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Friday, March 24, 2017

REPOST - Thandai Syrup - Made From Scratch



Thandai is rich milk based Indian drink. It is most popularly consumed during the Indian festival of colors – Holi. I have been making Thandai syrup at home for past couple of years and believe me it is so simple to make it that you would never want to get a bottle of ready-made Thandai syrup.

It is one of those stellar recipes that I discovered when I started food blogging years ago. I had tried it from here and instantly I feel in love with the recipe. I had even done a blog post on it here and after all these years I think it seems to be lost in the labyrinths of this blog. So, I think it is worth re-posting it. Since, I am making it for quite some time now; I have fine-tuned the recipe to my own liking and taste.


I like to believe that Thandai is a drink fit for the royals – with almonds, saffron, cardamom, rose water, et al, in the right amounts you cannot go wrong. One glance at the recipe and it may seem to be a daunting one, but is NOT.  Read the recipe well; gather all the ingredients at one place before you set out to make it. 





Makes 1 litre of ready-to-use Thandai syrup

Ingredients:

1/2 cup almonds, soaked overnight and blanched

Soak these together in water overnight
3 tbsp poppy seeds
3 dried melon seeds

Soak these ingredients in ¼ cup of water and then grind it
1 tbsp green cardamom
3 tbsp whole black pepper 
3 tbsp fennel seeds

1 kg sugar
1 cup water + add 1/4 cup more if needed
3 tbsp rose petal spread (Gulkand)
25-30 strands saffron (Rub it in a pestle and mortar with  a few drops of water and sugar crystals)
1 tsp rose water 

Process:
1. In a mixer jar add the blanched almonds. Drain water from poppy seeds and melon seeds and tip them into the mixer jar and using very little water grind it into a fine paste. Strain through a muslin cloth and extract all the liquid and keep aside. You may add little water to the residue and churn it again in the mixer again and repeat the process of straining again.

2. Add the rose petal spread to the ground cardamom-pepper-fennel mixture and mix well. Strain through a fine plastic net and extract all the liquid and keep aside. It is okay if the extracted liquid has some fine residue. 

3. Mix both the extracted liquids and keep aside.

4. Add the sugar and 1 cup of water in a deep thick bottom pan and cook until the sugar dissolves.
It may take some time for the sugar to dissolve. Bring it to boil and simmer for a couple of minutes.

5. Remove from the heat and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Add the extracted liquid to it and stir.
Heat it again and bring it to a boil and then turn the heat to medium and simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring constantly.

6. Remove from the heat and cool till warm and then add the rubbed saffron mixture and rose water and mix well.When the Thandai syrup completely cools down, use a funnel to pour into a sterilized bottle. It keeps well for at least 3 months when kept in refrigerator.

7. To make a glass of Thandai add 2 tbsp syrup and top it with 200 ml chilled milk. Stir vigorously. Garnish with almond slivers, chopped pistachios and saffron strands.


Notes: 

1. Don't be tempted to add more than 1+ 1/4 cup of water to 1 kg sugar, else the final syrup will be very thin.

2. If the syrup crystallizes in the process of cooling, add 1/4 cup of hot water and give it a good stir.


3. If you do not have all the ingredients listed to make thandai, you can try a combination of almonds + cardamom or almonds + kesar to get almond syrup. The process will be same.

4. The residue of almond+poppy seeds+melon seeds can be used in gravies if used on the same day.

5. In order to sterilize a glass bottle with no metal parts on it, place a thoroughly cleaned, washed and dried bottle in microwave and microwave it for 1 minute. Use it to store the Thandai syrup when it comes back to room temperature.

I hope you try out this recipe and enjoy a glass of chilled Thandai to beat the heat this summer. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Stolen Hope by Shubha Vilas (Book #3 of the Ramayana Series - The Game of Life)


Stolen Hope by Shubha Vilas (Book #3 of the Ramayana Series)

For the past half an hour, I am typing… and deleting as I type. I am not sure how to start the post. It has been than a year now since I blogged here the last time. A lot of changes have happened in the past that can account for my absence in the blogging world. I am a mom now and that explains it all.

And talking about the review of this book - Stolen Hope by Shubha Vilas - it should have been posted long ago, a year ago to be precise. Here is a picture of the New Year message the author had jotted down on the signed copy for the year 2016 and here I am posting the review in 2017.



My sincere apologies to the author for not being able to do it sooner. As a reader, I love reading books on Ramayana and hence, even after the inordinate delay, I couldn’t live with not posting a review of this book in particular. So, here I am here with a quick review. 

