Recos, please!

I realise I have been living under a rock for the last two years, at least as far as Bollywood is concerned. Not that I was a great Bollywood fanatic before the said two years, before the motherhood phase of my life started, but at least I was then a wee bit more aware of the goings-on in the industry, the ins and outs of celebrities, good movies and good songs. Now, the situation is that I can’t even recognise any actor, I can’t hum along to any song, and I don’t remember the last movie I saw. I don’t like this situation, especially the lack of music part.

So, this is a plea for help. Please get me in touch with the good kind of Bollywood gossip, celebrities I should keep an eye out for, movies I should be seeing and the music I absolutely shouldn’t miss out on. Anything from the last two years or so is perfectly fine. I hope you’ll play along, and shower me with a whole lot of recommendations. Thank you in anticipation of your co-operation!

PS: You could even tell me about exceptionally good Tamil/ English songs/ movies!

Orange-Infused Date & Nut Pedas| No-Cook, Easy Dessert Recipe

Ganesh Chaturthi is just around the corner, and that means it is time to prepare sweets at home, according to me.πŸ™‚ So, I think it is also time to tell you about these gorgeous orange-infused date & nut pedas that I made a while back. If you are looking for a no-cook, super simple but super delicious sweet dish recipe for the upcoming festival, you needn’t look any more. These pedas will surely be much loved.

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This recipe is inspired by two other recipes I have tried out and loved – the home-made date & nut fudge and the chocolate & nut laddoos.

Now, let’s wait no longer and cut straight to the recipe.

Ingredients (yields about 15 pedas):

10 orange cream biscuits (I used Bounce)

15 dates (de-seeded)

5-6 tablespoons dry coconut powder

About 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

5-6 cashewnuts

5-6 almonds

Powdered cashewnuts and almonds, for decoration

A little butter/ghee to grease your palms

Method:

  1. Break up the orange cream biscuits into large pieces. Powder them in the mixer, along with the cashewnuts and almonds.
  2. Now, add the de-seeded dates, cocoa powder and dry coconut powder to the mixer, mix with a spoon, and give everything a whir together for a couple of seconds. Ensure that everything is well mixed together.
  3. Grease your palms with a little butter, and shape pedas or small balls out of the mixture.
  4. Decorate the pedas with powdered cashewnuts and almonds, and place them in an air-tight box.
  5. Keep the box in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, letting the pedas chill and set well.
  6. Serve them chilled or after bringing to room temperature.

Do you like the sound of these pedas? I hope you will try these out too, and that you will love them as much as we did!

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Here are some other easy dessert recipes that I have tried out and loved.

Boondi Laddoo Rabdi

OPOS Coffee Flan

No-Bake Eggless Chocolate Ganache And Strawberry Tart

Eggless Mango Ice Cream Without Ice Cream Maker

Chocolate & Coconut Balls With Dry Fruits

Eggless Lemon Ice Cream Without Ice Cream Maker

No-Bake Vanilla Ice Cream Pie With Fresh Grapes, Strawberry & Butterscotch Syrup

Panchamritam, The Food Of The Gods

Home-Made Date & Nut Fudge

Fruit Γ‹xtravaganza

Eggless Coffee Pudding

Chocolate & Nut laddoos

Home-made date & nut fudge

Of Eating Mysorepak Straight From Its Place Of Origin

I am sure there aren’t many among us who haven’t ever sampled the famed mysorepak from the south of India. That said, I think there are many who aren’t aware of how this famous sweet dish came to be. Today’s post is all about the invention of the mysorepak and more.πŸ™‚

First off, a little bit of background about the Wodeyar kings who ruled Mysore for long. Apparently, many of the kings from the Wodeyar clan were big-time foodies, who would challenge their chefs from time to time to come up with innovative dishes that made use of their talents and creativity. Thanks to this food love of the Wodeyars, a number of dishes were invented in the royal kitchens of Mysore, almost all of them famous throughout the world today. The Mysore masala dosa, Mysore rasam, Mysorepak or Mysore bonda, for instance.

