Posted on November 20, 2014
There is this humongous mysterious misty Eucalyptus filled jungle standing tall between civilized world and the habitat of savages. A jungle so immeasurably dense that the trees lost track of whose leaves were whose. Darkness and densness consumed all the greens and golden rays of the sun. They say the sun never blazes over there and the moon is always curled up in darkness like a phantom in the forest.
My curious eyes tried to penetrate the jungle and see what lies on the other side. All my unsuccessful attempts left me with some burning questions:
Do their grandmas hold the precious babies on the lap under the far away stars and whisper lullaby in their ears?
Back then I was 16 and I already figured out a world full of urban sleepwalkers where nobody was actually awake. A world full of churning hatred, human heart like verbal firing squad, bitter suspicions… A world busy with mocking, angry talk, spreading vicious debate, heated conversations….
I’d be better off in the jungle. So, I surrendered to this dark, seductive, irresistible allure …. I crossed the jungle. I met the habitat who has chosen exile. And I spotted their emerald island. It was unearthly.
There were color and beauty everywhere. Smooth black skin, ruby red Hibiscus tucked in the hair, saffron shirts, peacock blue sarees. White hearts.
The said ‘savages’ did not howl, leap, spun, and made horrid faces at me. They were just a small clan of tribal people who cares-a-damn about so called modern civilization and happily decided to dwell into the woods.
They treated me as one of their own with some Orange-Shrimp. Sweet, earthy scent intoxicated my senses. It made me lose my mind. It carried me to the other side of paradise instantly.
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion, garlic, ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes. (Couple of green chilies will also do)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Steamed rice, for serving
* In a saucepan, saute onion, garlic, ginger, chili in olive oil for 5 minutes. Pour juice. Bring it to a boil. Add shrimps. Simmer over high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes.
* Season with salt and sugar.
* Garnish with parsley and serve with rice.
Heat, sweetness, tartness, beauty and inherent likability are all at play into one single dish. But It was not the quantity of the dishes but the cheerfulness of the hosts which made the feast.
With each step back towards the civilized world, I must digest the brutal fact: those colorful characters do not spend their income on war and guns. Only hunting and survival tactics they practice which they Inherited from their ancestors. They do not exhibit the savage practice of killing each other off; they are erudite savages who labor hard for peace.
The latticework of love all over that place reveals another brutal truth: those barbarous people are not a part of our savagery-wrapped civilization. They are beautiful, mythical ; straight out of a Novel.
Those ‘savages’ will overflow their guests with kindness even if they cordially dislike them. We bombard who we dislike.
Posted on September 11, 2014
Exciting events are not supposed to happen in small towns, in the kingdom of 15 year old girls … who are often caged and curtained by a male chauvinist society.
It was a peaceful, twilight late night and I was sitting on a boat crossing Jamuna with some friends. There was a beautiful emptiness, moments of stillness, silence all across that apparently lawless, rowdy, wild river. Our destination is the other side of Jamuna. We set off to explore my ancestor’s sunshiny shrine rimmed with Roses; a magical destination, as fascinating as Narnia or the kingdom of Sheba.
High school was over and for the first time, I was allowed to cross the border … the boundary that I have been living all my girlhood.
I hear my ancestor’s village always glitters grandly with evening twilight. Inhaling the smell of crystal silver waves, listening to the whispers of gentle summer breeze, watching the moonlit swirling its surreal aura, slowly by slowly, and quietly, all over the deep blue sky I got lost thinking of the divine classic peasants food that my ancestors savor. My Mom has been proudly replicating and feeding us those humble dishes ever since I can remember.
Over there mornings shiver with alluring sunlight. Blossoms thrust up merrily everywhere. Beduin-Bees touch the petals of Poppies, Lillies and Roses. And the people of the magic-land celebrate life with a cup of tea. Every single morning.
