Spoons & Sneakers https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com Dipali Bhasin Tue, 13 Nov 2018 05:30:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 138693097 Are we smelling, touching and listening to food? – The Food Senses https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/2018/11/12/are-we-smelling-touching-and-listening-to-food-the-food-senses/ https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/2018/11/12/are-we-smelling-touching-and-listening-to-food-the-food-senses/#comments Mon, 12 Nov 2018 22:35:53 +0000 https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/?p=2677 It was not very long ago when the sabzis that came to our house were picked up only from the vegetable vendors. Every morning, in their sing-song style they would yell out the names of the fresh produce they carried in their cart. It was a usual sight to see the ladies rush out to buy the vegetables and fruits as soon as they heard the familiar voice of the sabzi wallahs. As a kid, I would hold my grandmother’s hand and walk with her to the vegetable market in Shivalaya, Kanpur. I loved the pandemonium in the sabzi mandi. Piles of newly harvested vegetables lay on jute sheets and the vendors beckoned the buyers in maddening, loud noises. I still remember the splash of water on the fresh greens, the picking and poking of vegetables to see their freshness, the haggling of prices and the handfuls of fresh dhaniya and hari mirch that were thrown in with every purchase. Once home, the fresh vegetables were chopped and cooked in pure ghee. The garam masala powder was never bought readymade. In our house, small batches were freshly made. Both Mom and Nani never believed in making huge batches because spices lose their flavours when kept for long.

Buy fresh vegetables. Touch, smell and listen to food.

In those days, everyone was aware of the food senses and the importance of smelling, touching and listening to food. A lot has changed in the last couple of decades. The emergence of supermarkets has led to customers buying fruits, meats and vegetables already picked, packaged and sealed. Convenience has taken precedence in our lives and in this jet-paced age “online” has become an answer to all our needs. Many websites offer a free delivery service and in a click of a button, the virtual cart is filled with readymade sauces, masalas, curd, jams, meats, vegetables and fruits while you sit in the comfort of your plush chair. In a few hours, the shopping is delivered home in clean, plastic film packaging.

When is the last time you sniffed a melon to gauge its sweetness? Do you hold the brinjal in your hand while buying to check if it’s heavy or light? Incidentally, light-weighted round brinjals are excellent for making baigan ka bharta because they hold fewer seeds. Green leafy vegetables, herbs and fruits are fragrant but sealed, their fragrance hardly reaches us. Without realising it, we are gradually shifting towards a sensory disconnect. Hidden inside the packaging, we are neither smelling nor touching food.

It’s important to feed all the senses while eating food.

“The more you are conscious of each of your senses…the more intensely you will enjoy eating,” says British food writer Sybil Kapoor in his latest cookbook called ” Sight Smell Touch Taste Sound: A New Way to Cook.” Any chef in the world will tell you about the importance of smell, sound and touch in cooking. The woody scent of cinnamon brings back memories of warm cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate and a pantry loaded with baked goodies. Rice would never be a biryani without the aromatic bouquet garni nor would a cheese platter be complete without the stinky, smelly blue cheese.

When you touch your food with your hands, a physical and spiritual connection occurs with it. Your attention is rooted in the present and an awareness is created. When food is touched with the hands, there’s automatically more attention given to it. According to Ayurveda, our bodies are in consonance with the elements of nature and each finger is an extension of the five elements of space, air, fire, water and earth. When we use our hands it enhances our consciousness of the food we eat.

How does food sound? The snap of a carrot, the crunch of an apple, the crispness of bacon in BLT and the fizz from the chilled soda influence our perception of how delicious food tastes. The crackle of desi ghee tadka atop hot dal or the sizzling sound of steak as it reaches the table only whets the appetite. Let’s face it, a steak without a sizzle would just kill the dish. Sound, like the other four senses, plays a vital role in our experiences with food. Drowning these sounds while watching television or listening to music with the earphones reduces the pleasure of eating.

The sizzle of a steak whets the appetite even more.

Lack of mindful eating is perhaps also the reason why people overeat. We are not looking, listening or smelling the food we eat. We have come a long way from families sitting and eating together to a solo robotic pattern of eating in front of the idiot box where there is a disconnect from our food. We are losing our ability to use our senses and relying more on the expiration labels to tell us when food has gone stale. It’s time to switch on all the senses and amplify the pleasure of eating meals to the fullest. Avoid distractions while eating. Savour every bite you take. Soak in the flavours, the aromas, the colours and the taste. Touch food. Don’t just eat food. Focus and feed all your senses when you interact with it.

Do you feel the paradigm shift from personal grocery shopping to online vegetable shopping is affecting our eating patterns and unknowingly reducing our pleasure from food?

 

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A Fusion Diwali Dessert – Gulab Jamun Parfait https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/recipe/a-fusion-diwali-dessert-gulab-jamun-parfait/ https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/recipe/a-fusion-diwali-dessert-gulab-jamun-parfait/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2018 19:43:49 +0000 https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/?post_type=recipe&p=2660 Diwali, the festival of lights is one that is most celebrated in the whole of India and it is during this time that the halwais work arduously to make fresh batches of mithai to meet the demands of the customers. Sweets and gifts are exchanged much before the auspicious day and a variety of sweets fill up every home.

If there is one sweet that finds a place in our household every Diwali it is Gulab Jamun. Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I love GJ’s. Yeah! that’s how I like to call these melt in the mouth, sugar soused deep-fried balls. Whether the Central Asian Turkic invaders brought Gulab Jamuns to India or it was a delicacy made due to a faux pas in the kitchens of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan is a debate that may carry on for years but for me each time I take a bite, there’s only heartfelt gratitude – gratitude that the delectable dessert exists and didn’t get lost in the pages of culinary history.

