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The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend – Katarina Bivald

Young Sara is a passionate lover of books. All the travelling she has done is through books – she has never been out of her hometown, Sweden, ever. She is not much of a talker, either, and doesn’t have any friends except her colleagues at the bookshop where she works. As her mother is fond of telling her, Sara lacks the ability to lead a ‘real’ life, out of her books. When her workplace shuts down, Sara sees it as the perfect opportunity to visit her book-lover penpal Amy in Broken Wheel, a small town in the middle of nowhere in the US of A. She wants to figure out her life and herself and, not to forget, meet Amy, a person who sounds rather interesting from her letters. That is how she sets out to a place she has never thought of visiting before, to meet a person whom she has never met before. How will Sara find Amy? What will she find in Broken Wheel, once she reaches there? All of this and more is covered in the pages of The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend; you’ll have to read it to find out. Saying any more would kill the suspense.

I requested the book on Netgalley because the plot sounded so very interesting. It definitely was an interesting read. The characters are well-etched, including Sara. Sara reminded me a lot of myself, in fact. The story is interspersed with the many letters that Amy and Sara exchanged, which makes for a lovely read – I love epistolary books because there is just something about letters that gets to me. Sara’s love for books and the way she and Amy bonded over books are simply lovely to read about. The narration is nice, and the book has its fair share of poignant moments. This book has been beautifully translated from the original, Swedish version. Many a times, in the course of my reading, I had to remind myself that this was a translation; it had none of the awkward language and the losing of nuances that is oh-so-common in translations. The small-town setting of the story is charming.

There was a lot that I liked about this book, and a few things that I didn’t. The characters are eccentric, making for an entertaining read, but sometimes, they felt too far removed from real life to be believable. The same was the case with the storyline too – parts of it seemed too far-fetched and unrealistic. That is the cynical part of me speaking, though, I’ll tell you. If you are ready to look at the book as a bookish fairytale, I think you will have a different experience reading it. The story seemed to be too slow-moving, too long-drawn-out in parts, even for me, and I say this as a person who normally enjoys slow-paced books.

All in all, I felt this book had everything to make it a highly delightful read, but it turned out to be only an above-average one for me. Some reviewers have stated that this book is a must-read for fans of 84 Charing Cross Road and The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, but I didn’t find it as charming a read, I’m sorry to say. I definitely do not want to pooh-pooh the book either – it is far from horrible. It has many things going for it, but failed to be ‘the perfect’ read for me.

The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend is slated for release on June 18, 2015.

One Summer In Venice – Nicky Pellegrino

I have read Nicky Pellegrino’s books in the past and haven’t been very happy with them, but this sounded like something I would like. So, I was quick to request for it when the book appeared on Netgalley. I was approved, I read the book, and this time around, I was definitely not disappointed.

One Summer In Venice is the story of Addolorata Martinelli aka Dolly, owner and manager of a cosy eatery called Little Italy in London. When her restaurant is bashed by a hot-shot food critic in a newspaper, Dolly goes into introspection mode. She feels her life unravelling – her marriage isn’t going anywhere, her husband is frustrated with her, and her teenage daughter doesn’t even like talking to her. Now, the only thing that has always consoled her in turbulent times – food – seems to be lacking in its ability to provide her its usual warmth. Quite by chance, Dolly ends up going on a short trip to Venice, alone. The holiday seems like the perfect thing to examine her life and come up with a conclusion about what to do with it next. What will Dolly encounter in Venice? What conclusion will she come to, at the end of her trip? Will she even want to go back to her dreary life in London? You’ll have to read the book to find all of this out!

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading this book and, I must say, I greatly liked the author’s writing style here. She has come a long, long way from the first book of hers that I read. The characters in the book are interesting, eccentric, a mix of good and bad, very realistic. I have to give full marks to the author for creating a beautiful backdrop for the story – one cannot help but fall in love with all that Venice is, during the course of one’s reading of this book. The descriptions of the food in the book are just glorious. The storyline is lovely, with just the right amount of twists and turns to keep one hooked till the very end. I have to say I didn’t agree with everything that Dolly did in the story, but I could see her rationale behind doing so, and I couldn’t argue with that. Also, the book is too long drawn out in certain parts. There is not much happening in these parts, in terms of the storyline, but they are still not boring. They still make for interesting reading, giving deeper insights into the various characters.