The humble but delicious mysorepak is said to be invented in Mysore during the reign of Shri Krishnaraja Wodeyar aka Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, Maharaja of the state between 1894 and 1940. (Why do I call the mysorepak humble? Because it is a very simple sweet that is made with just three ingredients – chickpea flour, ghee and sugar! So unpretentious!) The then royal cook, Kakasura Madappa, was the brain behind this lovely invention.

One fine day, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV craved for a new, unique kind of sweet, and Kakasura, being the dutiful royal cook that he was, came up with the melt-in-the-mouth squares that later came to be known as the mysorepak. (The royal cook was then known as the nalapaka – i.e. the one makes the paka or sweet syrup – based on which Kakasura named his invention.) The king loved the sweet to bits, and rightly so – it was delectable and light and wonderful. The king went on to ask Kakasura to set up a shop outside the Amba Vilas Palace and sell his invention, so that even the common people could taste his gorgeous mysorepak. Kakasura did just that, and the fame of the mysorepak spread far and wide. Slowly and gradually, different versions of the mysorepak came about, including the Horlicks mysorepak that we get in many sweet shops today.

The shop that Kakasura set up exists till date, in the Devaraja Market of Mysore, by the name of Guru Sweet Mart. After Kakasura, the shop was run by his sons and his grandsons and so on, and presently, it is his great-grandsons who do business here. Though mysorepak later came to be available everywhere in Mysore, the reputation of Guru Sweet Mart as the seller of the best mysorepak in Mysore still remains unrivaled. The present-day owners of the store claim that their mysorepak is made (largely) exactly the same way Kakasura used to make it, all those years ago – the original recipe.

After reading up all about the history of the mysorepak, of course, we had to go to Guru Sweet Mart and get our hands on a slice of their legendary sweet. That was, I think, the first place we went to as soon as we landed in Mysore. The first sight of the shop came as a shock, I would say. We were expecting a large, fancy kind of shop, but were totally unprepared for the little hole in the wall that Guru Sweet Mart is. Even at about 8 in the night, when we visited, the shop was bustling with customers.

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Guru Sweet Mart, located in the busy Devaraja Market

We were told the mysorepak was bisi, bisi (hot, hot), straight off the stove. We asked for a parcel to get home, and in no time, the man at the counter made up a beautiful little gift pack for us. This, we later learnt, isn’t the best way to eat the Guru Sweet Mart mysorepak – you should eat it right there, bisi, bisi, standing outside the shop. For INR 20 or so, a little square of mysorepak is handed to you in a bit of newspaper, the ghee in the sweet pooling and forming a wet patch on the paper. You eat it with your fingers, bit by bit, savouring the taste and texture of it. (You could even heat it up in your kitchen, once you get home, for the same effect, but the experience just isn’t the same, we were told!)

The present-day Guru Sweet Mart is an outlet just for the sale of mysorepak. The sweet itself is made in private, at the nearby ancestral home of the owners, following Kakasura’s recipe, and then brought to the shop for sale. And, of course, the recipe is top, top, top secret.

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A glimpse of the inside of Guru Sweet Mart – that is all there is to the shop!

Today, Guru Sweet Mart sells not just the mysorepak, but quite a few varieties of other sweets too. We bought only the mysorepak, but we were told their other sweet dishes are just as delicious. Well, next time, maybe!

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Our own royal mysorepak sampling, back home!

And how was our experience with the mysorepak, you ask? Fabulous, I say. The sweet, as promised, melted in the mouth, and was sinful, loaded with ghee and taste. The texture is somewhere in between the grainy mysorepak that you get in Tamilnadu and the ghee-laden, smooth ones that are available in shops like Shri Krishna Sweets in Karnataka. Personally, we are big fans of the smooth variety, but the Guru Sweet Mart one won us over too.

Have you ever had the Guru Sweet Mart mysorepak? What was your experience like?

Mysore Trippin’!