The world of today is closing in. Not only are people mixing with each other but there’s a fusion in every aspect of life be it music, art, food or fashion. People are more experimentative and ready to try a medley of things. The term “fusion” is now being heard more than ever before –  Sushi pizzas, Pad Thai Tacos, Vodka Golgappas, Apple Jalebi, Peach Phirni and more. Chefs, cooks, homemakers are on a gala spree, pairing unusual ingredients and taking creativity a notch higher. So when I received a bouquet of roses along with a box of Gulab Jamuns, I thought it was time to get experimental.

The pairing of Gulab Jamun with Vanilla Ice cream or Rabri is ideal. However, I felt the need to make something different. I browsed through the internet and came to a recipe of Gulab Jamun Dessert Parfait by Molly. It seemed a great idea. Cream, greek yoghurt, saffron, honey, Gulab Jamuns and a few pistachios were all assembled and within a few minutes, I had a creamy parfait with the layers of whipped cream – yoghurt, slices of Gulab Jamun and a sprinkle of saffron milk. I followed her recipe to the hilt. Even though she gives the option of eliminating cream and only using the yoghurt, I found whipping the cream not only adds fluff to the dessert but blends beautifully with the Greek Yoghurt dulling its tanginess in the process. I like my parfait with the cream.

This recipe pairs Gulab Jamun in an innovative manner. It’s simple to make and is ready in no time. I like the swirl of saffron on top and the garnish of pistachios. The colours remind me of marigolds that we use to decorate the houses on Diwali. The dessert is perfect for the festive season and when served individually in bowls is non-fussy. Every spoonful reveals layers of creaminess from the yoghurt with the sponginess of the Gulab Jamuns while the honeyed saffron milk seals the parfait with an Indian touch. The Gulab Jamun Parfait is a must-try dessert this Diwali!

 

 

 

Gulab jamun parfait
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, whisk the cream and yoghurt together.
  2. Add water, milk and saffron and bring to a boil. Tuen off the burner and let it cool.
  3. Once the milk mixture is cool, add honey and stir till it bends well.
  4. Cut 6 Gulab Jamuns in thin slices and the rest in quartes.
  5. Begin the assembling process. In a serving bowl, add 2 tbsp of the yoghurt cream mix.
  6. Layer the slices of Gulab Jamun over it. Spread another tablespoon of yoghurt over it.
  7. Spread the saffron-honeyed milk over it.
  8. Add 2 tablespoon of the yoghurt mix and finally decorate with the quartered gulab jamuns and saffron milk.
  9. Finally garnish with chopped pistachios.
  10. Once the assembling has been done, please put it for at least 30 mnutes in the fridge to set well.
  11. Serve cold.
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Halloween Special – Slimy Pink Worms in Biscuit Soil https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/recipe/halloween-special-slimy-pink-worms-in-biscuit-soil/ https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/recipe/halloween-special-slimy-pink-worms-in-biscuit-soil/#comments Tue, 30 Oct 2018 00:22:53 +0000 https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/?post_type=recipe&p=2634
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 “Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add there to a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.”

–  Act IV Scene I, The Tragedy of Macbeth

If I have to identify Halloween with a passage it would be The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act IV Scene I, where the three witches circle a cauldron, mixing in a variety of grotesque ingredients while chanting together.

Slimy Pink Jelly Worms In Biscuit Soil

It was up in the hills of Kalimpong, that my younger sister Nitika and I, first got acquainted with Shakespeare as well as Halloween. Once Sandy our elder sister reached senior school, “The tragedy of Macbeth” was part of her syllabus. She was fascinated by the Shakespearean language and would go into her own theatrical delivery of dialogues from the book. Nitika and I watched in fascination, a bit amused by her drama and a tad baffled because the language made no sense to us. One evening, Sandy excitedly spoke about Halloween. There were no stories given about the origin of Halloween. She had heard about how it was celebrated from her friends and shared with us, “People dress up as witches and ghosts and anything that’s gross, slimy or scary becomes a part of it.” she told us. “Let’s dress up as witches, girls, just like the three witches of Macbeth.”

The mud is created by using finely ground Oreo biscuits.

In that far away, huge house on the hill, we only had the Ghosh family and their daughter Sanjukta as our neighbours. As a result, we had to depend on each other for companionship. Once back from school, we used to spend a lot of time climbing trees and plucking guavas from the trees that lined our pathway. Sandy was a voracious reader and loved Enid Blyton books. Along with Sanjukta, she had formed the “Adventurous Four” group where every Sunday we four would meet in a shoddy shed and try to solve imaginary mysteries. Honestly, Nitika and I hardly knew what was happening but we played along with the other two senior girls. There was no internet those days and hardly any television to watch since the reception was awful. Yet, we never got bored. There was something exciting to do every day,  Sometimes it was Mom’s cooking classes, dancing on disco numbers or listening to Sandy as she narrated the story from a book she had just finished reading.

That day it was the Halloween party. Mom joined in the madness. She made each one of us a typical witch hat with a conical crown and wide brim and dressed us up like Mori girls in loose dresses, vintage prints and accessories. We sat around the dining table and made a list of things that we would cook in our respective “cauldron” or dishes. With a “Spooktacular” menu in mind, a whole range of ingredients was lined up on the table and given sinister names. Toffees as rat’s droppings, cherry juice as dragon blood, vanilla ice cream as candle wax, witches blood for ketchup, phoenix tears for sugar and so on. Imagination was used to give names and create fantastic dishes. We made Monster Sandwiches, Giants Nail Dirt with Caramelized Popcorn, and Cat’s Booger which were slimy, sluggish pink jelly worms served on a bed of biscuit soil. By the time dad returned from his office, the three witches were ready with the table full of dishes with eerie names. Needless to say, the Halloween party was such a hit and mom and dad enjoyed it just as much.