My only grouse with the book is that the ending seemed quite abrupt. After the long-drawn-out story, the ending seemed rushed. The ending doesn’t seem to be improper; it just seems to lack the depth and richness that the author has exhibited throughout the rest of the story. Had she gone a bit more into depth towards the end, I am sure the story would have been all the more richer for it.

All in all, this book was something I enjoyed reading and liked, but didn’t fall in love with by the end of it. That said, this is something I would definitely recommend. Go for it if you are looking for a light read, which is not too dumb.

One Summer In Venice is supposed to be the sequel to Nicky Pellegrino’s The Italian Wedding, which I haven’t read so far. This is quite easy to read and understand as a stand-alone book, and one doesn’t necessarily have to read The Italian Wedding before it. I am, however, waiting to get my hands on The Italian Wedding!

Kaachi Keri Ane Dungli Nu Kachumbar| Raw Mango And Onion Salad

Kaachi keri ane dungli nu kachumbar is a salad made out of raw mango and onion, typically made in Gujarati homes during the summer. It is said to have cooling properties, helping to protect one against the dry, hot summer winds that are characteristic of Gujarat. With its sweet and sour taste, this salad used to be a favourite of mine back home. A Gujarati friend taught Amma how to make it, post which it became a regular fixture in my office lunch box. It was kind of forgotten after I moved to Bangalore – I was reminded of it recently while thinking of dishes to cook up for my Raw Mango Series.

I recreated this dish today for lunch, purely out of memory. It turned out delicious, making for a lovely accompaniment to the rotis and curry that I had. Oh-so-easy to make, it is quite the flavour bomb.

Here’s how I made it…

Ingredients (makes enough for 2, as a side dish):

1 medium-sized raw mango

1 medium-sized onion

Salt, to taste

Red chilli powder, to taste

Cumin powder, to taste

Powdered jaggery, to taste

Method:

1. Peel the raw mango and grate it. Keep aside.

2. Chop the onions length-wise. Keep aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, take the grated raw mango and chopped onions. Add salt, cumin powder, red chilli powder and powdered jaggery to taste. Mix well.

4. Let the salad rest in the refrigerator, covered, for about 30 minutes. This is an important step, which I wouldn’t advise to skip. The resting time allows the onions to mellow down and water, and the different flavours to merge together beautifully.

5. Take the salad out of the refrigerator a good while before you want to serve it, the way I do. Some people do not mind eating the salad chilled though, straight out of the refrigerator.

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This is my fourth post for this year’s Raw Mango Series. Click here, here and here to read the first, second and third posts for the Series, respectively.

I love how this Series is taking me places in my memory, making me cook dishes from different parts of the country. :) One can never underestimate the power of food in unifying people!

Tomato Pulao

We have always made pulao with a gravy based in tomatoes, onions, coconut, green chillies, mint and coriander leaves. A few days ago, I wanted to have pulao but something different from the usual. I threw in some random stuff from around the house and whatever veggies we had in the refrigerator. The result was yummy and different from the usual, just as I wanted. Everyone in the family loved it, and it is surely going to make an appearance quite often on our table. We refer to this dish as ‘Tomato Pulao’, as it is made in a tomato gravy.

Here is how I made it…

Ingredients (makes enough for 4 people):

For the gravy:

5 medium-sized ripe tomatoes

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled

A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled

Vegetables:

1 medium-sized carrot

2 medium-sized potatoes

About 10 French beans

A handful of shelled peas

1 medium-sized capsicum

2 medium-sized onions

A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves

10 leaves of fresh mint

Other ingredients:

3 tablespoons oil

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

Red chilli powder to taste

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

A 1-inch piece of cinnamon, broken in two

4-5 whole elaichi

4-5 cloves

2 bay leaves

A pinch of asafoetida

3-4 teaspoons rajma masala (I used MDH)

1-1/2 glasses rice

Method:

1. Peel the potatoes and carrots and cut them into large chunks. Peel the onions and chop them length-wise. De-string the beans and chop them into large pieces. Remove the seeds from the capsicum and chop it into large pieces. Chop the fresh coriander finely. Shred the mint leaves roughly with your hands. Keep the prepared veggies aside.

