Sunday, May 20, 2018

Harud by the lake

We, i.e. P and I, love Kashmir. It's the place, the food, the people and the stories which have struck a chord with us. 

The last time we were in Srinagar, Kashmir; for me it was for a really short time. Only 2 days. It so happened that P was working there. When his work got over, it was a Thursday. So we decided that he would stay back and I would join him over the weekend. Those were the last few days of Autumn, sometimes in  early Novermber. It was about to rain and then the red leaves of the chinar trees would start  to fall, heralding the onset of a bitter winter.  Since last 3 years I was planning to be in Kashmir during Autumn, when the Chinars turn red!Every year something would come up and I would miss it. 

Kashmir has it's own charm during all the seasons. And we fell in love with the beautiful Harud (autumn) there. The slight chill in the air, the dry leaves in the trees, those big chinars with their red/brown leaves - everything added to the beauty of this heaven on earth. For those 2 days, we  roamed around the city at our own pace. Walked around the Nishad Garden and Chinar bagh. Sipped Kahwa from roadside small eateries,visited the famed sufi shrine of Khanqah-e-Moula .Looked for Rainbow bakery and had their amazing walnut brownie.We even  made plans with our friendly and trusted Auto driver Manzoor bhai to go to Downtown Srinagar at 5 am to have Harissa,a winter specialty served by just a handful of restaurants in the morning. But alas the last thing we couldn't do because on that day, our last day in Srinagar, there was a bandh called for and Manzoor bhai refused to take any risk by taking us there.

Slightly disheartened we came to Daal lake for a stroll before we left the city. We just sat by the lake, doing nothing just looking into this beautiful lake that defines the city. There were very few "tourists" that early in the morning. The sky was still gloomy after the previous night's shower. As we sat there, the sky slowly started to open up. There was still a light mist in the distance.For Kashmir the last 2 years had been really dismal in terms of tourism. Hotels and Houseboats were empty, shikaras were running into losses. The Shikara owners we got talking to told us how  bad the previous "seasons" were.

But still there was some hope; that the coming year would bring in peace and people will be back to enjoy a Shikara ride on Daal lake. We looked towards the lake and as we were about to leave, P said " Let's take one selfie with the daal lake". We looked out and P hit the click button on his phone, just in time to capture the Shikara in the frame too.

It was a beautiful moment captured in our minds and in P's Selfie Camera forever. 




Selfie with the Shikara

Just like this beautiful moment, there are many more special moments that we want to keep frozen in our lives forever. Here comes Mobiistar ; who has entered Indian market with plans to develop the smartphone segment in India by understanding the consumer need for a selfie smartphone and their desire to gain more enjoyment at great value. The main highlight of the Mobiistar handset is the integration of a dual selfie camera on the front with the ability to capture images in a stunning 120-degree wide-angle shot. So next time we are in Kashmir we can capture a wider image with the stunning mountains around. For that matter anytime we want to click a selfie, we can plan a wider shot with whatever we wish to capture. How cool is that! 

Mobiistar will soon be available on Flipkart. Do check out Mobiistar on Flipkart to enhance your Selfie Experience.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Narasigha Diya Masor jool


Since last evening I was craving for a typical Assamese fish preparation called Narasigha Masor Jool / Fish curry with Curry leaves. We all know what health benefits curry leaves carry within them. Back home, this fish curry used to be a special one; not very regularly cooked like the other tangy preparation or Masor tenga. But atleast once in a month this was made specially if anyone was unwell and was suffering from loss of appetite. We in Assam eat river fish. So this is also made with river fishes.

Here it goes :

Ingredients 

A bunch of tender curry leaves / Narasingha paat ( in Assamese)
Few fish pieces ( I cooked Katla / 3 pieces)
One boiled Potato ( optional)
Turmeric ( To marinate and to put into the curry)
Salt ( To marinate and to put into the curry)
Half tea spoon of mustard seeds
One teaspoon of black pepper powder.
Mustard oil 

Method

Wash the fish pieces and add turmeric and salt and keep aside for 10 minutes. Wash the curry leaves and grind them. I remember while growing up there were a pair of mortar and pestle at home and curry leaves were ground using these. But now it's the job of a grinder. 





Half fry the fish pieces in mustard oil and keep aside. Add one table spoon of mustard oil into a kadahi / vessel. When the oil gets hot, splutter some mustard seeds. Add little turmeric and salt as per taste. Pour the ground curry leaves paste. Let it cook for 5 minutes. Coarsely mash the boiled potato and add into the curry leaves at this stage. As everything gets mixed well, add 2 cups of hot water. Bring this curry to boil. Add the fish pieces now and sprinkle a teaspoon of black pepper powder. Let the fish curry boil for 6-7 minutes. 



Serve hot with steamed rice.