Make sure the straws are pulled to their full length. Hold them together with a rubber band making sure the bendable neck portion is inside the jar.

Place the straws in a jar that can hold up to 4 cups of liquid.

As October 31st is a couple of days away, I decided to make the jelly worms in biscuit soil once again. I found a recipe on www.delish.com It is extremely simple though a bit tricky. The tricky part is pouring the jelly mix into the bunch of straws that are used to create the jelly worms. Please make sure that the straws used are expanded to full length and the bendable neck part of the straws are below in the jar.  It is important that the base of the straws touch the jar in which they are placed. While pouring the liquid do not worry if you see the liquid filling up the jar. It is bound to happen but there will be enough liquid in the straws to produce the worms. The end result is spectacular and looks just the same as what Mom used to make. The pink worms appear slimy and if a couple is rolled in the mud they look even more real. This Halloween, do give this recipe a try. Trust me, the little “witches and monsters” at home will not be disappointed.

Hope you all have a very Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

Halloween Special - Slimy Pink Worms in Biscuit Soil
Prep Time20 minutes
Passive Time21/2 hours
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Add Strawberry Jell-O and gelatine powder in a pan. Pour hot water into it and stir till the grains dissolve. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  2. Stretch all the straws to their full length and stand them inside a big jar that can hold at least 4 cups of liquid. If the straws fall to the side collect them and hold them together with a rubber band. It's important to note that the bendable part of the neck is facing down and touching the bottom of the jar.
  3. Take out the jelly from the refrigerator while still warm and add the double/heavy cream. Stir well. The consistency will be watery.
  4. Gently pour the jello liquid into all the straws. Do not worry if the jello starts to seep into the container levelling up. If the straws are tightly fitted in and flush at the bottom, the liquid will still fill into the straws.
  5. Place the whole jar with the straws into the refrigerator gently and let it set for about 2 hours.
  6. In the meanwhile, remove the cream from the oreo biscuits. Once done, put the biscuits in a grinder till its fine ground. Spread it on a serving platter. This becomes the "soil" for the worms.
  7. After two hours take out the straws from the fridge. Gently extract each straw from the jar. It's a bit of a messy affair. Holding the top of the straw tightly with one thumb and forefinger, use the other thumb and forefinger to tightly apply pressure down the entire length of the straw thereby propelling the jiggly little worm from the straw and onto the serving platter.
  8. Sqeeze and spread out the remaining jelly worms onto the platter at different places. The slimy jelly worms in oreo "soil" is ready to be eaten.
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Smoky Eggplant In Yoghurt – A Raita with a Twist https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/recipe/smoky-eggplant-in-yoghurt-a-raita-with-a-twist/ https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/recipe/smoky-eggplant-in-yoghurt-a-raita-with-a-twist/#respond Wed, 24 Oct 2018 13:34:50 +0000 https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/?post_type=recipe&p=2617 If there was one vegetable that was not a favourite in my childhood, it was Baigan (Brinjal/ Eggplant/ Aubergine). There were mainly three ways Mom would make the vegetable and it depended on the size of the brinjal.- Baigan ka Bharta for the fuller, round variety, Baigan – aloo with the slender, long brinjals and the chatpate baigan, the smaller variety that made use of jaggery and tamarind pulp in its recipe. Of the three the last one was bearable but still, it did nothing to appease my taste buds. Then one fine day, someone mentioned that it’s the most “useless” of vegetables since it had no benefits. It is, for this reason, its called “Baigan” or “Bin Gun” (without any good qualities).

Why was the world eating eggplant then? Is it really without any good nutritional value?

A Bengali without Begun Bhaja is pretty much akin to the Bengali cuisine without fish. Sliced in roundels and lavishly dusted with spices, shallow fried and served as a perfect side dish it makes the meal complete. Ratatouille, the French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, uses Brinjal as a necessary ingredient while one can play around with a few other ingredients. The Arabs love their Baba Ganoush which is pureed roasted aubergine with garlic and tahini. The word besides being a joy to pronounce is absolutely marvellous as a side dish or appetiser. As the story goes, it originated in the royal harem and means a “pampered daddy.” The pampered Sultans surely must have loved the dish and so the popularity of the dish goes to them.

Brinjal is actually a botanical fruit since it has seeds in it. However, its cooked and eaten as a vegetable. It is extremely nutritious and is very effective in the treatment of obesity, hypertension, acne, and hair loss. It is now being recognised as a dietary solution to Type II Diabetes in its early stages because of its high fibre and low soluble carbohydrate content. The fruit is rich in Vitamins A and B.

In my journey from a young kid to an adult and in my travels far and near, I gradually developed a taste for it. I enjoy its versatility in different cuisines. And though I have enjoyed it as an appetiser, a side dish and the main dish, I have rarely had it as a raita. The first time I ever tasted it in yoghurt was for a pop-up event where thin slices of it were deep fried and added to tempered yoghurt. I loved its smokey taste mingling with the smoothness of the curd. Once back home, I tried my own version of Baigan Raita. The taste is very different from anything I had eaten earlier and it is the best baigan raita recipe. After roasting the brinjal on the burner I peel it and use my clean, bare hands to mash it. An add-on of basic ingredients and a few spoons of curd makes it one of the dishes that is repeated often at home. Our friends love it too and I have shared this recipe often. The other day Mom mentioned that a similar recipe is made in Maharashtra. Do let me know if there is a dish that is made in a similar procedure anywhere else?