2. Chop the tomatoes into large pieces. Chop the ginger finely. Grind the tomatoes, ginger and garlic cloves into a fine paste in a mixer, without adding any water. Keep aside.

3. Wash the rice thoroughly in running water and place it in a colander. Let all the excess water drain out. Keep aside.

4. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to splutter. Add the asafoetida, cloves, elaichi, bay leaves and cinnamon. Fry everything for a minute, ensuring that they do not burn overly.

5. Add the chopped onions to the pressure cooker. Cook them on a high flame till they turn brownish.

6. Now, add the tomato-ginger-garlic paste to the pressure cooker. Cook for about 5 minutes on a high flame till the raw smell disappears.

7. Add the chopped veggies and washed rice. Stirring constantly, cook everything on a medium flame for 2-3 minutes.

8. Add 3-1/2 glasses of water, salt and red chilli powder to taste, turmeric powder, rajma masala, shredded mint leaves and finely chopped coriander leaves. Taste and add seasonings, if required. Turn the gas on high, and close the pressure cooker. Cook for 3 whistles.

Done! Serve hot with raita.

Notes:

1. You could even add other vegetables of your choice to the pulao, like cauliflower. I didn’t because I didn’t have any. You could even add soya nuggets.

2. I used rajma masala to make the pulao. I am guessing chhole masala or paav bhaji masala would give equally good results.

3. We normally use 3 glasses of water for 1 glass of rice, to cook ordinary white rice. Usually, we add a little less water than your usual to make pulao, to make it fluffy. In this case, I used 2-1/2 glasses of water per glass of rice, which comes to 3-1/4 glasses, plus a little extra for the vegetables, bringing up the total to 3-1/2 glasses.

4. I have found that mint shredded with the hands adds a better flavour to pulao as compared to mint leaves that have been chopped with a knife.

5. I have a feeling that this pulao would taste even more wonderful than it already does, when garnished with finely grated Amul cheese.

No-Coconut Raw Mango Gotsu

The word ‘gotsu’ inevitably brings to mind a thick gravy, full of coconut, popularly served in marriages and similar occasions. As fond of gotsu as I am, I wanted to make one that is lighter, something without coconut, something that tastes yummy but very different from the usual gotsu. And then, I found this. I decided to make a few changes to the original recipe and make something for my ‘Raw Mango Series’ for thisĀ  year. The result, which I call No-Coconut Raw Mango Gotsu, was incredibly scrumptious! Here is what I used (to make about 3 cups of gotsu):

1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

A few fresh curry leaves

3 dry, red chillies

1 medium-sized raw mango

Salt, to taste

Powdered jaggery, to taste

Red chilli powder, to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon methi seeds

1-1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1-1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled

A pinch of asafoetida

Method:

1. Crush the garlic with a mortar and pestle. Ensure that it does not turn into a fine paste, but is well crushed. Keep aside.

2. Peel the raw mango and chop into large pieces. Add just a bit of water and pressure cook it, for about 2 whistles. Keep aside. Do not drain out the excess water.

3. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to splutter. Then, add the cumin seeds, methi seeds, dry red chillies (each one broken into two) and asafoetida.

4. Now, add the crushed garlic to the pan. Saute for a minute or two.

5. Add the boiled raw mango pieces (along with the water you used to boil them in), salt to taste, turmeric powder, jaggery to taste, red chilli powder to taste, curry leaves, cumin powder and coriander powder. Mix well.

6. Let everything cook together on a medium flame for 7-10 minutes, adding more water if you feel the gotsu is too thick.