Remember the holiday I was desperately craving to go on? Well, it happened! We went to Mysore over the weekend, with two additional days thrown in. I got some of what I needed – a break from the routine, quality family time, and a change of scene. The trip was shorter and more hectic than we wanted it to be, I didn’t get any one-on-one time with the husband, we couldn’t do everything we wanted to, and I can’t say it healed my body and soul, but it was still good. It was a last-minute decision to embark on this holiday, and we are glad we did. We got to see different sides to Mysore that we haven’t seen before, and came back with enough ideas to plan another trip around.πŸ™‚

This goes down in history as Bubboo’s first trip with her parents, alone – all the little and big travels we have had before with Bubboo have had someone or the other accompanying us.

Bubboo was a mixed kind of traveller on the trip, cranky and crabby at some times, super accommodating and understanding at other times. She just needs to get used to being out of home, I think, and the change of scene has done her a whole lot of good. She is tired, as of now, as her parents are too – nothing that a day of rest wouldn’t cure.

I will soon be back with stories from Mysore. Till then, you guys be good and take care!

 

Your Ideas, Please!

Friends,

I am fast approaching the end of the (free) media upload limit for this blog, The Girl Next Door. This means I will soon not be able to upload any new photos/videos on this blog.

I am here to ask you for suggestions as to what you would like me to do in this case. I have the following ideas:

  1. Keep this blog going as long as there is free media space available (and till I use up the posts that I have saved as drafts), and then shift to a new domain entirely.
  2. Shift to my other blog The World Through My Eyes, after the media upload limit has ended and all the drafts have been used up.
  3. Apply for the purchase of extra media space for this blog.
  4. Continue writing non-photo posts on this blog, and do the photo posts on The World Through My Eyes.

What would you recommend me to do? Any of the above or something else altogether?

Do let me know! I’m all ears. Thanks!

 

Crispy Honey Chilli Lotus Stem

A lot of you guys requested for the crispy honey chilli lotus stem recipe, when I asked for suggestions a while ago. So, here I am with the recipe! Dreamz And Clouds, Suko, Perspectives & Prejudices and Greenboochi, this post is for you.πŸ™‚

This crispy honey chilli lotus stem recipe is quite new to me, too. It was arrived at after a few experiments, taking notes and making changes along the way. The final recipe that I arrived at – what I am going to tell you about today – is customised to the taste preferences of our family. I must, therefore, tell you to make changes in the proportions of the sauces used, to suit your taste buds.

This recipe turns out a perfectly crispy and delicious starter, a wonderful mix of sweet, sour and spicy. It has fast become a favourite in our family, and that is no wonder! It tastes exactly like the lotus stem starter we are used to having at a favourite restaurant, and now we can make it at home whenever we want to.πŸ™‚

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Now, let’s get to the recipe, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 2):

1 large lotus stem (washed thoroughly to clear it of mud, peeled and thinly sliced – the slices should fill up about 3/4 of a large bowl)

2 tablespoons oil + more for deep frying the lotus stem

1 tablespoon sesame seeds (til), dry roasted

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons tomato sauce

1 teaspoon soya sauce

1 teaspoon vinegar

2 teaspoons red chilli sauce

A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Salt to taste (optional)

Red chilli powder to taste (optional)

2 tablespoons cornflour

5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Method:

  1. Take the chopped lotus stem in a large mixing bowl, and add the cornflour. Mix well, ensuring that all the lotus stem is thoroughly coated with the cornflour. Keep aside.
  2. Heat the oil to fry the lotus stem, in a deep-bottomed kadhai. Let it reach smoking point.
  3. In another bowl, mix together the tomato sauce, soya sauce, red chilli sauce, vinegar and honey. Add salt and red chilli powder to taste, if using, but they are not really required, as the sauces have all the tastes that this dish really needs. Mix well. Keep aside.
  4. When the oil is nice and hot, turn the flame down to medium. Fry the lotus stem pieces in the oil until crispy and well cooked inside and out. Fry them a few at a time, and then remove them onto a plate.
  5. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add the chopped garlic. Fry for a couple of seconds and then add the fried lotus stem. Add the mixed sauce and toss or mix with a ladle, ensuring that everything is well mixed together.
  6. Arrange the lotus stem on a serving platter and garnish with the finely chopped coriander leaves and roasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. You could increase or decrease the quantity of vinegar and the sauces, to suit your taste buds.
  2. I don’t usually remove fried items on to tissue paper. You could do that, if you want to.
  3. Red chilli powder and salt are not really needed in this dish, but you could add them if you want to.
  4. You could even use 1 tablespoon of rice flour and 1 tablespoon of cornflour, or 2 tablespoons of rice flour, to coat the chopped lotus stem.
  5. You could use dry red chillies and spring onions in this dish, too. Just add them while you are adding the chopped garlic.