Pin this recipe:

smoky eggplant raita baigan

 

 

 

Smoky Eggplant In Yoghurt - A Raita with a Twist
Instructions
  1. Roast the brinjal on an open flame until the skin chars and gives a smoky flavour. Peel it once cool.
  2. Mash brinjal well with bare hands.
  3. Add the jeera powder, salt, chopped onions, and green chillies.Keep aside some coriander for garnishing. Add rest to the brinjal.
  4. Finally add the curd and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  5. Garnish with remaining coriander and chillies. Serve cold.
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A Must – Have Recipe On Ashtami : Sookhe Kale Chane (Dried Black Chickpeas) https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/recipe/a-must-have-recipe-on-ashtami-sookhe-kale-chane-dried-black-chickpeas/ https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/recipe/a-must-have-recipe-on-ashtami-sookhe-kale-chane-dried-black-chickpeas/#comments Wed, 17 Oct 2018 16:06:13 +0000 https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/?post_type=recipe&p=2603 It was on the eighth day of Navratri or Ashtami, that the divine weapons were worshipped by the Gods and handed over to Ma Durga to annihilate Mahishasura, the buffalo-faced demon. This is the reason why Ashtami is also called Astra Puja.

Kanjak puja forms a crucial part of the rituals. Kanjaks or young girls (who haven’t attained puberty) are worshipped in the same manner as Goddess Durga is worshipped. They are the symbolic representation of the goddess – the nine avatars and hence the same love, respect and status are given to them on this day. Girls in groups of nine are invited home, their feet are washed, they are fed the prasad and gifts and money are given to them.

I remember as children we three sisters would wake up to the clatter of utensils in the kitchen where Mom and the cook would be making prasad. The aroma of desi ghee soaked sooji ka halwa wafted through the house. Hot, puffed up pooris bobbed up and down in a kadai and kale chane would be on another burner. We would squeal in excitement and hurriedly get ready in our lehenga cholis, have our set of bangles matched to our clothes and wear bindis so that we looked really pretty. We knew it was our special day and we would be beckoned by many aunties in the neighbourhood who were desperately looking for “Kanjikas’  to complete their puja.

After washing our feet, turmeric, kumkum and rice were applied on our forehead and incense sticks or diya (lamp) would be lit. We would watch the elders mutter a silent prayer before us. Later we were served hot pooris, kale chane and halwa. We could barely eat, so after having received our money and gift, we would get it packed in leaf bowls and scurry off to the next house. Time was crucial and we wanted to visit as many houses as possible.

It was a super fun day and by the time we came back, we had our little gifts in a bag with girlie stuff like bangles, dupattas, bindis, sweets and a good amount of money to buy us a few bars of chocolates and chips later. Of course, it was also a time to compare notes with other kids in the neighbourhood to see who had collected more money by the end of it all.

Nothing much has changed from then to now and the custom has continued the same. The food for the puja is mainly cooked in ghee and normally sooji ka halwa, sookhe kale chane and pooris are fed. While halwa and pooris are made often in the households throughout the year, the dried black gram, though not restricted is specially cooked for the Ashtami. The ingredients are minimal, there is no use of onions or garlic and in this recipe, the boiled black chickpeas is nicely tossed in its masala and that adds to its flavours. I love the tanginess it gets from mango powder. A squeeze of lemon makes it an ideal snack and its rich in protein. It’s healthy and delicious. Why only for festivals, make it and enjoy it anytime.

 

A must have recipe for Ashtami - Kale Sookhe Chane
Servings6 people
Prep Time8 hours
Cook Time40 mins
Instructions
  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight or for about 8 hours. Drain the water and wash nicely.
  2. Add with 5 cups of water and one tsp salt. Pressure cook it. After one whistle lower the flame to medium and cook for 20 minutes. Switch off and let it cool.
  3. In a kadai, on medium flame add the vegetable oil, cumin seeds, minced ginger, dried red chillies, green chilli, red chilli powder, coriander powder, 1/2 tsp salt and dried mango powder. Keep stirring for a minute.
  4. Add the boiled chickpeas to the kadai with its residual liquid. Cook on low flame till chickpeas are dry and water has been completely soaked in by chickpeas.
  5. Garnish it with coriander leaves and serve it hot.
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Photo-Essay | The Warrior Goddess Of Durga Puja https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/2018/10/10/photo-essay-the-warrior-goddess-of-durga-puja/ https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/2018/10/10/photo-essay-the-warrior-goddess-of-durga-puja/#comments Wed, 10 Oct 2018 22:25:56 +0000 https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/?p=2547
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Every July twenty idol makers travel from Krishna Nagar, a small city close to Kolkata, to Delhi and settle down in a compound in Chittaranjan Park. This becomes their place of residence and workshop for four months. They toil day after day making Goddess Durga idols. According to mythology, Ma Durga is the ten armed war goddess riding a lion who killed the evil demon Mahishasura. Durga Puja is the ceremonial worship of the warrior goddess and pandals (huge open tents) housing her idols are set up everywhere. The euphoria and the scale of magnificence, sets this festival apart from so many other that the country celebrates.

The compound where the mud sculptors make the idols is much smaller as compared to Kumartuli. However, the ambience and the manner of working is the same. Kumartuli, in Kolkata, is the traditional potter’s quarter that is more than 300 years old and houses 150 families who have been living there for generations. Last year when I visited Kolkata, I was enthralled by the plenitude of idols all around. You can read more about Kumartuli, the hub of idol creators here.

The Artisans At Work

It takes months of labour and dedication to create the beautiful idols. After a framework of bamboos and tying straws to it for the basic body, clay from the River Ganges is slathered on the straw structure. It’s given a life-like form and left to dry. For the perfect features of Goddess Durga, a Plaster of Paris mould is used. Another coat is added to smoothen it. Once dry, the idol is painted or spray painted for colour. Finally, the well-experienced artists add detailing to the idol.