Serve hot with rotis, rice or dosas. This gotsu can also be stored in an airtight container (after it cools down completely) – that way, it keeps for about 3 days, refrigerated.

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This is my third recipe for this year’s Raw Mango Series. Here is the first recipe, and here is the second one.

What are you doing with raw mangoes in your kitchen this season?

It Was Dark And Stormy Last Night …

… like something out of a horror movie or a scary book. The rain was pouring down in torrents, thunder alternating with lightning in sending shivers down the spine. There was no electricity at our place, thanks to the UPS battery draining out completely.

Bubboo and I were safely ensconced in the cocoon of our home, but still restless, uncomfortable. A sleepy child makes for crankiness, and I knew I had to make Bubboo sleep soon if I wanted to get some sleep myself. Moreover, I had to keep her from getting too scared of the loud thunder and the darkness, and had to keep her mind off the lack of fans. We do have an emergency light, but it is dodgy, working at its own will.

What did I do? Indulged Bubboo in some funny shadow play as she nursed.

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She watched, mesmerised by the shadows and was fast asleep within half an hour.

The emergency light conked off a bit later, but Madame was soundly sleeping by then. Thank God for little mercies!

Picture Courtesy: My Amma (for all three photos)

Raising A Reader? I hope so!

Bubboo’s Daddy visited Bangalore over the weekend, and a lot of father-daughter bonding happened. Both of them made up for lost time by competing for the other’s attention. :)

Some book-buying also happened, for myself as well as for Bubboo’s library. Then, some father-daughter book reading happened too.

My heart melted into little puddles of slush, several times over.

The Cashew Apples Of Jayamahal Road

Jayamahal Road in Bangalore is, for me, synonymous with the many cashew fruit sellers who do brisk business there, in season. There are vendors selling the gorgeously red fruits in cane baskets lined up at intervals throughout the road. Some of the fruits are kept ready in plastic bags, which these sellers rush to the passing vehicles that come to a standstill at the traffic signal. It is one of the million little things that makes Bangalore Bangalore for me, and I love watching them in action. Though I love looking at the fruit – popularly called cashew fruit or cashew apple – and photographing it, I am not very fond of it taste-wise. It is an acquired taste, I would say. The husband happens to love it.

I just got to know that cashew apples are used in making a type of feni. Now, considering that I do not drink, that doesn’t tempt me much. The fruit, apparently, has a number of health benefits, which I got to know of recently. This knowledge might just tempt me to buy a few of them the next time I pass by Jayamahal Road.

Have you ever had cashew apples? Do you like them?

Aamba/Aambe Daal

I am here with the second recipe in what I have chosen to call this season’s ‘Raw Mango Series’. Aamba/aambe dal is a traditional Maharashtrian dish, famous for the minimal use of the gas that it requires as well as the limited time within which it can be made. It can be eaten by itself, as a relish or salad, or as a side with rotis and sabzi. I had it with dosas yesterday and loved the combination, too. In Maharashtrian homes, aamba/aambe daal is prepared commonly during festivals and offered to guests along with haldi and kumkum.

Once upon a time, we used to live in a Maharashtrian colony in Ahmedabad – a little Maharashtra right in the middle of Gujarat. We were surrounded by Maharashtrians left, right and centre, and my grandmother was friends with many of them. She learnt many Maharasthrian recipes from her neighbours, and there was a distinct Marathi touch to her cooking – she has stopped cooking since years, thanks to old age. She has passed on quite a few of the Maharashtrian recipes from her repertoire to my mother.

All of us at home were big fans of my grandma’s aamba/aambe daal, but somehow, no one made it after she stopped cooking. Recently, though, I got reminded of this dish while looking for recipes for my Raw Mango Series.

I am not sure if the recipe I used is authentic, but this is the way my grandma used to make it. A large part of the recipe is, therefore, from memory. It did turn out delicious, if I may say so myself, exactly like old times.