Author: Shubha Vilas
Title:  Stolen Hope, Book 3
Series: Ramayana: The Game of Life
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Publication Year: 2016
ISBN 13: 9788184958249
Binding: Paperback
Number of pages: 312

Price: Rs 299

Re-telling Ramayana is a mammoth task and the author is doing it with utmost dedication and sincerity. This is the third book of the Ramayana series - The Game of Life by the author and you can read my review of the first two books - Rise of the Sun Prince (Book1) here and Shattered Dreams (Book 2) here. In his series of Ramayana, the author has tried to stay true to Valmiki Ramayana. As you read the book, you will realize how much research has gone into the writing it. I came across many unheard-of small tales which made the reading experience even more enriching.

The story in the book takes off from the point it was left in the last book. The trio - Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are settling down in Dandankaranya. Things are not meant to be monotonous for them - something or the other is always happening. Sometimes, they meet enlightened sages and sometimes they are fighting off demons. But, a chain of events start when Surphankha - sister of Ravana, the demon king of Lanka lays her eyes on Rama which ultimately leads to the abduction of Sita by Ravana. 

The writing style is lucid and engrossing. Everything is described in such detail that you could imagine it happening in your mind. The foot notes by the author are gems of wisdom. Just reading the book as you would read any other novel won't let you understand the crux. You have to go really slow with the book- absorbing the meaning and how the values it teaches holds good in our lives from the foot notes. At times, it does feel that they are disrupting the flow of the story. I too had such moments while reading the book and so, I would re-read chapters again. That is the beauty of Ramayana; you can read it again and again without getting bored. 

Another beauty of the author's writing style is that every character bloom and shine in his words. Every character, even the tiniest ones, gets their due share of space without being overshadowed by the main characters. That is the hallmark of a great story teller.

If you love reading books on Ramayana or Indian mythology, this series of books is a must have on your book shelf.

Some lessons in crisp lines quoted from the book.

Historical travel creates road maps.
Historical speeches create mindsets.
Historical habits create cultures.
Historical mistakes create wisdom.

The depth of contribution, the height of value system and the width of tolerance determine the real size of a human being.

Responsibility is not a choice, it's an honor.

Fame is like riding ocean waves.

In the absence of somebody's presence is revealed here true value. What presence cannot accomplish absence can.

Real faith is not about having insane, intense belief for a short duration but about having progressively increasing conviction for a longer duration.

Righteousness is like a surf board that keeps you afloat even in the midst of shifting tides of immorality.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.



Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sattvik Foods of India by Anupama Shukla




Sattvik Foods of India by Anupama Shukla is a cookbook with a difference. As the first word in the title of the book reads ‘sattvik’ – one can easily get it that it is a vegetarian cookbook. The book revolves round the idea ‘we are what we eat’. But, in today’s fast paced life we have forgotten the importance of food in our life – we just have food to fill our hungry bellies. We tend not to give much importance to the nourishment factor which eventually disturbs the natural balance in our body and pushes it towards illness. 
 
This book is not just a collection of recipes – it also dwells on the basics of why having the right kind food is essential for one’s physical and mental well being. The author very much believes in how Ayurveda explains the science of food. Before she begins dishing out delicious recipes, she briefly explains the Panchamahabhutas – the building blocks for every single thing in this world. She tells us about their relationship with the human body. We also get to know about the three ‘doshas’ that can affect a human body and ultimately how the ‘Prana’ in sattvik food can alleviates the negativity of the doshas. Every human being can have a different body constitution – so if we can understand our body type, we will be in a better position to choose the right balance in the food we consume. The best part is that the author has summed up the basics in just a few pages. So, my advice is before you jump to the recipe section of the book, do go through the first few pages – it will help you in appreciating the recipes better.

The recipe section of the book is divided into certain segments. Right from breakfast, lunch, dinner, beverages, condiments and festive recipes are covered. If you were under the impression that sattvik food can be nourishing but not as delicious, this book is going to going to make you reconsider that thought. Some of my personal favorite recipes in the book include Aam ka Panha, Thandai, Chaas, Moong Anardana Salad, Paneer Pakora, Bhel Puri, Panchmel Dal, Bhara Paratha, Shrikhand, Rabdi and Til Patti. The book has over 70 recipes to please different tastes and palates. It showcases the fact that sattvik food can be tasty, colorful, nourishing and varied. The recipes are written in a simple and easy to follow language. There is an introduction to every recipe and notes where needed to assist the reader. Here I would like to add that it would have been useful to add the number of serving each recipe makes.

The illustrator Suhita Mitra has done a great job with the numerous illustrations in the book. But, still I missed seeing pictures of the final dishes. A few pictures in between the pages could have made the book look more appealing and attractive – after all we all eat with our eyes first.

Overall, it is a nice cookbook - one that doesn't just give out recipes but also educates us about the importance of eating the right kind of food for a healthy body and a sound mind.

I received a free review copy of the book from the Leadstart Publishers in lieu of an honest review.

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