While the curry was boiling, the aroma of the curry leaves filled the kitchen and transporting me back to my childhood. This was the aroma of afternoons at home on school holidays. Why did I grow up!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Raw Mango with Masoor Daal

A long weekend comes and it brings my urge to experiment in the kitchen. That's actually not unusual these days as I have been doing that quite often. But I have become very lazy when it comes to update my kitchen stories or any stories in the blog. But this one I would like to share.

The King of fruits aka Mango is back! So does summer and scorching heat. In our society there are 2 big mango trees and each year we get some raw mangoes at this time around. By we, I mean each of the flats. So the first  2 raw mangoes of the season were promptly turned into a pickle.



Since we still had few raw mangoes with us, we decided to have them before they soiled. So today I decided o make a tangy daal cooked with raw mango. I am sure many parts of our country will have variations of this. But I followed the Bengali way which is called Kacha Aam Diye Daal.

Ingredients :

1 medium raw mango
1 cup masoor daal or chana daal ( I used masoor daal)
1 dried red chili
2 green chilies
Half tea spoon turmeric
Half tea spoon mustard seeds
2 table spoon mustard oil
Salt as per taste

Method :: 

Wash and soak the masoor daal for 10 minutes. Put the daal into a pressure cooker with water just to cover it, add salt and cook till one whistle. I do not prefer masoor daal to be over cooked and complete mushy. Hence I stopped at one whistle only. Peel and cut the mango into slices. Now open the pressure cooker, add mango pieces, green chillies and half tea spoon of turmeric. Close the lid again and cook for one more whistle. Release the pressure and open the lid immediately. You see, you can surely add the mango pieces in the first go itself. However this may turn the daal very tangy. Hence I followed this method. This is what I have learnt from my Bengali friends who are some excellent cooks.

Now the tempering. Heat mustard oil in a pan / kadahi. Add mustard seeds and the red chili. As the mustard seeds splutter, pour the daal into this. Mix everything with a saddle and let the daal boil for about 6-7 minutes. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Kacha Aam diye daal with Bhaat 










Saturday, January 27, 2018

From our village kitchen...

It is always a proud moment when the kids in the family make you go "wow". This Magh Bihu ( The harvest festival that coincides with Makar Sankranti) this is exactly what happened. These days when  your family and it's extended members are connected on social media, it is only natural that you get to know of things through such medium. We saw this post about " Akholor Juti " / Flavours of the kitchen rather Flavours of my kitchen on Gunjan's Facebook page. Gunjan is P's kid cousin ; his Mama's son from Tezpur , a beautiful town in Assam. 


The love for food runs in the family and it is heartening to see youngsters trying to revive traditional and forgotten cuisines.This bihu a bunch of childhood friends Bibhakar Sharma ( Gunjan) , Debojyoti Dutta, Rahul Kashyap ( who made the posters) came up with Akholor Juti with the hope of serving the people of their howetown some "not too common" but very authentic Assamese flavours like Bahor Sunga t diya Kukura or Chicken cooked inside a bamboo. Gunjan's mother and our Maami Mitali Sharma joined them too. Another friend Riya Masoom came on board to help with marketing and promotions. And thus begun the Flavours of the Kitchen or Akholor Juti.

Going by the response of their clients on Social Media, we could guess the result of this endevour.



Here's what these enterprising bunch of young faces behind Akholor Juti have to say about their venture.  


Q1) How did Akholor Juti happen. Who are involved in this?

It happens often when some ideas simply keeps piling up inside our mind and we hardly do anything about them. Well, Akholor Juti was one that broke the pile of thoughts. Starting up something was always there at the back of our mind, but what to start and how to start was not lucid. Than this idea of starting a food delivery chain suddenly followed up. The idea was to bring something to the people of our hometown who were lagging in terms of these types of services. This followed up with number of conversations with family members and close friends and ended up as an initiative which would never have been this overwhelming if it were not for the people of my town, Tezpur for their immense support. When the plan took a firm turn, we knew this for sure that our people have missed something huge in their food choices and that's when the idea to add ethnic flavours in our dish popped in. Moreover , we wanted to do it in a time where the prevalence of the dish is at its peak and what could have been better than Magh Bihu? So, without much ado, we planned the further details and thus, 'Akholor Juti's happened and our prior aim was to serve happiness at the doorsteps with flavours they have missed for long.
Bahor Sunga / Bamboo hollow



Q2) Did you already know the recipe ? Do you have any helping hands in the kitchen?

Yes, the recipe was already known to us, as it was the result of some further experimentation which we have done back in our kitchen, mostly during the wintry nights of December and January.The recipe was always simple,but bringing in something new in the form of ethnic Assamese tradition and to amplify the taste buds of the people was always our sole motive.

Yes,there were a handful of people involved in the kitchen which helped us turn this idea of serving ethnic Assamese cuisine to doorstep a reality.

The Bamboo Hollows getting cooked


Q3) How was the response?

