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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Paneer Butter Masala/ Paneer Makhani


Paneer Butter Masala is one of the most popular paneer curries in India. Paneer chunks in a rich, silky, smooth tomato gravy, it sells like hot cakes in Indian restaurants. I tried this version recently from a Sanjeev Kapoor book I have and it turned out great. Lets hop over to the recipe.

Recipe Source: Mastering the art of Indian Cooking by Sanjeev Kapoor

Paneer Butter Masala/Paneer Makhani

Ingredients:

1 tbsp oil
3 green cardamom crushed
1" piece of cinnamon
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp red chili powder or more to taste
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 cups tomato puree
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp kasoori methi
1tsp sugar
1/4 cup cream
200 gm paneer cut into small cubes


Process:

1. Heat a pan and add oil. When heated add crushed cardamom and sauté for a few seconds till they are fragrant. Add the ginger garlic paste and sauté for another minute.

2. Now add the tomato puree, salt, turmeric powder and red chili powder and cook on medium high heat for 10-15 minutes. When the oil begins to leave side turn off the heat.

3. To make sure it is smooth, pass the gravy through a strainer. Discard any residue.

4. Put the gravy back into the pan. Add butter, kasoori methi and sugar. Add water to get the desired consistency. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add the garam masala. Stir and then add the cream. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.

5. Add the paneer and stir gently. Serve hot with chapati, nan or rice.

Notes: If you want to have a richer gravy you may increase the butter and cream.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Young India Wants by Chetan Bhagat

I had read What Young India Wants and Revolution 2020 by Chetan Bhagat on my India visit this year. In fact, I have read all the books by the author, but, none of the reviews for those books have found their way into this space. One reason for that is that I had read them before I started this blog. When I read these two books by the author recently, I made sure that I write about it here. The name Chetan Bhagat evokes different reactions from different people. He is revered by many, he is idolized by many and even hated by many. I fall into none of these categories. I pick up his books when I am in the mood for an easy, fast read and Bhagat's book promises exactly that.

Here is the blurb from his book 'What Young India Wants':



In his latest book, What Young India Wants, Chetan Bhagat asks hard questions, demands answers and presents solutions for a better, more prosperous India.

Why do our students regularly commit suicide?
Why is there so much corruption in India?
Can't our political parties ever work together?
Does our vote make any difference at all?
We love our India, but shouldn't some things be different?
All of us have asked these questions at some time or the other. So does Chetan Bhagat, India's most loved writer, in What Young India Wants, his first book of non-fiction.

What Young India Wants is based on Chetan Bhagat's vast experience as a very successful writer and motivational speaker. In clear, simple prose, and with great insight, he analyses some of the complex issues facing modern India, offers solutions and invites discussion on them. And, at the end, he asks this important question: Unless we are all in agreement on what it is going to take to make our country better, how will things ever change? If you want to understand contemporary India, the problems that face it, and want to be a part of the solution, What Young India Wants is the book for you.


When you pick Chetan Bhagat's book, you don't expect it to be a literary masterpiece. It is well known that his books doesn't fall under that category. This non fiction attempt by the author is not different either. The author has tried to address the main issues that are plaguing the Indian society - from the rampant corruption in Indian political system, ever increasing number of scams to the severe flaws in our education system -he talks about everything, gives his views and offers solutions.

The chapters are short and to the point. He often gives examples and shares a story from his personal experience. But overall, the book lacks depth. There is an overview of all the problems without any detailed analysis. Even the solution offered are very general, simplistic and too shallow to be applied in the real world.

The book will work like a crash course if you are preparing for debates and group discussions. On the brighter side, it can serve as a starting point for a much wider discussion and search for real and meaningful solutions to our nation's problem.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gaajar ka Halwa ~ Carrot Halwa


There are certain sweets that you can associate with some particular season. Carrot Halwa or Gaajar ka Halwa is one such Indian sweet that I associate with Winters. I remember how my mom used to painstakingly shred kilos of carrot to prepare this dish. It must have been a tedious job for her to keep up with the demands of 4 kids. Every time it was prepared in our house, it was a special treat. It is amazing how a dish can bring so many fond memories.

In India, red carrots are preferred for making this dish. Since, we don't get it here, I have used the regular carrots. Red carrots do add a special note to this dish but regular works just fine. Lets see how I make it.


