Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekend Baking - Fruit n Nut Cake

Some time to spare in the weekend and thus comes the scope for experiments in the kitchen.
Below is the recipe I followed for Eggless Fruit n Nut cake. It worked well for me.

One needs little less than 3/4 cup of demerara sugar, 1/4 cup to prepare caramel and rest to be added to the cake flour mixture as is.

Why: Little less than 3/4 cup as we will add 1 mashed ripe long banana (that adds much needed sweetness)
What: Demerara sugar is natural brown sugar that caramelises fast. Gives the rich, brown color to our Fruit n Nut cake. Available in most provision stores in Bangalore under Eagle brand.
How: Heat little less than 1/4 cup of water in a fry pan, add 1/4 cup of demerara sugar to it, stir constantly to prepare a caramel syrup.
Now in a bowl, take 1 and 1/2 cups of All Purpose Flour - add to it 1 tsp Baking powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder, 1/2 tsp dry ginger powder, 1/2 tsp shajeera powder and 1/2 tsp salt.
Sieve the contents together so that they mix thoroughly and evenly.
To this flour mixture, add 1 ripe mashed banana, 1 cup of broken cashew, walnuts, unseeded dates (cut and sliced) and dry, black raisins. All these put together must comprise 1 cup.

Add remaining sugar (little less than 1/2 cup that we are left over with) + 30 g of unsalted butter (melted in a pan) + 1 tsp vanilla essence and pour in the caramel syrup prepared, giving all contents a careful and thorough mix.

Grease the baking tin and dust it with little flour on the inside. Pour in the cake batter.
Preheat the oven to 180'C and bake the contents at 180'C for 40-45 minutes (a toothpick inserted at the end of baking must come out clean)
Once baking is over - turn the tin upside down on a flat plate, let the cake cool down.
Tap gently and remove, the cake is ready for cutting.
From across several websites, it was suggested that the tin with cake batter in it be covered with alumimium foil and then put into the oven for baking. Guess this will ensure uniform and thorough browning of the cake surface.

I baked for about 35 minutes with the foil, removed it and baked again without foil for the remaining time. I had a perfectly baked cake after 45 minutes time.

Have a happy weekend !!
Pics: Taken on Nikon 3110 C Camera

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Special Gift ...

My office colleague and friend Juhi had been to her hometown - Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, a month back. She got back and gave me a special gift- a salwar suit material with Bagh print on it.

I am crazily fond of sarees and crafts work from India's heartland - the state of Madhya Pradesh. There is a special fondness I nurse for Chanderi and Maheshwari sarees. In a handlooms fair, which occurs at quite regular intervals in Bangalore, an unexplainable attractive force draws me to the outlet exhibiting Chanderi and Maheswari sarees. Their typical cotton cloth/salwar suits with vegetable dye based block prints on them in various colors offer the most comfortable and elegant wear during hot and humid Indian summers.

Thanks Juhi :) for this special gift. Below are two pictures of the Bagh print salwar kameez material she gifted me. I completely adore the bold paisley motifs on the cloth. (Paisley motifs - in the shape of a droplet are a regular pattern in Indian/Pakistani cotton cloth and even figure in mehandi designs)

The suit material is in black and olive green colors and I am terribly sorry for the poor picture quality - all that was possible from my Nokia 3110c phone, one can hardly make out the colors.
I swear to replace them soon with better pictures taken on Nikon DSC.

Stapled onto the dress material was a small note on Bagh Prints. Through this blog post, I want to share that information with one and all.

BAGH prints derive their name from the small town of Bagh in Dhar district of western Madhya Pradesh. The Bagh printers migrated from Sindh (now in Pakistan) over 1000 years ago due to unconducive environment and atrocities of rulers. Their art is deeply influenced by the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti Aulia.

The process of Bagh printing is painstakingly tedious process; a single piece of cloth undergoes various transformations over25-30 days before it is finally ready for sale. Only natural material is used in the process. The fabric is treated by Khara method where it is soaked in Sanchora (raw sea salt) , non refined castor oil and goat dung, dried three times in succession. After the final drying, it is dipped into a solution of Baheda or Harada powder.

The red color for painting is made using seed of tamarind mixed with alum. The black color is prepared using iron filings and jaggery left together for 15-20 days. Printing is done with wood (Kor, Saaj, Kalam, Burra) blocks on cloth spread on tables. The cloth is dried for 15 days, washed in flowing river water and boiled in water mixed with Dhavadi flowers and roots of Aal tree in a copper vessel.