The sun shone right above as I entered the compound located in the midst of a cluster of houses and an old cinema. Idols in different stages of completion lined the compound.  Even though it was hot and humid, the artisans were at work. A couple of them were seated at a height adding finer, delicate stroke on the faces. Another sprayed colour all over the idol. Unruffled by the entry of photographers they continued their work quietly.

The Day Of Mahalaya

The first stage of completion is giving shape to wet clay and straw. It is said that on the day of Mahalaya the Goddess is invited on earth and thereby in an auspicious ritual called Chokku Daan, the eyes are drawn on the idols. It is after Mahalaya that the finishing touches are given to the goddess and she is adorned in finery. By the sixth day or Sashti, the idols have to reach the different pandals. With hardly any days left, The artisans worked arduously and without interruption.

The instruments of beautification

The Final Makeover Of The Idols For Durga Puja

While ten days of Durga Puja are celebrated with fast, festivity and fervour it is the last four days – Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami which are highlighted with exuberance and rejoice. Across the state of Bengal, devotees get emotional and excited as they welcome Ma Durga to her bari (home). The tableau of Durga also includes her four children – Kartikeya, Ganesh, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Till Sasthi or the sixth day, the Durga idol is kept hidden under a veil. Her face is revealed only after the Kalparambha puja. Kalparamba, which takes place at dawn is a sankalp or promise made to perform the Puja correctly, following all rituals.

Big, well-defined eyes, dressed in finery, jewels and a heavy embellished saree the idols are breathtakingly beautiful. Just as in Bengal, people in different states go pandal hopping to see the Goddess in her dazzling attire. It’s hard to fathom the transformation of a lump of clay into something that is granted utmost reverence.

The Demons That Must Be Slayed

The idol of the Goddess is typically in her form as Mahishasura Mardini  which displays her killing the demon Mahishasur.

 Durga Puja – A Daughter’s Homecoming

Just as I was soaking in the beauty of it all, two girls walked in, dressed in traditional clothes. For them, it was a college project on Ma Durga but I stood awestruck. Dressed in traditional saree, shiny gold ornaments, red bindi on the forehead and the bright red liquid colour, alta adorning their hands and feet, they looked every bit like the Goddess entering her bari. I watched fascinated. In that open space clay lay on one corner, and amidst plenty of unfinished idols stood these two girls smiling and depicting Ma Durga in life form.

Durga Puja epitomises the respect of womanhood and the celebration of the supreme source of power – Ma Durga. Let us all celebrate her homecoming this Durga Puja 2018 with the words Maa Aschhe!”

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Sweet Nothings – Homemade Rum Caramel Sauce Recipe https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/recipe/sweet-nothings-homemade-rum-caramel-sauce-recipe/ https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/recipe/sweet-nothings-homemade-rum-caramel-sauce-recipe/#comments Thu, 04 Oct 2018 20:32:03 +0000 https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/?post_type=recipe&p=2536
Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

In a world that is largely tipping towards healthy, organic foods perhaps it’s a cardinal sin to post a recipe of Rum Caramel sauce. It is oozing in calories and incorporates the three troublesome ingredients of the food world – Sugar, Fat, and Butter. Well! 2 tbsp. of rum hurt nobody so not counting that.

Rum caramel sauce is basically salted caramel sauce plus a couple of tablespoons of dark rum. Just by itself, salted caramel sauce is divine. Sweet and buttery, it is an elixir guaranteed to take you to gastronomic heaven. It is what Nigella Lawson calls “the class A drug of the confectionery world”. Spoon it over a cake or let a gentle stream pirouette over ice cream for some added glam to desserts. And if you want to catch some sunshine smiles in the mornings, serve a salted caramel banana milkshake or simply dunk banana and apple slices into it. The possibilities are endless!

Adding rum to a salted caramel gives it an adult tag. It just gets the brain ticking to decipher what the “extra something” in the salted caramel is. Rum caramel is a perfect companion to Ice-creams, puddings, brownies, milkshakes, churros too.

If you think that Salted or Rum Caramel Sauce is difficult to make and buying it off the shelves is too expensive, let me tell you, you’re missing out on some good gooey stuff from your lives. It’s simple to make and barely takes any time.

Salted caramel is like liquid gold. Glossy, golden-amber in color. Adding a dark rum makes the sauce darker. It’s more chocolatey in color. While making it is easy, the process is interesting. Once the granulated sugar begins to caramelize in the heated pan, its pure joy to see the specks of white sugar turn to amber gold. It gradually melts with no fuss. It hates interruption and must not be stirred once it starts boiling. So when butter is added in, hell breaks loose. It splurges and boils in anger, restlessly moving upwards and you’re scared that it will boil over the pan in its impulsive heated rage. Since cream is colder than the caramel, it continues to sputter. After a minute remove from the heat. It slowly settles down, thickening and glistening with fat. Add salt (and rum) and mix well. Allow it to cool down before using.

The caramel lasts for a month in the refrigerator and can be frozen for about three months. If it gets thick as it cools, reheat it to make it thinner and runnier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homemade Rum Caramel Sauce
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Mix the sugar and water in a heavy based pan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and turns clear. It will turn amber in color. This will take about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat and add the butter. The caramel will start bubbling up. Keep whisking till the bubbles simmer down.
  4. Add the cream, whisking till it blends well with the caramel and becomes glossy. This would take about a minute.
  5. Remove from heat and add the salt, rum and vanilla. Omit the rum if you want a salted caramel.
  6. Let the caramel cool to room temperature then transfer to a jar and refrigerate.
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Let’s Get Cheesy! – The Setting Up Of A Cheese Platter https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/2018/09/29/lets-get-cheesy-the-setting-up-of-a-cheese-platter/ https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/2018/09/29/lets-get-cheesy-the-setting-up-of-a-cheese-platter/#comments Sat, 29 Sep 2018 11:15:43 +0000 https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/?p=2498
Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Today’s an extremely special day. Exactly a year ago “Spoons and Sneakers” entered the blogosphere.