Whole wheat flat breads and pan fried spicy eggplant. Earthy. Fiery. Soul soothing meal; their breakfast.
The people of the land of prairies and miles of paddy fields snack on pink lentil fritters.
These savory fritters bring promise to sweep away dreadful darkness. By rights, something that tastes so good should cost a lot. But they are dirt Cheap! Gorgeous, crunchy, crispy, glistening. These picturesque, charismatic fritters is a sight to behold.
Village style lunch under a pavilion deep in the paddies: Egg Curry with grace notes of Parsley. And mounds of rice spooned from hand pounded sun dried mud-pot. There’s no denying the power, beauty and majesty of Egg curry when the weather is sweltering.
2 tbsp sunflower oil or olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh garlic + ginger paste
400 gram fresh chopped tomatoes
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a pan. Then fry the onions over a low heat for 10 minutes until golden. Add garlic-ginger paste and sizzle for 2 minutes, stirring. Add tomatoes and 200 ml water, season to taste, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until you have a rich sauce/gravy.
Meanwhile, boil eggs for 8 minutes, cool in cold water, peel and halve. Put the eggs into the pan, spoon the curry sauce over and leave for another 2 minutes to heat through. Serve with rice/bread.
Dinner: seasoned and drizzled with olive oil, as it sautees, the shrimps crisps and reddens here and there in a lovely way. Adding a dash of dried herbs gives the dish an incredible flavor. The pan juices make a delicious sauce to mop up with bread or to spoon over a salad of fresh cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes..
Satiny, silky, velvety Pumpkin-Carrot Halwa; simple, sweet and satisfying dessert with an esthetic that my ancestors surrendered themselves to for ages. .
Can’t wait to visit the land with countless corridors of peace & prosperity. Can’t wait to meet the people who grow love and bountiful crops in the wilderness. Can’t wait to relish their food of elemental beauty and purity.
The sky was wide open with millions of twinkling stars. Small. Huge. Bright. Blurry. How glamorous! How mysterious! I stared at the starry sky. For how long I don’t know. I heard the announcement of our arrival. The stars started fading away. The sky was turning ruby red. The warmth of the sun was about to greet the day. And I can clearly see my destination: on the back side of the river. Things are greening up over there.
Posted on May 2, 2014
When tragically urban, rootless, ruthless civilization becomes breath-chocking, I take a drive to the cottage of my friend. To taste the earth and the jungle. That countryside cottage is gracious, its presence is ethereal, as unconditional love always is.
That timeless cottage stands under the pavilion deep in the grass. Here the sunshine is more wholesome as the withering Winter doesn’t linger. Here Orchids, butterflies, woods, wild Strawberries are all organic.
Kingfishers, glimmer of glow worms, Squirrels fly in rhythm. Here raindrops gently kiss the muddy Rosemary.
Metropolitan clock stops ticking here.
The man of the house wrings milk from freshly grated coconut, milking cows and goats. The woman of the house cooks vibrantly colored curries and intricate sweet, salt and sour stews every single day for their children. And the children of the house look like our ancestors: healthy, happy.
Hypnotic Haleem: sticky stew of meat, lentil and grains is full of gentle spices and warm comfort. Let the howling wind lash on my urban windows. Let it snow. Let the unmatched purity of rustic flavor ignite my stiffed heart.
1/2 cup each mung dahl/lentil, yellow split peas and barley
1 1/2 pound beef/lamb
2 tbsp each garlic & ginger paste
1 tbsp each freshly ground coriander & cumin
1 tbsp crushed red chili or 4-5 green peppers
1 tsp turmeric
2 sticks of cinnamon
1/2 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
2 tbsp clarified butter (ghee)
2 1/2 liter water
To serve: (Optional)
Julienne ginger, chopped coriander leaves, sliced lemon, chopped green chillies.
* Soak dahl & barley together overnight. Wash, drain, place in a large heavy-based saucepan with meat and all the spices. add water. Simmer for around 3 hours, stirring occasionally. The stew will look sticky and thick at this point.