Ingredients:

2 cups shredded carrots.
1 tbsp ghee
1 cup milk.
¼ cup sugar or less.
A few strands of saffron.
2 cardamom pods crushed.
Almond flakes and chopped pistachios to garnish.

Process:


1. Heat a pan and add ghee. Add the shredded carrot and give it a good stir. In a tbsp of milk soak a few saffron strands.

2. After 2-3 minutes add the milk and heat the mixture on medium high heat for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
3. The milk will reduce and thicken. Add the sugar and mix it properly. Heat for another 5 minutes. 
4. Add crushed cardamom pods,saffron milk  Keep heating and stirring till the mixture gets the required consistency.
5. It may take another 5-10 minutes.Remove from heat when done. Transfer in a serving bowl. Garnish it with chopped almonds and pistachios. Serve hot.

Note:

1. Always use freshly grated carrot for this dish otherwise the color of carrots will turn brown.
2. You can add a little condensed milk if you have it at hand.



Thank you for stopping by! Have a great weekend. Cheers!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Shiva Trilogy II - The Secret of the Nagas by Amish Tripathi



Shiva Trilogy II - The Secret of the Nagas

Synopsis:

The hunt is on. The sinister Naga warrior has killed his friend Brahaspati and now stalks his wife Sati. Shiva, the Tibetan immigrant who is prophesied destroyer of evil, will not rest till he finds his demonic adversary. His vengeance and the path to evil will lead him to the door of the Nagas, the serpent people. Of that he is certain.

The evidence of the malevolent rise of evil is everywhere. A kingdom is dying as it is held to ransom for a miracle drug. A crown prince is murdered. The Vasudevs - Shiva's philosopher guides- betray his unquestioning faith as they take the aide of the dark side. Even the perfect empire, Mehula is riddled with a terrible secret of Maika, the city of births. Unknown to Shiva a master puppeteer is playing a grand game.

In a journey that will take him across the length and breadth of ancient India, Shiva searches for the truth in a land of deadly mysteries - only to find that nothing is what it seems.

Fierce battle will be fought. Surprising alliances will be forged. Unbelievable secrets will be revealed in this second book of the Shiva Trilogy, the sequel to, The Immortals of Mehula.

I started reading this book right after reading The Immortals of Mehula. The story is very much connected to the first book and it starts right from the point where it was left in the the first book. In 'The Immortals of Mehula' a lot of time is devoted to sketching the characters, depicting the places, setting the plots etc. There were many loose threads in the story and a lot of secrets. The Secret of the Nagas is more action packed in that regard, with things happening fast, secrets revealed, battles fought, it was a page turner right from the beginning till the end. The identity of the Naga queen and the Naga warrior was quite a revelation, but I could guess about the secret of the Nagas.

I don't want to delve deeper into the plot here as the blurb says a lot about how the story progresses in this book. I have read in many reviews that readers were disappointed with the language in the book.
It is simple and amateurish. I have no such qualms. I was looking for an easy, fast and action packed book. The book delivered on all areas for me. I am hoping all loose threads and unanswered questions will be addressed in the next part of the trilogy.

Eagerly waiting for the third book of the trilogy - The Oath of the Vayuputras.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!


Wordless Wednesday ~ Shades of Blue!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Eggless Vanilla Sponge Cake using Yogurt

I am professing for the umpteenth time here that I love baking. Since, I bake egg less, I am always in the lookout for good egg less recipes. This egg less vanilla cake is one of the popular ways of making an egg less sponge cake. This recipe originally by Nita Mehta has been blogged by many bloggers and every one is all praises for it. I have baked it many times and am posting it today from my drafts. It's high time I am out of my blogging slumber!

This is my second favourite way of making vanilla cake next only to this one.


Source: Sharmi's Passions

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups AP flour 
1 cup Thick Yogurt 
1 cup Sugar 
1/2 tsp Baking soda 
1 1/4 tsp Baking powder 
1/2 cup Oil
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract 




Process:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C for 10 mins. Grease a 9'' round tin and dust it with flour.
2. Sieve AP flour and keep aside. Cream the powdered sugar and yogurt until sugar completely dissolves.
3. Add baking powder, baking soda to the creamed mixture and mix well. Leave aside for 5 mins and till bubbles appear in the mixture and it increases in volume
4. Now add in vanilla essence and oil and whisk. Slowly add the AP flour little at a time and blend with wet ingredients. Beat well till creamy and thick. It will take about 2-3 minutes.