Yes! Today we celebrate my blog’s first anniversary. Yay!

It’s celebrations time and there is no better way to celebrate than with a few close friends. The calls have been made and we are ready to pop a bottle of champagne tonight.

With the whiff of winters and festive season, I have fromage on my mind. It makes perfect sense then to set up a cheese platter for this evening. I love cheese! Creating a cheese platter is one of the things that I do pretty much when we throw parties. It’s a no-fuss platter of goodies and forms the melting pot around which people hover and conversations take place. I love it for its versatility and the creative aspect.

ESSENTIALS OF A CHEESE PLATTER

A Cheese Platter

1. CHOOSING A BASE FOR THE CHEESE BOARD

Plenty of cheese platters made of wood, marble, slate and ceramic are available in the market. They come in different sizes and shapes. However, not having one should not stop you from making a cheese platter. Look around your kitchen.  Pizza serving bats, cake stands, baking trays, a slab of marble and cutting boards all make excellent bases as well. Avoid using metal directly as this affects the flavor due to the oxidation process.

2. SELECTING YOUR CHEESE

A great cheese plate unfurls a story via its flavors and textures. It tells a tale of its country, age, textures, and method of production. The following things must be kept in mind while selecting cheese.

  •  The inclusion of different kinds of textures and flavors. Most cheese belongs to one of the following categories: soft, firm, or blue. For a good variety, choose at least one from each group. Some examples:
      Soft and Mild: Brie, Camembert, Brillat-Savarin, cream cheese, fresh mozzarella
      Hard, Full Bodied Cheese: Cheddar, Gouda, Edam,
      Crumbly Blue Cheese:  GorgonzolaDolce, Valdeón, Danish Blue
  • Choose one cheese made from the milk of different animals like cow, goat, and sheep. The distinct, unique flavors of each make the platter interesting.
  • Serving 3-5 different types of cheese offers a nice selection for the guests.

Things to keep in mind while serving cheese

Use small chalkboards to label each cheese.

  1. Use a separate knife for each cheese. We don’t want the flavors to mix up.
  2. Cheese tastes best when served at room temperature. Remove from the refrigerator an hour before serving.
  3. Label each cheese so the guests have an idea of the different cheese they are tasting.
  4. Separate the strong-smelling cheeses. If you want to serve a pungent cheese, it’s a good idea to serve it separately so it doesn’t overpower the mild, delicate ones. 
  5. One can cut the cheese and place them on the platter or serve them in blocks. I personally like serving them as it is. They look neater and prominent on display. However, I cut a few slices of the blocks so that the guests are not inconvenienced.
3. ACCOMPANIMENTS

There are a crazy number of things that can find a place on a platter, but let’s briefly touch upon the main ones. Depending on whether you want a simple, spaced-out look or an elaborate platter, one can set up a cheese platter accordingly.

COLD CUTS

Neatly folded Salami, Prosciutto and Deli meats like ham and turkey make excellent accompaniments to cheese. Place them in slices, rolled up or fold them up into triangles.

CRACKERS/BREAD

Breadsticks, cream crackers, rice crackers, thinly sliced baguettes, melba bread, walnut bread make good companions to cheese. No cracker should get in the way of the flavors of the cheese. It should complement rather than overpower its flavors.

NUTS/SEEDS

Nuts make great fillers to the empty spaces. Place scoops of pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pecans for munching. Another great idea which I do often is to make candied nuts. Mix sugar and butter in a pan. Put it on low heat and stir till it has melted and is golden brown in color. Add the nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pecans and toss them in the caramelized sugar till they are well covered. Remove the pan and separate the nuts while hot. Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds sprinkled around not only fill the gaps but add a little crunch when had with cheese and cracker.

FRUITS / DRY FRUITS

A fruit and cheese platter. A spread-out option of the cheese platter.

Fruits on a platter make it look more bountiful and adds colors. Green, red or purple grapes, cherries, dried apricots, pomegranate seeds, apple slices, blueberries, prunes, figs, strawberries make it an integral part of cheese plating. For the vegetarians, a fruit, nuts and cheese platter makes such a good option. Take care that the fruits are washed and dried prior to setting them on the base.

DIPPING SAUCES

The most readily available dip for a platter would be honey. Jams, jelly, marmalade, pepper jelly placed in a bowl on or beside a platter are good for flavoring. Try sweet preserves, chutney, and spicy mustard too.

OLIVES

Briny olives make great pick-up appetizer and snack and make an ideal pair with cheese.

With really gooey, unctuous cheeses, I like something with bubbles like Champagne or a good wine. The options of both red and white wines must be offered to the guests. The Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with a pungent cheese like Danish Blue while the Chardonnay happily syncs with softer, mild flavors of a Brie or Goat Cheese.

A cheese platter is not always an expensive affair. You can glam it up or trim it down. It’s malleable and accommodating. Choose your options wisely. Whatever you choose to plate up and serve, one thing it guarantees always – Lots of fun, friends, and conversations!

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

This post is a part of #MyFriendAlexa challenge. It’s an endeavor to bring interesting stories, places, food and places to the readers. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with blogchatter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cockfighting In Bali : Illegal Yet Prevalent https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/2018/09/26/cockfighting-in-bali-illegal-yet-prevalent/ https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/2018/09/26/cockfighting-in-bali-illegal-yet-prevalent/#comments Wed, 26 Sep 2018 18:21:37 +0000 https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/?p=2480
Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

After the visit to the Tegenungan Waterfall in Bali, the car meandered its way to Ubud. The bright sun shone in the sky and it was hard to believe that it had drizzled just a few minutes ago. Magical surroundings of lush greenery and beautiful rice fields made for a lovely drive. Hardly 10 minutes before Ubud, the car came to a halt and Edi, our travel manager and driver, popped his head out of the car to speak to a group of villagers walking in a hurried pace. “All ok, Edi? Why are these men in a rush?” I enquired. “Perfectly ok Ma’am. This is Kemenuh Village. A cockfight is about to take place. Have you heard about cockfighting in Bali?”