* In a fry-pan, add Ghee and fry sliced onions until brown. Add it all to the stew.
* Serve hot with fresh salad or above mentioned ginger, herbs and citrus.
Water melon chunks engulfed in flaming red.
By the end of the evening, that twilight-colored cottage always sends me back home with a basket full of pristine, free-range eggs and some sunshine to carry on my heart.
It’s a blessing to get to spend time at that preposterously fantastic cottage – the sort of thing you might read in fairy-tales only – a destination ripe with romanticism and infused with love ♥
Posted on April 25, 2014
Static, stoic sunlight was streaming through the vast emptiness around and wreaking havoc in the endless Sahara. Wearing burning blisters like a raincoat, the traveler was running clueless in search of a drop of water in the barren land. But the cup was full of sand.
After sprinting a light-year around the back side of the moon, crying a million rivers for a single drop of water to drink, the traveler saw the sea painted midnight blue. An ancient- exotic-dreamy delta, emerged from the secluded sea a thousand years ago, nestled now against the hillside surrounded by tall, stately larger-than-life trees. This graceful land, kissed by eight hundred rivers, was so glitteringly green that seemed to hold all the grace of the world. Heart-stoppingly picturesque hamlets, doted with humble huts scattered all over, were hugging the flatland like a sun-bathed tapestry.
A clean, crisp breeze spiced by the aroma of the earthy spices and Hilsa fish curry tiptoed across the traveler’s fatigued eyelashes.
Sun-drenched, dark skinned, soft spoken people offered the traveler plethora of sweets along with water that smells like home.
Their sweets, “Shondesh” are as uncommonly soft and snowy as the fondest dreams; an elixir, a cure for all ailment, like an answer to prayers. They are compelling in their plainness; fancy words don’t come into play.
In a nonstick pan, over very low heat, add 2 tsp ghee (clarified butter); heat 2lb ricotta cheese (ছানা), handful sugar, 2 cardamom pods, stirring constantly. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the mixture begins to leave the sides of the pan. Remove from heat, make desired shapes using molds while the mixture is slightly warm. That crimson red fantasy glaze in the center of each flower is a dot of liquid food color. Serve. Refrigerate.
In the pouring rain, a train run past through the rain-blurred misty skies. Food was served. Lentil rice and beef curry: worshiped, marveled at, devoured by the people of this monsoon-land.
This dish composed of:
Beef 2 lb with/without bones (cut into small chunks.)
1 medium onion paste, 2 tbsp garlic paste, 1 tbsp ginger paste (to get a pop of invisible depth of flavor that takes you by surprise)
½ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp red chili powder (to get that bright-flavored lightness that you are going to remember the next day. And the day after. Forever)
4 cardamoms, 1 stick of cinnamon, 4 cloves, 2 bay leaves (to perfume the curry so that you have a pretty good idea where you are)
2 tbsp yogurt/curd (to get that pulse-quickening intensity of irresistible smoothness)
½ tbsp toasted cumin seeds (to perk up the intense flavor simply and wonderfully)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil/vegetable oil/Ghee (clarified butter)
1 large potato (optional)
Mix everything together in a large pan and stir on medium heat for 15 minutes. Put the lid on. Cook for 1 hour or until the meat surrenders into tender, juicy chunks.
A pool of crimson gravy gathers around the pan, if you pour 1 cups of warm water at this point. Add potato chunks. Let the chunks swirl across the pot absorbing the gravy. Put the lid back on and cook for another 20 minutes.
Serve with rice/roti.
To the cast adrift and alone traveler, this perfect meal was like the first supper on the resurrection day.
With a deep nostalgic delirium, emotional upheaval spread through her heart, very early next morning the traveler headed back out to the Sahara, to the pitch black forlorn lagoon that reflects no twinkling stars. But she had fallen under the spell of ‘Bangladesh’, the shining monsoon-land she just left behind.