When we started of with the idea, we were reluctant of the fact that will people actually be on the same page as that to us in terms of the quality and the taste we have promised. To begin with, the responses were limited, but as more people got the opportunity to taste our cuisine, responses and good wishes flooded up in the social media which was our portal of marketing and eventually we ended up drop-shipping over 120 orders in just 2 days .What was most satisfying for us was the fact that we were able to create a goodwill and brand image and thereby create a bond with the people that we aspired of through Akholor Juti.
The cooked chicken


Q4) Were you prepared for this kind of response?

To be frank ,we never expected the responses that we have been getting, as Akholor Juti started of as an initiative we took to put a small foot forward in realising our idea of serving people with succulent cuisine ,right at their doorstep. The responses that we received will only motivate us and keep us in good shape to work hard on our ideas in bringing up something new, which we as consumers always fancied of. More than the responses,we were actually happy about the changes that we were able to bring in this dynamic food –chain market.

Chicken


Q5) What are the future plans for Akholor Juti?

Future plans are actually very hard to pen down as we are working in a very dynamic and versatile market .But with the love and support that people have shown for Akholor Juti, we are only planning to turn Akholor Juti into a complete package of fusion cuisine with the taste of both modern and ethinic food to serve the people with cuisines that will not only bring a change in their taste buds but also leave behind that lasting change. Akholor Juti has been a learning curve for us and we can promise that better days are coming in terms of all the food enthusiastic people of Assam. Here, we can promise that our plans will be very much concentrated to our people as we wish to maintain our cordial relationship with them. We will always be customer centric and will always work for the betterment of our cuisines as well our services.

DISCLAIMER : All the images are provided by the team of Akholor Juti on my request. All images are copyright protected.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mekhela Chadars and Sarees - My To Do in 2018

Guilty Guilty - Of being THIS lazy that my last blog post was in September 2017. I know; extremely shameful. I have noone else to blame but I, me and myself for this. This year I promise to be more regular. Ok now, does that sound like a resolution? I did not intend it to be though. But this year i.e. 2018 I hope to do somethings that I always wanted to do; but never actually did.

One I already mentioned about try and being more regular with my Dear Diary. The other is, this year I will bring out the Sarees and Mekhela Chadars out of the suitcase and almirah and WEAR them. Yes, enough is enough. I have to wear them before they get "damaged" lying there or before I leave the world and cry in front of Yamraj that I could not even wear this saree or that mekhela chadar. By the way mekhela chadar is the traditional dress from Assam. It looks like a saree but this is not a saree of course. For easier understanding ; it is a two piece saree comprising of a mekhela ( the long skirt) and a chadar ( the long dupatta type cloth worn over the mekhela).

So going towards that "resolution", I have worn mekhela chadar twice in a month. Yay, am I happy or am I happy. I know it sounds stupid, but I am ecstatic. The other day I saw a small AV of Anju Maudgal Kadam one of the 2 ladies behind the massive 100 Saree Pact . This AV was made for promotion of Poorna, the film and it featured Rahul Bose. Though I knew about the 100 Saree Pact, I never had the time to really find more about it. But that AV intrigued me and my respect for the 2 ladies ; Anju Maudgal Kadam and Ally Matthan grew. They managed to create a movement and many women took the courage to bring back the sarees lying in some corner of their closets. It is very simple actually; you have to wear a saree 100 times a year. I don't think I am ready for that yet. But still a small step to bring back my sarees and mekhela chadars from oblivion.

The First One :

This is a black and blue Assam Paat silk mekhela chadar. This was actually a gift by a very dear friend. That was hers but since she hardly wears mekhela chadars; she decided to give away some. She gave me 3 saying " I know you will wear them." Now that's a lot of expectation. After I think 5 months of the gift, I found an occasion to wear that. It was the Navjote of my boss's daughter. I had never been to an Navjote function before. So I had to find out from my other Parsi friends about the dress code. He suggested " Wear a saree". My colleagues also decided to go with sarees. Thus I wore that wonderful pair of mekhela chadar and rocked the dance floor too. What to do; I cannot stop whenever DJwale babu plays some oh so danceworthy numbers!


The Second One :

This pair of Mekhela chadar is a cotton one. This is again a gift. My sister in law gifted me this one about 8-9 months ago. What happened was I saw her wearing a very bright pair of mekhela chadar in one of the family functions. I complimented her as I really loved the mekhela chadar and she was looking very nice too. The next time I visited Assam was when my nephew was born and sister in law was at her parents house. I went there to meet them and I came back with this pair of mekhela chadar. So in Mumbai , when I received an invitation to a Malayalee wedding, I brought out this one. Even though I have one Kerala Kasavu saree, I wore this simple white and red mekhela chadar because that was my kind of tribute to the Kerala Settu Mundu.


Just twice I wore traditional wear and I am writing a blogpost. Is wearing the traditional drape makes my mind think and write more? Hmmm something to ponder for sure.

Tell me what do you think.