Tajen, Meklecan or Ngadu are the terms used for cockfighting in Bali, In April 1971, President Suharto declared cockfighting illegal in Indonesia. An exception was made to Bali where cockfighting was reserved solely for religious purposes. The Tabuh Rah ritual in temples is centuries old and is performed to expel evil spirits. Tabuh Rah literally means pouring blood. Cockfighting is a bloody, gory duel between two roosters which continues till one of them is seriously injured or killed.  The bloodshed of the cockfight is intended to Bhuta Bhucari, Kala Bhucari, and  Durga Bhucari; the three forms of Goddess Durga to ward off the evil spirits. During this ritual, only men participate and women do not even watch. 

Today cockfighting thrives in villages albeit discreetly. It is not confined to the temples. It is a bloody sport that the locals enjoy and spend a few hours of screaming, hooting and betting. The event is not advertised yet everyone knows the venue and time of it. There are usually about nine or ten matches of the roosters which carry on for three or four hours until sunset. To them, this is entertainment, a pastime, a display of their manhood.

Stop Edi. Let’s go. I want to see it.I was fully aware that I was going to witness a macabre experience but I wanted to understand the tradition and see what cockfighting really means to a Balinese. The car swerved its way into a narrow, rough trail till we came to an open field full of motorbikes. We had reached the venue.

The event was a ticketed one and Edi bought ours. As we were heading for the cockpit or the arena where the cocks fight, I could see a few groups where people were involved in a board game. With each move, money was placed on the board. The interested spectators watched quietly.

Gambling of a different kind altogether

The arena was filling up with people and cane baskets with roosters lined the borders of the cockpit.  For some reason, it reminded me of theatre. Before every theatre performance, the restless actors walk to and fro backstage. One can feel their fervor which is otherwise missing during rehearsals. They wait anxiously for the auditorium to fill up before the curtain is finally raised and they can perform on stage. The air reverberated with the sound of the angry roosters. I could feel their restlessness. Once the arena would fill, it would be their time to perform.

The roosters are placed in different cane baskets.

The sound of the cocks reverberates in the air.

Just before the fight, the collectives of mates sit down together and in hushed tones, everyone decides on the bets at stake. The bets are even money. The owner of the winning rooster takes the bet and also the lost rooster. It makes for the feast that the winner has at night. Bets are also placed between members of the audience and settled as soon as the fight gets over.

Cockfighting is a game taken seriously. The roosters are tended to carefully and fed on a specific diet of maize and red pepper. They are trained not to get distracted by unusual noise. By the age of three, the rooster is ready to fight. In an arena, the duel between the roosters is fair. Two of the same weight are picked up and inspected thoroughly. Once the two roosters are decided, an expert spur affixer ties the spurs or tajis around the leg of a rooster with string. These tajis or single blades of about four or five inches are so sharp that a jab of it can rip the opponent apart.

The rooster is picked up for inspection before a fight.

The cocks are made to face each other to trigger aggression in them.

The fight lasts sometimes for less than a minute.

After the spurs have been tied, the cocks are placed on the ground in the middle of the ring. They are teased around which instigates their inherent aggressive nature before they are let loose. This is the moment of the duel and the one which everyone waits for. I watched in horror as the two birds flew and attacked each other. The men screamed and shouted and bets were placed through gestures and numbers. It barely took a few seconds when the red rooster kicked the black rooster and his spur sliced the chest.

The crowds cheered in ecstasy. The owner of the winning rooster picked him up and walked around the cockpit with pride. After that day, the rooster would retire. In cockfighting, every rooster can enter a fight just once in his lifetime.

The black cock flapped for a few seconds before it went silent. It was hard to fathom that something that was alive a few seconds ago, lay dead close by. How tragic! For a while after that, I had a sickening feeling, as if I had contributed to this ghastly sport by being a spectator. I took pictures of it but refrain from putting them up on the post because they are too graphic.

The proud owner with his winning cock. (I was still aghast after the gory bloodshed that my hand shook when the proud owner walked past me. Hence a shaky picture.)

The owner of the winning roost counts his money.

Why don’t the authorities take drastic steps and ban these fights, Edi? That was horrible.”  I asked once we continued on our way. I was still shaken by the experience. “The cockfight is not only about ritual and tradition, but it is also an indication of power, pride and wealth” he replied. “It is the laying of one’s public self, one’s masculinity, in front of the world. The cocks signify much more than mere entertainment. Don’t judge Ma’am. It’s our culture.”

If given an opportunity would you have stopped and witnessed a cockfighting as I did or would you have kept going ahead in your journey? What do you think of the cockfighting as a ritual in Bali? Tell me more in the comments below.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

This post is a part of #MyFriendAlexa challenge. It’s an endeavor to bring interesting stories, places, food and places to the readers. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with blogchatter.