I- the traveler- From here walk with my face unmasked, soul uncovered and take back that sparkling starry trail which leads to where I belong; my home, to my peaceful people who meet, greet and feed total strangers like one of their own; I’m bonded with these fearless fighters who never stop smiling amidst devastating floods, lurking droughts, looming tidal bores, famine, oddities, hidden fears, leaders pocketing relief money…
My Bedouin-self yearns to return home before I grow older and my heart gets colder.
Posted on March 31, 2014
The moon, yellow as lemon, rises up above purple trees painted white with snowflakes. Feeble moonshine falls through the sky and crumble into flurries of smile. Misty sun gently kisses the foggy Rosemary morning. In the blue sapphire morning, unchained petals cheer as the soulful Spring is near ♥
And when Nature offers abundance of beauty, color, joy, merriment and mirth, you know SPRING is around ♥
To bring a little more sunshine, cheer and delight on ‘Spring is in the air’ weekends, I make THE most sensual, natural beverage in the world, Tea and go outdoor. For me, tea in a vibrant, gorgeous cup is a perfect antidote to winter blues ♥
Tea brings Powerful, Wonderful, Luxurious unexpected delight to my afternoon snacks. Tea makes spring more springy. I can give you twenty million adorable reasons to love tea ♥
Gastronomically speaking, tea is outstandingly easy to prepare: add freshly boiled water to your tea bag in a mug. Allow the tea bag to brew for 2 minutes. Remove the tea bag. Add 10ml of milk and sugar. Now take a sip !
Instead of mixing sugar and milk to your tea, add a stick of cinnamon, honey and a few drops of lemon juice. All the woody, earthy, sweet, slightly tart happiness of the world will waltz in the cup. And that will make the spring last all year long.
Tea is a religion of the art of life. ~ Kakuzō Okakura, ‘The Book of Tea’.
Tea is instant wisdom – just add water!~Astrid Alauda
‘Come and share a pot of tea,
My home is warm and my friendship’s free’
– Emilie Barnes
Posted on November 16, 2013
Sending some love, hugs and sugar cubes to sweetheart http://lillysuesbitesandbrews.com/ and darling http://fae-magazine.com/ for nominating me on Liebster Blog Award. Thank you and I accept the award with honor and pleasure. Rules: 1. Thank and link to the blogger who gave you the award. 2. Copy and paste the award in your post. 3. Pick 5 other blogs with less than 200 followers to award. Leave a comment on their blog to let them know about their nominations. My nominees:
Dedicating a bunch of sunshiny cookies and tea to darling Ada of http://morefoodpls.wordpress.com/, http://fae-magazine.com/ and amazing http://myeasychineserecipes.com/ for giving me Versatile blogger award. Thank you! Rules: 1. Display the Award Certificate on your blog. 2. Link back to the person who nominated you. 3. Present 15 awards to 15 deserving bloggers.
The prettiest Hibiscus from my garden goes to my sweetheart Angie of http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/ for nominating me on The Shine On Award. Thanks a million! Rules: 1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you. 2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog, and link back. 3. Share seven random, interesting things about yourself. (I’m a good listener, I live outrageously simple, my husband is my best friend, love sightseeing, I don’t watch TV-movies, I try to stay away from worldly-material temptations, I smile a lot) 4. Nominate up to 15 bloggers for the ‘Shine On’ Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs. I nominate for both above Award:
- Thank you all, for being a source of beauty, creativity and positiveness ♥ Delighted to have you all in my life ♥
Wrinkled, crippled, thin and heavy with the burden of her loneliness, she remained afloat instead of sinking. But at a point, her old, feeble limbs and bones couldn’t hold her existence anymore; she tottered and fell. Norma, my neighbor, caught the smell of her own death but decided to live and built herself a herb-garden. The Phoenix was back on her wings again!