5. Pour the batter prepared tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees. Then reduce the temperature to 160 deg C and bake it for another 35-40 mins. 
6.  The cake is done if a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool down for 10 mins, then invert it into a serving plate. When the cake has completely cooled down, slice them into pieces. Enjoy!

Notes:

- The Slices are firm and neat if the cake it cut after cooling for 4-5 hours.
- You can replace the oil with equal quantity of butter.
- In the recipe it is baked at 200 C at first and then at 180 C. But, I found my cakes turns brown and hard at that temperature. So, I lowered the temperature to 180 C and 160 C and baked it 5 minutes longer. So, adjust the temperature as per your oven.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shiva Trilogy I - The Immortals of Mehula by Amish Tripathi


It has been over a month and a half since I read this book. The review has been long due. The problem in writing reviews after such a long gap is that I tend to forget the tiny details of the story. So, I have decided to make the task easy by quoting the synopsis at the back of the book followed by my views on the book.


Shiva Trilogy I - The Immortals of Mehula


Synopsis:



1900 BC. In what modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilization.


The inhabitants of that period called it the land of Mehula - a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Rama, one of the greatest monarch that ever lived.




This once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils as its primary river, the revered Saraswati, is slowly drying to extinction. They all face devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis. To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracized and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills.

The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend: When the evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, when it appears that your enemies have triumphed, a hero will emerge.

Is the rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva, really that hero? And does he want to be that hero at all? Drawn suddenly to his destiny, by duty as well as love, will Shiva lead the Suryavanshi vengeance and destroy evil?

This is the first book in a trilogy of Shiva, the simple man whose karma re-cast him as our Mahadev, the God of Gods.



On my India visit in 2011, I had seen this book on almost every book store, be it in Airport or Railway Station or at Crosswords. But, at that time, I was not really drawn to the title or the cover page of the book. So, I didn't buy it. Later, I saw the review of the book on blogs I follow and everyone was all praises for the book. That's when I was intrigued and decided to read it. I bought the two books of the series during my India visit this year. Before I start to shower my praises for the book, let me tell you, I am not very familiar with the actual Shiva and Sati story. So, the fictional take was all new and fresh for me.



I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The plot is gripping and kept me intrigued and engaged. The story has several layers, after every few pages something new is happening and the beauty of the whole thing is that it is intricately connected and it builds up towards the bigger picture. The author has done a commendable job in weaving mythological facts with fiction and has created a fantastic story. Kudos to his imagination! But, there are few things that I believe does not entirely suits the era the story is set in. For example, our country was not called India at that time. Many a times Shiva is portrayed as the cool dude which doesn't fit into my image of a mythological character.



The book is just not a fictional take on Lord Shiva, but has an underlying philosophical message - One's deeds decides one's destiny. It is an easy and fast read. The writing is simple and easy to understand. It has a good balance of mythology, fiction, suspense, adventure, romance, virtues and principles. The ending is quite a cliff hanger and compels you to read the next book of the series- The Secret of Nagas.


I will recommend it to anyone least bit interested Indian mythology.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer


 The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer

The Sins of the Father is the second book of the Clifton Chronicles series by Jeffrey Archer. It is said to be the most ambitious work by the author, bigger than the most acclaimed Kane and Abel series. The story in ' The Sins of the Father' takes off from where it was left in 'Only Time Will Tell'. Harry has taken the identity of Tom Bradshaw, a sailor who died in the sea with the thought that he would start a new life with a new identity in America. But he couldn't have dreamed what awaits for him in the United States of America.


Synopsis:

New York, 1939. Tom Bradshaw is arrested for first degree murder. He stands accused of killing his brother. When Sefton Jelks, a top Manhattan lawyer, offers his services for nothing, penniless Tom has little choice but to accept his assurance of a lighter sentence. After Tom is tried, found guilty and sentenced, Jelks disappears, and the only way for him to prove his innocence would be to reveal his true identity – something that he has sworn never to do in order to protect the woman he loves. Meanwhile, the young woman in question travels to New York, leaving their son behind in England, having decided she'll do whatever it takes to find the man she was to marry – unwilling to believe that he died at sea. The only proof she has is a letter. A letter that has remained unopened on a mantelpiece in Bristol for over a year.