Next time you wear Bagh, spare a thought for the artisan whose infinite labour of love has caressed the fabric to perfection.

Apart from handloom fairs, fabrics with Bagh prints and sarees from Madhya Pradesh are available in the permanent state government owned handlooms outlet (Madhya Pradesh State Emporium) by the name - Mrignayanee, located in Kormangala BDA complex, Bangalore.
So when are you grabbing a Bagh print salwar material for yourself ?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Adios Amigos

After over half an year, I hit the cinema hall to watch "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara" ... and I am glad I had a good time. I am not going to fall short of adjectives in writing a review for this movie but I must admit that from 10 am to 12.45 noon, I laughed heartily not quite knowing how time passed by.

The movie from Excel Entertaintment banner directed by Zoya Akhtar is a visual treat - a carefully arranged virutal tour of Spain for the audience. Striking cinematography par excellence makes one look out for the name responsible - Carlos Catalan. The movie deals with a road trip through Spain heartland, of three friends, planned on the pretext of bachelor party of one of them. The friends keep up their pact made back in school days, of trying out an adventure sport of each one's choice, there is no option of backing out from it. The time they spend together makes them break free from compulsive restraints and mundane confines of their lives, makes them share their deeply cached secrets and shed their fear and inhibition. Their road trip marks an enlightening journey where they let go everything, live life without bounds, much along the lines of one of the dialouges in the movie - a man must be in confines only upon death and not before that. The theme might sound very philosophical, insufficient to let the reels run for more than 2 hours. However, the multitude of humorous moments, adept and natural performances by the cast make it an enjoyable experience. 

The many strong aspects of the movie that make it a pleasure to watch are - 
1) The powerful cast - a union of multifaceted actors who share the screen space with equal responsibilities and with so much comfort that they appear as true friends, friends for life. It only appears that all through, there was none to direct the lead three on what to do, what not to, to what extents etc.  
2) Farhan Akthar (Imran in movie, a copywriter for advertisement agency) is simply superb. His sense of humor and impeccable timing leaves the audience in ripples of laughter. His poetic monologues sail with the movie well. His mastery in acting skills and dialouges makes him eligible for many laurels from the audience. 
3) Abhay Deol (Kabir, running his family construction business) is the most natural actor that Bollywood has witnessed in recent times. It seems he was never a novice to Bollywod. Starting from his first movie - Socha Na Tha, he has a carved a niche for himself which no other actor's been able to until now, something very different from the other Deols. As always, he delivers his best, playing the role of an emotionally balanced person settling fights between the other two friends.
4) Hrithik Roshan (Arjun, a financial broker) comes alive finally. Smitten by the crying bug from K3G times, the symptoms progressed disastrously unto his movie Kites. He's definitely the most gifted actor when it comes to looks and physique and can beat Greek gods to shame/death. In this movie, he portrays a serious role to start with, eventually melts down to a fun loving person breaking free from his inner shell. He is an actor and dancer, unsurpassable truly.
5) Katrina Kaif (Laila, a sea diving instructor) is a true barbie doll, she looks fabulous and scores a perfect ten in the role crafted for her. One will definitely appreciate her acting skills in this movie, much like in Rajneeti.
6) Kalki (Natasha, Kabir's fiancee) has a small role to play but does well as a possessive and watchful girlfriend, worried over her fiancee's bachelor party proceedings.
7) The story written by Zoya and Reema Kagti does not favor anyone in the cast unduly. Each one has his/her space with such clear outline that they gel without any hiccups. There is no dominance from anyone in the cast, be it in scenes of adventure, casual conversations, dance and song sequences. Must say, it is a balance, highly difficult to strike. The moments of friendship are all natural. The portrayal is perfect and admirable, you can relate to all the conversations as if they were happening in your living room when three friends meet up. TOI mentioned - ironically, this natural portrayal of men's friendships comes from two women - Zoya and Reema Kagti. Looks like it's only men who still find women a mystery one cannot unravel, vice versa seems solvable. 
8) Spain is captured in its best frames, the movie is like a Thomas Cook tour through Spain starting from Barcelona with the La Sagrada Familia church marking the skyline. There is deep sea diving and colorful aquatic life in one shot, there are deep valleys, huge reservoirs in others. There is sky diving, lush green fields below and long rolling meadows with horses galloping alongside. The Tomatino festival and running with bulls behind your back - all are captured realistically. The film could not have been shot better and for this reason deserves to be watched on the big screen.
9) The department of music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is not impressive but flows in tandem with the movie. It grows on you because of the characters in the movie. Standalone, the tracks - Senorita, Ik Junoon (Tomatino festival song), Dil Dhadakne Do carry a "want-to-hear-again" charm in them.

