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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Masala Chaas | Masala Taak | How to Make Masala Chaas | Indian Summer Drinks


Masala Chaas

The last week of March has seen mercury rising steeply here in Pune. The heat is relentless; one look outside the window in the afternoon will make your eyes squint and make your head dizzy. Forget about stepping out in the sun – else the menacing rays of sun with scorch your body.

Such is the heat that I keep all the curtains drawn in all the rooms; the fans are doing overtime running at full speed all the time. When things look unmanageable, the air conditioner also steps in. Apart from keeping the house cool, it is also important to keep our bodies cool and hydrated. Drinking lots of water and fluids is very important and they are the only things that are keeping me sane in this hot weather.




This time of the year is the time to indulge in some cool drinks and I am doing just that. Past few days, I am guzzling down large glassfuls of ‘Chaas’ or ‘Taak’ as it is called in Maharashtra. This yogurt based drink is not just yummy; it is very good for health in these summer months. It helps to cool the body, aids in digestion and keeps you hydrated. The best thing about it is that it is so simple to make it – just get all the ingredients and blend it and it is ready to be gulped down.

Looking for more summer drink ideas – check out Sweet Lime Soda, Ginger Mint Lemonade, Makhanya Lassi, Blueberry Lemonade or Strawberry Lemonade

Masala Chaas:

Ingredients:
250 ml yogurt
300 ml water
½ tsp roasted cumin powder
½ tsp black salt or to taste
7-8 mint leaves + extra for garnishing
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
1 tsp taak masala or chaat masala + extra for garnishing
Ice cubes for serving (optional)

Process:
1. Add all the ingredients in a blender and blend it till the mixture is frothy. 
2. Add ice cubes into two tall glasses and pour the Chaas equally into them. Garnish with mint leaves and taak or chaat masala. Serve Chilled.




Notes:

1. This yogurt based drink is common all across India. However, some regions have their own simple variations. Some common variations are adding a green chili for some spice or ginger, asafoetida (hing), curry leaves and black pepper. All of these helps in digestion.

2. I have used store bought taak masala. But it can be easily substituted with chaat masala.

What cool drinks you are indulging in to beat the heat? Do share.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review - We Will Meet Again by Tarang Sinha

We Will Meet Again by Tarang Sinha
The blurb says:

Paridhi Mathur, dusky, beautiful, and (determined to be) single, is doing everything to keep her academic records high and her love life nil, but lady luck keeps frowning at her. When she meets Abhigyan Ambastha, rich - devastatingly handsome, intense and sometimes curt, her resolve wavers. Despite regular warnings from her ever-suspicious heart, she inexplicably gets attracted towards him. But she would not let him trespass her soul. Why? Is she scared of mendacious face of love her past has inflicted on her? Can Paridhi really trust Abhigyan? Will a blissful breeze of love ever kiss her heart? A heart-warming saga of dreams and desires, We Will Meet Again promises to make you smile and cry at the same time. Hold on to your hearts before embarking on this roller coaster ride of emotions!

If I could describe the novel in few words it would be – light and breezy romantic read. I had downloaded the book on kindle when it was available for free one fine day and soon forgot about it. After a few days, I had to take a flight journey with my toddler and luckily my baby slept most of the time during the travel. That’s when I started reading this book (these days I get to read only when my baby sleeps) and when I was home I utilized every opportunity to finish the book.

The story is infectious; once you start reading it you feel the need to know what happens next. I must add here that the story line is not something out of the box – in fact it is quite predictable and the plot is linear too. But, there is something about the book that connects it with the readers instantly. It is the author’s writing style and the characters in the novel which struck a chord in my heart and made the reading very enjoyable for me. I strongly have a feeling that the author is inspired by people around her to build all of them.

One thing that could have been done away with in the book are the typos and editing errors – they can ruin an otherwise good book.

Paridhi is a simple and down-to-earth girl. Her character is very well sketched by the author. The way her relationship with her father, sister, her best friend, etc., is portrayed, various shades of her character bloom. Various incidents throughout the story also bring out the finer details - how protective she feels for her family, how it hurts her self-esteem when someone not from the family offers her monetary help, etc. However, I was hoping for a stronger reason in her past which makes her determined to stay away from Abhigyan.

The character of Abhigyan is like every girl’s dream hero. I did feel at times that he was too good to be true; such gentlemen are hard to find. Paridhi’s sister and her best friend Geet are very likable characters. The story is quite fast paced – lots of things happening and no dull moments. While it might not work for many – it did work for me as I was looking for a quick, breezy read. If you are looking for a beautiful romantic story for a journey or a light ready in between some heavy reads, just go for this one.

Typically, I do not include bio of the authors in my book reviews. But, since this book is by a fellow blogger I feel inclined to include it here. You can also check her blog:
http://tarangsinha.blogspot.in

About the Author:
Tarang Sinha is a freelance writer and editor. She is an avid reader and active Blogger. Her works have been published in magazines like Good Housekeeping India, Child India, Woman’s Era and Alive, and a bestselling anthology “Uff Ye Emotions 2”.                 

A science graduate, she holds a Diploma in Creative Writing in English from IGNOU. 'We Will Meet Again...' is her first novel.


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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