In Jeffrey Archer's epic novel, family loyalties are stretched to their limits as secrets unravel, and the story moves from the backstreets of Bristol to the boardrooms of Manhattan. Join the great storyteller on a journey where there are no stop signs, no cul-de-sacs and no dead ends.

I love Jeffrey Archer books for the characters and stories that spans over generations. The characters the author sketches make the story come live. You can feel the emotions they go through, their trial and tribulations, their joys and sorrow. In this book, I loved the character of Emma more than anyone. She is a strong and intelligent lady with firm determination and unwavering love for Harry. I love the way she goes to lengths to get to the bottom of things. On the other hand Hugo Barrington is the most despicable character, the ultimate villain in the story and the kind of end he met at last seemed very well deserved to me. A good part of the book covers the WWII which does help paint the picture of the society at that time, but at times it gets over whelming. Also, if one were to read it as a  stand alone book, it would be difficult to connects the incidents as many of them relates to the first book. Since, this book is a part of a series, there are loose ends in this book as well, which I am sure will be taken in the next book of the series, with new characters and new turning points.

As usual there is a lot happening which keeps his readers glued to the book but in the end the author leaves the readers hanging by a thread. All we need to do next is to wait for the next book of the series. I hope it is not a long wait.


Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Diwali Wishes| Recipes| Books update!


Time seems to have put in wings! It is Diwali time again.


Wishing You All A Very Happy And Safe Diwali.


Coming back to blogging, I feel guilty of not giving due attention to my blog of late. With so much happening in life, blogging actually have taken a back seat. I wish there were more than 24 hours a day. There are a lot of books whose reviews I need to post. But, seriously, I have not been able to sit and put my thoughts into reviews. So, I thought it would be a good idea to make a list so, that I can get started from there. Here goes the list:

The Immortals of Mehula by Amish Tripathi
The Secret of Nagas by Amish Tripathi
The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer
Revolution 2020 by Chetan Bhagat
What Young India wants by Chetan Bhagat
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I know these book reviews will keep my blog going for a while. But, since it is Diwali time here are some sweets and savouries that you can choose from.

Sweets:


Kalakand


Carrot and Almond Kheer


Bread Rasmalai



Savoury:


Nimki/Namak paare



Onion Bhajji


Samosa



Once again wishing you a joyous and safe Diwali. Cheers!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dal Makhani/ Makhani Dal ~ Rich and Creamy Lentil Preparation





Dal Makhani is one of the popular lentils dishes in India. It has its origin in the state of Punjab, but these days it is widely enjoyed all over India. Dal Makhani literally translates to 'Buttery Lentils' and hence it is very creamy and rich with oodles of cream and butter. If traditionally made it can take up to a day to prepare it as it needs to be cooked slowly over low heat in a tan-door  But, thanks to the pressure cookers these days, we can prepare this dish a lot quicker. I learnt this version from a friend if mine. Lets see how I make it.




Dal Makhani:

This recipe will serve 4 people.

Ingredients:

½ cup of whole urid beans.
1/4 cup of red kidney beans (rajma)
3 large tomatoes pureed or 4 tbsp of concentrated tomato puree (I used concentrated tomato puree, as it gives a nice colour)
1 small onion chopped
2 chopped green chilies.
1 tsp grated ginger.
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp oil
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 tbsp butter.
3-4 tbsp cream
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp red chilli powder or more to taste
2 tsp roasted cumin powder
Salt to taste.
Handful of chopped coriander and more for garnishing.


Procedure:

1. Soak both the beans for 5-6 hours or overnight.  Wash them thoroughly and cook them in a pressure cooker.
2. In a frying pan add 2 tbsp oil. When heated add the bay leaves, cumin seeds and chopped green chilies. Saute for a minute and then add the ginger and garlic. After 30 seconds add chopped onions and saute till the they turn golden brown.
3. Add the tomatoes puree, red chili powder, salt and cumin powder and cook for 5-7 mins. To it add the boiled beans. With the back of the spoon/spatula mash the beans a bit. Add water to get the desired consistency.
4. Now add garam masala, cream and salt. Heat for another 10-15 minutes on low heat. You can slow cook it a bit longer if you have more time.
5. Transfer in a serving bowl. Garnish it with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with a dollop of butter with rice or roti.

Tip: Dal Makhani always tastes better if you prepare it a day in advance. It helps to develop the flavour. You can increase the measure of butter and cream if you want it richer.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Have a nice weekend!
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