There are no weaknesses so to state - after all you cannot be choosy when you are a beggar. Decent movies are a rarity nowadays and when something like ZNMD comes up, you cannot/should not complain at all. May be a few points can help while/before watching the movie -

1) Just because there are three male protagonists in the movie, comparison with the movie Dil Chahtha Hai will be a gross mistake. DCH is a masterpiece and way too different. ZNDM portrays celebration of friendship between three men but needs a different treatment from DCH. This comparison is as sinful as comparing Dil Bole Hadippa/Iqbal to Lagaan just because these movies involve cricket.
2) Treat yourself as a part of the road trip and appreciate the dialouges, humorous sequences shared by the cast, they are easy stuff that each one us can relate to. This will not be difficult for people in 25-35 age group who become increasingly inactive in friends circles with time/work and yearn secretly to celebrate special moments they shared during school/college times. If the idea is hard to settle, the movie might seem a compilation of National Geographic Expedition series showing activities like sky diving, deep sea diving and running with the bulls.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a good movie, a wholesome and refreshing entertainer. TOI quoted in its review - Go and watch it - Aise film na milegi dobara. Considering the ensemble of Hindi movies released over a long time now, this is undoubtedly true - Aise film na milegi dobara !!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


A brief hiatus of one month is over and I am alive, back to my blog in full vigor.
Away from e-mail, Facebook, blogosphere, summarily to say, the Internet accompanied by minimal mobile communication, my hibernation phase appears to have got over. Re iterating one of the well known dialouges in my head, from one of my Bollywood favorites - Jab we Met - I feel, I missed a train over the last month. However, such significant gaps are necessary and enjoyable in a way and I have caught my train back, finally :)

It is monsoon time in Bangalore but rains are sparse and scanty. A brief shower blessed the  Bangaloreans yesterday evening. We armed ourselves with our umbrellas and set out to explore a new eatery. Personally, it appeared as if life got stuck and moved slowly in May-June 2011 - may be due to  long, summer days or better said, the summer solstice effect.

The pretext of walking down avenues with tree cover (amongst the few that are left currently in Bangalore) and having sumptuous meal in an eatery offered great scope to break from the mundane set up. Over 5 years of stay in Bangalore, we have become regulars at the Konark,a vegetarian restaurant on Residency Road; Adigas, opposite Indiranagar BDA complex and small eateries on Tippsandra Main road. The advertisement on Times of India newspaper dated July7, 2011 pulled us to a new place - Sanjeevanam in Koramangala. Located on the Inner Ring Road, opposite Kendriya Sadan, close to Madiwala junction, this place offers healthy and unique vegetarian delights. The restaurant is run by makers of "Medimix soap" - the Cholayil. We visited the place at 8 pm and there were a variety of dosas, a meal combo, many soups, juices and desserts on the menu.

We binged on a roasted garlic dosa, a ragi keerai (ragi-spinach) adai, vazhapoo (banana flower) cutlets, ela adai (a dessert from Kerala), ginger coffee (that used no coffee beans) and banana-wheat pudding. The offering on the menu is completely different and highly delectable. The ginger coffee knocked out in one shot, the sinus headache and sore throat I nursed carefully for over a week. I bought some ginger coffee mix and palm candy from their stores/outlet, outside the restaurant, as a weapon against future instances of sinusitis and dry cough.

I would suggest that one visits this place to experiment with unique, healthy yet tasty vegetarian dishes. Sanjeevanam will make you believe that when a dish becomes healthy, it actually does not miss out its taste quotient. I picked up a few cues for culinary experimentation from the menu in Sanjeevanam. The meal above cost us Rs 387 inclusive of all taxes. So that sufficiently explains the fiscal outcome of the visit.

Sanjeevanam cannot be made as regular an affair like visits to Shanti Sagar for a singleton in Bangalore but it offers a great and genuinely different experience, a well deserved break from boredom/routine stuff. Much like the Bournville chocolate, a visit to Sanjeevanam points out - "you need to EARN IT" :)