Here is how I made it…

Ingredients (makes enough for 3 people, as a snack)

1 raw mango, peeled and grated

1 medium-sized seedless cucumber, peeled and grated

1 cup chana dal

Salt, to taste

A pinch of turmeric powder

1 teaspoon sugar

A pinch of asafoetida

3 dry, red chillies

Red chilli powder, to taste

1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Method:

1. Soak the chana dal and dry, red chillies in just enough water to cover them, for about 3 hours.

2. After 3 hours, drain out the excess water from the chana dal. Grind the soaked chana dal and red chillies in a mixer, to a coarse paste. Make sure that the paste remains coarse and does not get too smooth. Empty the paste in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add the salt and red chilli powder to taste, sugar, finely chopped coriander, turmeric powder, grated cucumber and grated raw mango to the chana dal paste. Mix well. Check for seasoning, and add more if required.

4. In a kadhai, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Switch off the gas and add the asafoetida to the hot oil. Add this mixture to the chana dal paste in the bowl. Mix well.

There you go, this beauty is ready to eat!

Here is my first post for this season’s Raw Mango Series.

Veggie Pasta

Sometimes, you resign yourself to eating certain things only outside of home. It never turns out right when you try to make it at home, even though it is a quick-fix dish for a lot of others. It is so not your dish to make. Veggie pasta was one such dish for me. I could never make it well enough at home. I had to resign myself to eating the cream- and cheese-loaded versions at restaurants.

Did you notice the past tense? All of the above changed for me, yesterday. Yesterday’s night was a rainy, stormy one, and I was desperate for something hot and yummy and different from the usual, for dinner. The husband has been away on work in Delhi, sending me one picture after another of the gorgeous foods that he has been hogging there, while I haven’t been eating anything exciting lately. An e-mail from him yesterday – containing pictures of noodles and soups and momos and what not – was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back. The sambar and rice left over from lunch just didn’t appeal to me then. I remembered the packet of pasta I had bought some time back at the grocery store, and which was lying in my kitchen unused. I decided to make use of it last night, to get imaginative with the recipe, to cook it the way I *thought* it should be cooked rather than to look it up on the internet or elsewhere. The stars aligned just the right way and the pasta turned out just perfect. Needless to say, a picture of it was sent to the husband immediately, with a big smirk. :)

Here is how I made it…

Ingredients (To serve 2):

2 big cups of pasta

Salt to taste

Oregano to taste

Chilli powder to taste

1 medium-sized onion

4-5 cloves of garlic

1 large capsicum

4 large tomatoes

A few pitted black olives in brine

Sugar to taste

2 tablespoons oil

Tomato ketchup, to taste

Red pepper sauce, to taste

1 cube Amul cheese

Method:

1. Boil the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Usually, this involves taking the pasta in a deep-bottomed pan, adding enough water to cover the pasta as well as salt, and cooking on a high flame till the pasta is al dente i.e. cooked but not overly so. At this stage, remove the pan from heat and pour the pasta into a colander. Drain off all the water, then run cold water over the pasta. Let the pasta remain in the colander for a while.

2. Chop the olives finely. Chop the onions length-wise. Chop the capsicum into large pieces. Keep aside.

3. Chop the tomatoes and peel the garlic cloves. Grind these into a puree.

4. Take the tomato-garlic puree in a deep-bottomed pan. Add salt, sugar and chilli powder to taste. Be careful while adding the sugar and chilli powder, because the recipe calls for tomato ketchup and red pepper sauce too, which are sweet and hot respectively. Let the puree cook on a medium flame for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. By this time, the puree will start to thicken. When it reaches the consistency of a sauce – not too thick and not too thin – take off heat. Keep aside.

5. Heat the oil in a deep-bottomed pan. Add the onions and capsicum and cook for a while. Ensure that the vegetables are cooked, but not overly soft.

6. Add the cooked pasta, the tomato sauce and olives at this stage. Add oregano, tomato ketchup, and red pepper sauce to taste. Mix well.

7. Check for seasonings and adjust. Let everything cook together for about 5 minutes, on a low flame, stirring gently occasionally.

8. Serve hot, garnished with finely grated Amul cheese.

How do you make pasta at home?