You like? I hope you will try this recipe out, and that you will like it as much as we did!

If We Were Having Coffee…

… I’d tell you that Bubboo is better now, touchwood. She seems to have undergone a transformation as far as her favourite tastes are concerned – that is probably what the hunger strike she went on a while back was all about. I read somewhere that a lot of kids go through a phase like this at 21-22 months of age, where they just refuse to eat anything. It is a time when they are evolving rapidly as a person, and their tastebuds are too. At this stage, they begin to question the stuff they have been eating all this while, refusing food point blank, putting the parents in a very scary situation. Phew! I’m glad I’m out of those worries now.

… I’d tell you that, thanks to some sage advice I received from my paed and fellow moms, I think I dealt with the hunger strike well. After a point, I stopped making so much of an effort to feed Bubboo. I let her get hungry, and then come to food, instead of taking food to her. I let her pick and choose the foods that she wanted to eat. I gave her a change of scene by taking her to my in-laws’ place for a short stay. Slowly and gradually, her taste buds started working, and she began eating normally. She asks for different kinds of foods now – from vadams to khakras to sweet dishes, strange considering the way she wouldn’t even touch sweets earlier. Anyways, I am not complaining!

…. I’d tell you about how, of late, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the huge amount of chemicals and unwanted substances we are introducing into our stomachs and using on our skins. Soaps, shampoos, shaving cream, diapers, sanitary pads, packaged foods, talcum powder, hair oil, and even raw grains and vegetables that we buy – everything is laced with chemicals to some extent or the other. I’m glad we took the plunge and started using hand-made chemical-free soaps a year ago. I want to, slowly and gradually, switch over to entirely bio-degradable, natural and chemical-free stuff all around our house. I am researching, reading up on that, making enquiries, experimenting, and trying to figure out what will work for us and what not. In entirety, this change will take us a long, long, long while, but I do hope that we will get there, some day.

… I’d tell you of how the OH is facing a whole lot of politics, ill attitude, and stress at the workplace. It is frustrating to see him put up with all of it so that he can give his wife and kid a good life. It is worrying to see him so very tired at the end of each work day, more mentally drained than physically. It is mentally tiring for me to stand by and watch all of it happen, while I am unable to chip in and do anything for him, except make his time at home more comfortable. Sigh!

… I’d tell you about the lovely experiences we have had of late. First Dastkar, then the trip to Goravanahalli and the visit to the village santhe at Udigere, then the visit to the Bangla Mela. Each of these experiences has changed me, made me more aware, made me think a whole lot, knocked at my conscience and asked me to make some changes in the way we live our life.

… I’d tell you just how much I am craving for a vacation. It has been ages since the OH and I went on a trip that wasn’t undertaken with a religious purpose or to a family member’s home. I want to travel like we would before, seeking out experiences, relaxing, feeling the stresses of everyday life lose their grip upon our minds and bodies. I don’t know how well Bubboo would take such a trip, but this is definitely something we want to try out.

… I’d tell you of how Bubboo is getting naughtier by the day. I just can’t fathom how she gets up to 20 different kinds of mischief in the span of a few minutes. This morning, she put her hands into the commode, opened the tap in the bathroom, threw about half a bucket of water all over herself, insisted on drinking dirty water from the dishes stacked up in the kitchen sink, asked me to carry her around for close to an hour so that she could touch each and every plant in our balcony garden, climbed up on my computer table, threw all of the OH’s visiting cards on the floor, and what not. All of this after I got back from my morning walk. Any wonder I get exhausted before noon?😐 And while she is at the in-laws’, she is such a goodie-good girl that no one can believe she can ever get up to any mischief! These kids, I tell you!