I could see through my widow her back-braking hard work in the heat and rain, turned the front yard, with peace hung heavy all over, into an oasis. She turned barren dirt, dust and black rocks into gold that sings soothing, somber hymn when the days grow dim. I love sucking up lungful of breaths of that growth, beauty and green.
Her garden is more like a shrine, glistening graceful halos, hosted by a merchant of happiness; like a dreamscape built of eternal sunshine, an ancient fantasy.
She helped me growing wild, purple Bean clusters, lush and brazen, smudging smoky-green hue on the fence with an ecstatic protectiveness.
She taught me how to fortify the fortress, my garden, with a never-ending infatuation.
The smell of wood smoke from her kitchen, warm and moist, has been sending the song through my chimney everyday which I have been trying to sing for years.
One sizzling summer high noon, when the sun climbed higher in the sultry sky, breathless, I stopped in her spotless home upon her invitation. Instantly I was draped by the twirling, swirling scent of deep, ancient, mythical Shrimp curry and steamed rice. The smack of aroma came through so vividly that my frigid soul came alive instantly.
Rooted in nature, it looked ordinary but went extraordinary as I took my first bite unleashing a universe of exuberant fragrance. Lovely austerity of the white-greenish curry levitated my heavy self immediately. Cheerful Shrimps were heightened with a touch of bare minimum spices. Half-melted onion sauce and fresh, smooth coconut paste were clinging to the shrimps with a penetrating soft sweetness.
The most beautiful ‘Tastemaker’ in the world with a spiral braid swinging at her back with Hibiscus tucked in, created hypnotizing alchemy in the pan. She made a meal that taste like a poem ♥
Recipe doesn’t belong to a labor-intensive or rule-braking repertoire. It is rather quite relaxed:
1 medium onion/shallot – paste
Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Ginger paste – ½ tbsp
1-2 green chilies – paste
Salt to taste
Vegetable/olive oil 3 tbsp
Coconut milk – 1 cup
Shrimps 1 lb (10-12 large pieces, cleaned)
Saute first seven ingredients adding ½ cup warm water. Let it slowly evaporate until it had shrunk to a dense, caramelized gravy. about 10 minutes. Add shrimps and coconut milk. Cover. Cook for 7/8 minutes. Serve with rice.
Happy 98th Birthday, Norma, The Merchant of Happiness! Thank you for allowing me to touch the dreams everyday you have sown in your precious garden.
Posted on September 10, 2013
May you burn and rot in Hell-fire! May the Almighty hang you upside down and skin you alive in public!!
_ Here comes my muttered flurry of curse, with pain and disgust exploding in my heart, towards the young Arab guy every time he greeted me with his booming voice and crazy eyes. He was a total stranger I worked with at a security company as ‘student control room operator’. Night shifts. Just two of us. And he successfully made my life a living hell keeping my agony alive and well.
I have twenty million reasons to dislike this awkward slash highly unlikable guy. He sounds rude, looks rowdy, talks outrageously inappropriate in his random chit-chats. To fill in the impenetrable silence and emptiness between us, he would brag in detail about how thunderously ‘chicks/female species’ would succumb to his eccentric bohemian charm! (How utterly charming! How I wish to borrow Devil’s fork to poke this pathological flirt all over and watch his body twitch uncontrollably!)
He would sit with his chest puffed out, hair spiked bolt-upright in a despicable manner that screamed for attention! (But the narcissist buffoon was never able to make me swoon. Fiercely ‘modern’ guys like this specimen are so undatable, so-not-marriage-material, I tell you!)
Every morning before wrapping up, without offering him a single morsel, without acknowledging his presence, I would spread some devilishly tasty, lustrous Mango Chutney immaculately on a slice of bread. Sweet, a little tart, mildly spicy chutney would hit the right spots and I’d get lost into my wildest dreams, ultimate fantasy: in hell that fella is getting whipped hard by Arnold Schwarzenegger. And his evil tongue got twisted backward. And he got bitten by an Anaconda and declared spot dead by the reporting angels. ( How insanely nice would it be to watch his corpse half-buried upside down with his legs in the air!) .