 

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Why Do I Love Blogging? https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/2018/09/21/why-do-i-love-blogging/ https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/2018/09/21/why-do-i-love-blogging/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2018 18:27:15 +0000 https://www.spoonsandsneakers.com/?p=2423
Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

It’s nearly two years that I gave up my business. I had worked arduously for 9 years, establishing my fashion business from selling jeweled scarfs to bridal wear. Being a sole proprietor brings along with it huge responsibilities and I took it upon myself to be involved in every teeny-weeny aspect of it. Like a juggler ensures a throw and a catch of hats with fluidity and dexterity, I juggled with designing, client meetings, sourcing fabrics, booking exhibitions, traveling to different cities, setting up stalls, despatching consignments, handling accounts, taxes, salaries and more. Phew! I had become like a machine, working non-stop. I would often wake up in the middle of the night and start working at 3 a.m. Eventually, the feeling of missing out in life started to sink in. There was no time to socialize or meet friends. I lost various opportunities to travel with Sam. I had bought my own car and my bank account was smiling. But the fatigue was filling in and life was passing by.

By mid-2016, I decided to close my work. Sam gave me all the support. It was an emotional time of my life to let go of all my tailors and karigars. They had been a part of my life for so long and to see them leave, tore me apart. For those who believe in astrology will tell you that shifts in the constellations bring changes in our lives. Perhaps, mine too were changing.

Once life settled in its new point of equilibrium, I finally found time to smell the proverbial roses. I always enjoyed writing and I found myself filling up the pages of my diary. Traveling became a part of my life and I became fascinated with different cuisines, cultures, and people. Friends and bloggers like Rohan Sonalkar and Anindya Basu pushed me further to start documenting my experiences. Blogging gave me the platform to unleash these experiences and expressions for the world to read. I could share my stories and connect with an audience. Finally a year ago, my blog was born.

Why do I love blogging?

Interactions with people all over the world

Any traveler will tell you that the world is one large family. I have traveled to 20 countries and found love and friendships in whichever place I have traveled. On our way to the Elephant Sanctuary, in Chiang Mai, I started talking to a couple of Spanish girls. By the time we returned back, after a day of feeding and bathing the elephants, we had formed a camaraderie such that till today we converse on WhatsApp.

Friendships made in Chiang Mai

On our trip to Nepal, Sam and I got stuck in the middle of nowhere. We walked up the dusty road until we came to a wedding function. The women welcomed us to their homes and helped us find our way back.

I have chatted with chefs, shared a meal with strangers, formed friendships, learned their stories and shared mine. Blogging has given me enough experiences to understand people better.

I can blog from anywhere

This month was the #MyFriendAlexa month with Blogchatter. Registering for this requires dedication and commitment. A blogger has to complete a set of readings a day, interact with other bloggers and submit two posts minimum every week. I traveled to 2 countries, 6 cities and gave two theatre performances. In the midst of traveling and rehearsals, I managed to complete the assigned tasks given and release my posts as scheduled. Blogging gives the flexibility to choose my timings and place of work.

It’s all about scribbling notes and photography for my blog – in Ayutthaya

While blogging may come across as a simple journal where one can pen down his/her thoughts, in reality, it is a responsibility to provide meaty content to the readers else its purpose is ruined. Each time I’m invited for a review, I study about the cuisine, talk to chefs, learn more about the ingredients, read as many books as I can lay my hands on.

A bit of Goa on my plate – A meal cooked by Chef Edridge Vaz in Taj Gurugram.

The traditional way of serving a meal in Bali.

I learn about different cultures and people

Blogging takes me to different places where I learn about different cultures, about people and their beliefs and habits.

The devotees in Vrindavan stamp the words “Radhe Radhe,” using sandalwood paste, on their faces.

The dresses that are worn by the indigenous tribes in Chiang Mai.

It is all about unusual experiences, exotic locations, and remote places

As the taxi driver drove from Lucknow to Kanpur, he casually mentioned a temple on the outskirts of Kanpur which was known to predict monsoons one month prior to its arrival. Raindrops would accumulate and based on the size of the raindrops, the villagers estimated the extent to which it would rain. Surprisingly, the years when the raindrops were not formed, there was a spell in the village. Scientists had done investigative research but with no results. I was intrigued and instantly searched the internet for the location. There was not one article to give the information. With only a  couple of YouTube channels giving a vague location, I took a taxi the next day and found myself in an ancient, beautiful Jagganath temple. To know more, read here.

A walk on the Cliffs Of Moher, a cruise on the River Nile, walking underwater in Goa, snorkeling in the Maldives, dancing in front of the Great Sphinx or cockfighting in Bali make excellent memories. My blog becomes a journal and information center for all these experiences.

Sometime to myself – Cliffs of Moher

Cockfighting is illegal in Bali yet every village has these events. A bit gory where one cock literally rips apart the weaker cock, its a man’s game. An unusual experience, I sat through this one.

Learning new skills 

Blogging is far more complex than writing a journal. It must include meaty content, should be well edited and include images or infographics. It’s my inherent nature to constantly learn. I love learning something new every day. Blogging is dynamic and fulfills that need of mine. Since I started blogging I am continuously learning every day whether it’s photography, photo processing or content writing,

Dilli Ki Dibbi

Had it not been for blogging, I would have never known the art, architecture, and food of Delhi in its entirety. At the advent of the year, I started Project “Dilli Ki Dibbi” in which I visited Baolis, monuments, museums and food places in Delhi for 100 days. I explored my city day after day. Delhi is vast and is steeped in history. There is so much still left to explore. When I’m not traveling, I’m exploring the city I call home.

Events and Blogger meet-ups

The blogosphere is the world where we bloggers belong. We are constantly on the lookout for stories, material, and content for the viewers. Blogger meetups provide a medium for interactions and learning. The blogging community leans on each other for support and discussions. Events are great places to attend cook-offs, get tips, learn more about food, wine or places. Interactions and watching the chefs help me gain insights into the methods and style of cooking.

Do you blog? What are your reasons for blogging?

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

This post is a part of #MyFriendAlexa challenge. It’s an endeavor to bring interesting stories, places, food and places to the readers. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with blogchatter.

 

 

 

 

 

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