… I’d tell you of how I try to cook something new at least once every week, in spite of all the sleep deprivation, tiredness and stress that I am undergoing now. I think it is only now that I am coming into my own, as far as my passion for cooking goes. My family doesn’t understand why I need to burden myself with one more thing – i.e. cooking – when we already have a cook, but I insist. A lot of people ask me how I muster up the enthusiasm to cook when I already have so much going on in life. I tell them the same thing I told Pepper, in a comment on one of my recent posts, “Well, I muster up the enthu because the cooking helps keep my stress levels at bay. It keeps me sane by giving me something to do, for myself. In between dealing with the kid, keeping house, trying to lose weight, dealing with a husband who has a very stressful job, being stuck at home without any kind of social life, having to depend on the husband for commuting anywhere, the worries about not having an income flow, cooking and writing about it are wonderful therapy. It gives me immeasurable relief to know that I can cook to save my life (and, maybe, make a living out of it too). Moreover, experimenting with different kinds of ingredients is a passion – it gives me pleasure to see something edible (or delicious) come out of it.:)

… I’d tell you about how we now have a bunch of ideas on how we want to celebrate Bubboo’s second birthday. We are mulling on a few things, and I’m hoping to have a small but beautiful celebration.πŸ™‚

… I’d tell you of how glad I am to be on Facebook, in spite of all the angst that social media receives these days. Too much of anything is bad, I agree, Facebooking included. I Facebook (that is, pretty much, the only kind of social media that I use regularly, apart from this blog) in moderation, I think. I love being a part of the Facebook groups that I am part of – they offer me food for thought, force me to take well thought-out decisions, and are there to offer suggestions and advice whenever I feel lost. I love writing about my discoveries, foodie and otherwise, on Facebook, and getting advice on them by people with different types of ideologies – it goes a long, long way in broadening my horizons. The people I come into contact with through these Facebook groups are so very inspiring, in a whole lot of ways. I don’t think I am addicted to Facebooking, and I love what I am doing with it. The time I spend there is totally justified, I feel.

… I’d tell you about the huge amount of growth I see in Bubboo over the last couple of months. It feels as if she suddenly grew into this big girl from a little one overnight. She is a full-on chatterbox, chattering away about this and that. I am amazed at the sheer number of new words and phrases she learns every day, from all and sundry, from times when we think she’s not even listening. She surprises us with her understanding at times, confounds us with her tantrums at others. She is at a highly impressionable age now, and we are very careful about what we do and talk in front of her. I don’t think it will be long before she starts asking questions about the world around her. We’d better be prepared!

… I’d tell you about the lot of life projects that I am currently working on, with Bubboo. For instance, I’m trying to potty train, trying to get her more comfortable out of doors, trying to get her to love physical play outdoors. These things keep me occupied, but satisfied. Wish me luck with these projects, will you, please?

… I’d also ask about you and your loved ones, about what’s up with you.

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For Weekend Coffee Share, an interesting meme here. Do check it out!

 

 

En Route To Goravanahalli: Thoughts After Visiting Two Village Santhes

Last weekend, the OH and I drove down to the Lakshmi temple at Goravanahalli, near Tumkur, along with Bubboo. It was a beautiful day, thanks to which we had a pleasant ride. Bubboo, too, thankfully, was a right soldier through most of the trip, dozing off and eating and drinking and playing in the car.

We encountered some beautiful, untouched rural scenes on the way, stopping by every now and then for a spot of photography. We ran into not one, but two proper village santhes (Sunday santhes, I think) at Goravanahalli and Udigere, en route, and were utterly charmed by them.

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Part of the santhe at Goravanahalli

My camera was overworked by the time we had finished with both the santhes. How could it not be that way, tell me? Both santhes were a riot of colour and smell, a feast to the senses. They were humble and utterly unpretentious, with no hint of commercialisation. On offer were a huge variety of vegetables, direct from farms, something which is a rarity for people like us, from big cities. There were also basic staples on sale, most of it farm-fresh, including pori, pulses, soaps, tea and coffee powders, rangoli powders, shampoo pouches, sugarcane juice, mixture and spices.

