook for 5 minutes after which you switch off the stove and allow the steam to escape by itself. 
There the coriander and cumin rice is all ready, garnish with a few sprigs of freshly chopped coriander leaves...
And these are the masala coated eggs that go so well with the rice.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tender Tuesday

This was taken by a cousin in The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. She perfectly encapsulates tenderness in its most human form, if only we could love or serve others half as much as she did, the peace that emanated from her could fill us and overflow the world. Click on the picture for a larger view. 

This post is part of a themed series organised by CBC (Chennai Bloggers Club) to celebrate and encourage the spirit of blogging. 

P.S: Thanks for the picture Zak.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

WhatsApping... with the cousins.

So we (me, siblings and the cousins from different parts of the globe) have taken to watching/witnessing most world events together while having crazy discussions on whatsapp. That was how we watched the Oscars and last night the discussions turned even crazier as we waited for the pope to be revealed. When my sister alerted the group with a message saying 'White smoke!', a cousin replied 'are you sure it's not coming from your pressure cooker?' After that it was non stop banter for more than a hour; when we started to get tired of waiting, another cousin quipped 'maybe he already resigned.' And somebody else was like 'Taylor Swift is probably penning down another song about how disappointed she is, because she has to wait so long.' So anyway, the Holy Father finally arrived and all the wait was worth it... he seems like a humble and gentle soul. I like his name, Jorge Bergoglio. So here's wishing and hoping that you do a great job, Pope Francis, and that you bring people closer to God instead of alienating them. Give the homosexuals a chance, nobody chooses to become one and advocate the use of contraceptives and castrate the paedophilic clergy who prey on innocent children.

A snippet of conversation from yesterday's discussion...
M: Man, I hope neither of the Indians get voted as popes
S:   Yeah. It will be too much. The govt. won't know what it actually means,
give them Arjuna award.
M:  hahaha. They will also give them some money to show their gratitude for
      winning an election. 

Coming back to our Oscar discussions, a cousin was of the opinion that Adele's singing could give anyone orgasms, and we were pissed off when no one stood up to applaud her. Which led another cousin to say, 'maybe they were all orgasm-ing.' When Anne Hathaway (who we find extremely annoying) won, another cousin quipped 'poor Hugh Jackman had to hug her.' When Kristen Stewart appeared limping on stage, somebody said, 'she must have tried some new position with her current director.' I thought the best part about the oscars was Seth MacFarlane, I haven't heard of the guy before but he was pretty funny. I hated his movie Ted, it was really disgusting, filled with crass humour. I was of the opinion that only Neil Patrick Harris could do a great hosting job, you've got to watch the Tony Awards to know what I mean. I think it's the only award show worth watching, the Broadway performances are entertaining and Neil Patrick outdoes himself every time he hosts it. Seth did a pretty good job himself, he kept the laughs coming and though many did not seem to understand or get his jokes, I think they were pretty honest and harmless.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Game of Thrones (An Assault to the Senses)....

The past few weeks have been traumatizing and Games of Thrones is partly to blame for that. I started reading the book and watching the show recently, and I can't say which I hate more. Let's start with the book, the author, George R. R. Martin, seems to have written the book in some drunken stupor and all his sick, lurid not to mention porn-ish fantasies have been given free rein here. There are too many plot lines, and too many deaths... each time you really start to like a character and BHAM! he is killed immediately. What is that, you kill off all the main characters and let the dregs of society dictate the rest of the book. When Ned Stark dies I was like what the... heck, he was the only person with integrity and values and you kill him off and let his family flounder. And I was so hoping Ned Start would tell Jon Snow, who his mother was... was hoping for another beautiful love story there. I don't know if that ever materializes, I read only the first book 'Game of Thrones' in this series. The book has more plots than a cemetery, was difficult to keep up with the author's nonsense. The Khal Drogo bit was intriguing, so was the part about the dragons. But inevitably the Khal Drogo goes to the night lands and Rob Stark dies too... why is that, why can't Cersei or her son die? And this author has something against brothers and sisters, he makes them incestuous. Ughhhh, I shuddered when I read that... to keep the bloodline pure, they breed within themselves. 

Okay coming to the HBO series, it's more graphic and sick than you imagined while reading the book. First, I hate that they brutally beheaded a horse, I almost flinched... got online at once to see if any animals were harmed during the making of this series. Next, I hated that scene where a grown up spoilt brat suckles on his mother's breast, it was the creepiest scene ever. I had to scrub my eyes with soap after that. The killing is rather macabre and sickening, and the make out scenes are quite graphic and disgusting. Everybody is either busy killing or doing it. I can't understand why such a terrible book was selected to be made into a series, and I can't understand how this demeaning and highly unwatcahble series seems to be winning awards and making a name for itself. I say unwatchable because after the beheading of the horse in episode five, I couldn't watch the show... dragged through it to watch the bearable parts of the Khaleesi, Jon Snow and Brandon Stark. The only actor worth watching is Jon Snow, he's cute with his curly black mane and his affection towards his Stark brothers and sisters. But otherwise the whole thing is just a mess, not worth watching or reading.
This is Jon Snow (Moon of my life... hahhhaha)
Okay, fans of 'A Song of Ice and Fire' and the television series 'Game of Thrones', don't be sending me hate mails... I'll have no time to read them, cause I'll be busy watching Downton Abbey. No, I'm kidding... I don't like Downton Abbey either, it's a never ending saga, kinda like a Danielle Steel book.