I’m snapped back to present by the scoundrel’s nasty gurgly slurp of coffee followed by humongous burps! How I hate the fact that he exists but how I murderously adore my captivating craving for ‘Mango Chutney breakfast revenge’! .
His raven-black, voodoo presence chokes me, makes me feel like a dead wood drifting downstream. He is like a treacherous chunk of cloud curtaining my windows from letting in rays of the sun. I prayed hard for an exit as I’m caught in a spider web; stuck, froze-up in a dark, dingy dungeon; trapped in an unknown bottomless pit where there was no swimming forward or backward. I’m too much in love with this job to let it go just because of him. Was it worth shedding tears for countless hours over a guy who I hate to look in the eye? – Absolutely! A full year of soaking in his evil energies later, my prayers were heard and answered. We were informed that due to recent recession one of the student-operators will be laid-off and they will decide today who that would be. The infidel bum-hole Arab dude right away stepped aside and said, “I’m ready to resign”, sticking his pinky finger in a circular motion into his ear hole.
He left quietly. I was busy watching the snowflakes bouncing off the Eucalyptus leaves like popcorn. Let it snow.
That year the winter arrived with the harshest blizzards knocking off strong trunks of Maple and Mahoganies, burring Lilies and Lilac bushes deep into snowdrifts. The hit was hard to take. My devastated body collapsed due to extra workload all night long, rising pressure from classes and field works all day long, home works and researches all evening long. My heart and soul shuttled back and forth between life and death. Thankfully my Indonesian roommate was there to revive me. .
Spring came alive. Pastel gardens went crazy with flowers and butterflies in bursting color and hue. With smoke-like sweet scented mist hovering from the towering trees, my dreams kept growing. I got promoted at work. Found a better place to live in. In reply to my sincerest goodbye thanks, my roommate smiled, “Give thanks your jobless ex-colleague who brought you home cooked fresh food every single day including that massive Mango Chutney jar.”
Suddenly the sun turned lightless and grey again, blowing foggy wind chills frosting my soul, deadening and hushing my heartbeats. Brightly blazed Daffodils beneath the hills died out in a wink. I kept on dialing his number to thank him but that number, by then, was inactive, unreachable and as silent as a dead shore where water never meets the land.
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of cumin seeds
2 green chilies or 1 tbsp crush red chili flakes
4 mangoes, peeled, pitted, and chopped (4 cups)
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp Mustard oil/vegetable oil
Heat just a little trace of oil. Sauté first four ingredients until they release fragrance. Add mango chunks. Add vinegar and water. Over medium heat, cook them down to a smooth density. Cook about an hour.
To mediate the spice and hit, add sugar and salt towards the end.
What emerges is an eye-soothing glaring amber colored satiny, soulful substance with delightful tastes synchronizing in it.
Allow the chutney to cool. Store in glass jars in the refrigerator up to six months.
Serve this luxuriant chutney with bread, rice, baked/fried fish, meat, fritters; should you care to invoke pure splendor and bliss in your lungs and taste buds.
Mango chutney builds tastes that you would want to keep going back to as long as you can. It’s a ravenous relief from store-bought jam/jelly boredom.
- A total stranger who I had no strings attached with whatsoever, stepped into the quicksand so that I stay safe in the oasis. The beautiful stranger with beams of blue flickering through his eyes, chose to climb a nameless, starless, slippery staircase barefoot (as lovers often do) which leads nowhere leaving behind a lantern casting soft halos of light for me to ignite my hopes, to fix my life.
Ever since my ungrateful, ignorant, infidel, thankless, judgmental heart stopped breathing. How can I breathe knowing there’s a debt on my chest that is heavier than the Himalayas?