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Rangoli powders and vadams on offer at the Udigere santhe
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Fresh, fresh, fresh cumin and mustard on sale at Goravanahalli

We had our fill of ogling at all that gorgeous produce, and bought quite a few things as well. You know what, most of the vegetables were so very fresh they were good enough to eat raw! And we did see a lot of the villagers eating the vegetables raw, okra and tapioca roots included. I have never seen vegetables as fresh as the ones I saw here, I can safely say. The prices were unbeatable, too – 4 kg of tomatoes at INR 10, 250 grams of chillies at INR 20, a huge bunch of greens at INR 5, okra at INR 20 per kg, and beans at INR 20 a kg! Just what happens on the way from the village to cities like Bangalore for the vegetables to lose all that freshness and for their price to multiply, I wonder.

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Can you see just how humble this farmers’ market at Udigere is? That is precisely why I loved it!
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See how fresh that produce is! The okra was bigger than the palms of my fingers! The tapioca root that we bought was so fresh the skin peeled off at just one touch of the hand!
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Drool, drool, drool!

I came back with a big bag of vegetables, which I wanted to cook immediately and didn’t have the heart to put in the refrigerator. But then, some of it had to go into the refrigerator, sadly.

On the way back home, I peppered the OH with questions, most of them concerning the possibilities of buying fresh produce from santhes like this every week. It would cost us way too much in terms of fuel, he said, and most of the produce would have to be stored in the refrigerator till it was time to cook it, anyways. He was right, of course, but the temptation to do this kind of shopping every weekend just doesn’t go away.

I am, however, seriously worried about just how these farmers are making ends meet. How on earth do they afford to sell at these rates? Or are they just selling off whatever produce they can, at cost price, just so it doesn’t go to waste? That’s how the OH thinks it is, by the way, but I’m not sure. Any thoughts on this? I would love to help farmers like this, but I have no clue about where to start. Ideas, please!

Snapshots From Bengal Santhe 2016

I wanted to go to the Bangla Mela aka Bengal Santhe at Ulsoor, as soon as I got to know about it, a few days ago. The Santhe is, apparently, an annual affair in the city, organised by the Bengali Association, Bangalore, but I hadn’t heard of it before. We made it to the event today, and I am glad we did.

Thanks to the event, I got to know so much about Bengal, a state I have always been intrigued about, but, largely, been unaware about. I also realised how pitiful my knowledge is about Bengali food, a fact that I am not very happy about, considering the huge diversity the cuisine boasts of. Anyways, I am hoping this event will be the start to a learning process – learning about, and sampling, the lovely vegetarian dishes that the state of Bengal has to offer. I came away from the Santhe in a very thoughtful mood, clutching a bag of Bengali foodie souvenirs close to my chest. I can’t wait to cook with the products I bought, and hope they will lead me on some amazing foodie discoveries.

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The Santhe was quite small, smaller than we had expected it to be, and very uncommercial, much to our happiness. Prices were reasonable, and we were happy to find some authentic Bengali goodies there, including sarees, Govindobhog rice, panch phoron, dress materials, jewellery, show pieces and much more. We felt the food stalls could have been a tad better organised, though – there was a whole lot of chaos buying food, and the vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes were all jumbled up. Honestly, though, better organisation of the food stalls was the only thing I would like to see changed about the Santhe. The rest was just perfect.

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A saree on display at the Santhe
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A gorgeous Ma Durga showpiece at the Santhe

I picked up some lovely hand-made crotchet shoes for Amma and some beautiful hand-made hairbands and clips for Bubboo. I picked up a few very Bengali ingredients I know nothing about, but with which I would love to experiment in my kitchen. We also brought home a little parcel of some Bengali sweets that looked interesting.

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The foodie souvenirs that we bought at the Santhe
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Mishti doi, labang latika and kheer kadam – parcel from the Santhe

I am sure we will be going to this Santhe every year henceforth. Meanwhile, I will try my best to learn more about this beautiful state that I have always wanted to visit, but have never.

Does the event sound interesting to you? Go here to know more about the Santhe.

If you are in Bangalore, do visit this festa. This year, it is a two-day event, ending tomorrow, August 21, 2016, at the Bengali Association, Ulsoor. Entry is free.