Lal Mohon aka Gulab Jamun: A sensory bombardment

Countless snow flurries are falling soundlessly. Mother nature gets grey and as dry as the Sahara. Winter windchill enters her bloodstream and she feels a sense of resignation, fear … when the sense of hibernation is that strong, that deep, that long-lasting and that huge, why not celebrate light ! Why not feast with sweets against the darkness of Winter!

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Ricotta Fudge .

To wade off Winter’s chill, if you’re in the pursuit of some antidote, some drug to saturate your palate; something that can melt you, thaw you out and untangle you …. Try Ricotta Fudge. Or, try Lal Mohon which is also known as Gulab Jamun in South Asia. Your spirits will kindle!

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Lal Mohon is a love-drug ♥ Totally. These twinkling beauties are constantly beckoning for you to come closer to her mystery, sink deeper. Their tender, rose-petal softness invites a finger’s touch.

There is so much sweetness, softness, happiness, beauty and bliss in those tiny, cute, juicy balls! Pop one in your mouth, let it explode in your throat and you’ll feel an unbelievable amount of glee traveling down to your tummy!

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Ingredients:

For making balls:

Full cream milk powder 1 cup
All purpose flour 1 tbsp
Baking powder 1/4 tsp
Ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil 1 tsp
Milk or water 3 tbsp
Cardamom powder 1/4 tsp

For making syrup:

Sugar 1 cup
Water 2 cups
Cardamoms 4 pcs
Rose water 2 tsp

For deep frying:

Oil or clarified butter (ghee)

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Method

Stage 1:

1. Mix well flour, baking powder, milk powder, cardamom powder.
2. Add Ghee and liquid milk. Make soft but sticky dough.
3. Make 1″ balls. About 12 balls. Make sure there’s no crack on the surface of the balls.
4. Heat oil/Ghee over medium heat for at least 5 minutes. Reduce heat. Lightly fry balls in batches until they turn reddish brown. Heat should be same all the way through. After frying for 7-8 minutes, balls will float and expand in size. Drain balls, place on paper towel.

Stage 2:
1. Make simple syrup by mixing and cooking water plus sugar. Add cardamoms. Reduce heat. Throw fried balls.
2. Cook for 3-4 minutes in medium heat. Add couple of drops rose water for a little exotic kick. Stop cooking.
3. Let the balls soak in the flavored syrup for 3 hours.

Serve as dessert or evening snack. A cup of tea would nicely go alongside. Fresh, warm dumplings are better, but chilled ones is a perfectly good option for that pleasant chillness instantly will warm up, ignite your heart.

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This is the kind of taste that lasts for a lifetime! It has this amazing power to bring your shattered, tired, frozen self back to life. And that light-airy-velvety-sunny-sweet aftertaste will leave your tongue comfortably numb ♥

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Shrimp Curry

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:

good182-1-2Do their damsels get deliriously happy and dance barefoot on the moonlit sand seeing and touching the burst of colors from the deep purple beans grown in their gardens?

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good213-1Like us, do they make those drop dead gorgeous pile of Amber split lentil Halwa in Spring evenings?

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good201-1 Like us, do they savor tea in every single Magnolia-morning to warm up their stiff souls?

Do their grandmas hold the precious babies on the lap under the far away stars and whisper lullaby in their ears?

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g157edtDo they, in a high heated noon, after the rain, watch the rainbow rising from the horizon while enjoying some Pomegranate-pearl studded Apple salad?

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good129 (2)-2 Do their fish cutlets flood with a luster of gold like ours?

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good86-2 Does their version of wildly luxurious coconut-carrot soup smell like sweet dreams?

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great34 (3) Do they worship soul-foods in their cold, blue, lonely, chilly days like we do?

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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.

good105-1They wore more color and happiness than these Persimmons.

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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.

good60-1Every inch of that bowl, every particle of the ingredients was filled with warmth. And this dish sent me into full-throttle bliss.

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Recipe

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.

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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.

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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.

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Those ‘savages’ will overflow their guests with kindness even if they cordially dislike them. We bombard who we dislike.

Crossing Jamuna

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.

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Rose Tea

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.

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Whole wheat flat breads and pan fried spicy eggplant. Earthy. Fiery. Soul soothing meal; their breakfast.

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The people of the land of prairies and miles of paddy fields snack on pink lentil fritters.

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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.

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Egg Curry

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.

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Ingredients:

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

8 eggs

Method:

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.

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Egg Curry 2

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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..

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Satiny, silky, velvety Pumpkin-Carrot Halwa; simple, sweet and satisfying dessert with an esthetic that my ancestors surrendered themselves to for ages.  .

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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.

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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.

Purity Does Exist

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.

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Kingfishers, glimmer of glow worms, Squirrels fly in rhythm. Here raindrops gently kiss the muddy Rosemary.

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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.

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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.

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Ingredients

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

salt

2 tbsp clarified butter (ghee)

2 1/2 liter water

 To serve: (Optional)

Julienne ginger, chopped coriander leaves, sliced lemon, chopped green chillies.

Method:

* 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.

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HalimcprtThe excitement lies in the unexpected detail. It is a little rich, strong, swaggering. Add fresh salad and suddenly everything flares into life.

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NoodlesAlong came some astonishing Noodles exploding with shredded Carrots, Zucchinis, Cherry tomatoes and sauteed shrimps intensity. Saturated with soy sauce, salt and ginger.

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Tomato SaladHere the rhythm of the wind is meditative, an unhurried one. This afternoon is a perfect time to savor some Salad…simple yet full of charm.

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Water melon chunks engulfed in flaming red.

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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 ♥

Ambrosia

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.

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A clean, crisp breeze spiced by the aroma of the earthy spices and Hilsa fish curry tiptoed across the traveler’s fatigued eyelashes.

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Sun-drenched, dark skinned, soft spoken people offered the traveler plethora of sweets along with water that smells like home.

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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.

Shondesh copyright

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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.

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KhichuriThe scent of ‘Lentil Rice’ wafted up deliriously from the kitchen, in welcome. Like butterflies fluttered down from the flowers that carpeted the yards.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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Lentil rice beef curry

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.

Tea

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 ♥

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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 ♥

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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 ♥

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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 !

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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.

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Tea

Tea is a religion of the art of life. ~ Kakuzō Okakura, ‘The Book of Tea’.

Tea is instant wisdom – just add water!~Astrid Alauda

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‘Come and share a pot of tea,
My home is warm and my friendship’s free’
– Emilie Barnes

The Marchant of Happiness

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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:

http://myeasychineserecipes.com

http://khadizaskitchen.com/

http://twistedcheft.com/

http://www.withaspin.com/

http://youreverydaycookradha.blogspot.com/

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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.

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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:

http://www.thelady8home.com/

http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/

http://morefoodpls.wordpress.com/

http://honkifyourevegan.com/

http://allthatcooking.com/

http://messykitchenstories.com/

http://eat-love-and-be-happy.com/

http://yireservation.com/

http://www.cookistry.com/

http://coloryourrecipes.com/

http://www.spiceroots.com/

http://lillysuesbitesandbrews.com/

http://www.kitchenflavours.net/

http://cubesnjuliennes.blogspot.in/

http://cookfearless.com/

- Thank you all, for being a source of beauty, creativity and positiveness ♥ Delighted to have you all in my life ♥

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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.

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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.

Bean plant

She taught me how to fortify the fortress, my garden, with a never-ending infatuation.

Bean in a bucket.

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.

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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.

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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.

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