Category Archives: Food

Ireland Diaries

The temperamental Irish weather behaved itself during all of the 12 days that we visited this small island country with a big turbulent history.

Officially summertime, with just the right nip in the air to enjoy long walks enabled by clear sapphire  skies patterned with white tufts of clouds that seemed easy to pluck like vanilla candyfloss from the open blue space.

That and the lovely long stretches of the Atlantic Ocean lapping up to the cliffs and hugging the roads as the coaches and trains we travelled in made their winding way around towns of the island.

No better way to explore a new place than through its public transport as our experience has proven time and time again. So, we hopped on to the hop-on hop-off buses, caught the trains into different towns, and once within it, felt our way around it by its metro coaches.  We pored through maps standing at street corners trying to align ourselves to its direction. Found the numbers on the buses and where they stop at, names of streets and areas, all converging in our minds to make a map of the place, to accustom ourselves to its layout and pulse. We got lost several times, but then that was the fun, to get back on track, ask around, and discover other things that we may have missed. It’s surprising how well, and how soon we can get into the groove of a place this way.

The bright modern cafes and stone houses and statuesque churches of Dublin that hark back to another era. The port city of Waterford and its stunning museums alive with stories contained in exquisite 17th century artefacts, the famed Crystal Factory, dazzling in its artistry and the waterfront, lined with magnificent ships. Killarney, the scenic town flanked by mountains and frozen in time, with carriages drawn by plump, bushy-legged horses, each house straight out of an Enid Blyton book with lace curtains and window ledges strewn with gorgeous flowers; the porcelain crockery, very old-world British.  The city of Galway, the outskirts dotted with the ruins of medieval castles. And from it, a short ride away brings you to the stunningly scenic Cliffs of Moher, where an hour’s walk up takes you to a landscape open to the endless sky and sea and the gale winds that blow into the cliffs as they stand sentinel for ages over the ocean and grasslands. Right at the edge, where you stand buffeted by the strong wind, the seagulls come swooping by.

Through it all, there are Irish breakfasts of pudding, crepes with applesauce, French toasts served with a generous portion of strawberry syrup; Irish lunches with fresh fish and chips accompanied with tartar sauce and kipper; Irish dinners of seafood chowder with chunks of lobster. Every eatery we visited had their own version of apple pie, some tart, some sweet, served with scallops of light cream, each as different and delicious as the other. And of course, who can forget the Irish coffee, served on a bus halt at a charming café, the light drizzle and cold outside, and the frothy warm coffee shot inside!

As you leave the cities and towns, lush green fields stretch for miles into the horizon, and sheep with black snouts marked by different colours to distinguish them, graze under the watchful eye of the farmer who rounds them up as the day ends with his well-trained collie dogs.

Poised on a phase of transition, where a ferocious but rich past blends with a gentler, calmer today, the future hinges on a brink of divide as part of Ireland now belongs to Europe and the other, to UK. So strange is this rift, that some shops and houses will soon have an official border going through them.

But that’s tomorrow. For now, the horizon is smudged with orange grey clouds and night comes in at 10 in the evening and a gentle peace descends on the island. And it’s tempting to re- imagine your life here, flanked by medieval castles and meadows, stories and silence.







Summer Breeze

Happiness is a summer breeze sailing by suddenly. Releasing the fragrance of paayri, mogra and jamun  into the languid Sunday morning air. Like a dab of paint dropped into water, spreading and swirling into it, till the entire water acquires a deep tint.

Happiness is a swift summer breeze lifting wisps of hair from a hot brow, leaving behind a cooling touch as refreshing as talc on a baby after bath.  Like a warm memory unearthed unexpectedly from the soil of time.

Happiness is a summer breeze swooping in through the sunlit kitchen window at breakfast, stirring through the aromas – the golden sizzling corn on butter, the fluffy pancake of the girdle spread with honey, the coffee gurgling on the stove- till they all become one big wholesome fragrance that percolates the house making it more of a home, a happy memory.

Yes it is summer, and it is hot and the sun beats down, relentless on the day, but then along comes one wave of summer breeze, winding through the busy streets, and all of a sudden, the colours of summer come alive on its breath: the hand-carts with white slabs of ice, the drops of melted water running down its sides; sliced spring-green cucumbers arranged with a dash of tangy rock salt; water melon halves like smiles, the deep juicy red offset by an emerald green; the ice cream carts on bicycles straight out of  picture book, piled with cones and flavours – strawberry, mango, black currant, chocolate – the fuschias, muaves, oranges and browns in a cheery tango.

There is splendour in every season, and the summer breeze brings with it all that is happy and fragrant and colourful and delicious about the months that turn the corner into the monsoons.

Mmm..Mango Pickle

The knife slices through the refreshingly green kairi.

A burst of tangy aroma yields through its firm white insides. A childhood summer fragrance fills the air as the years fall away with each cut and the tongue releases its full bodied, sharp, smacking taste.

Coated with red, flaming, succulent spices and drizzled with a liberally dashed tadka of oil, the glass jars are happily filled to the brim, inviting a year long sinful indulgence. The raw mango pickle is ready, very old fashioned and simply ageless.428459_10151483198026723_60563988_n

Simple Pleasures

12063576_10153166217001723_7492679785937548917_nOne of the most wholesome, hearty and soul-satisfying meals is the deceptively simple dal-rice.
Make the rice with ambemohr grains and while it simmers and fluffs up, its homely and heady fragrance fills the air, evoking a time laden with an abandoned joy and aglow with hope.
Ply the plate with a mound of this steaming rice, and as the smoke curls up, drizzle with home made ghee and pour an aromatic toovar dal, spiced mildly with tangy curry leaves, a dash of spluttering mustard seeds, and stirred with turmeric, asafoetida. As it bubbles and beams, garnish with a sprig of fresh green coriander leaves. Add a pinch of chilli powder to give it that searing edge.
Now mix it in with your fingers, feeling the rice sift and soften under your coaxing touch, swirl and become one with the glistening golden dal – warming your fingers and your appetite.
Just a dollop of lime or mango pickle on the side like a wink, and freshly roasted crisp papad to go, and your feast is complete.
Best eaten with your hands; a morsel of the dal-rice, tucked in with a lick of the pickle and the crunch of the papad – invoking an array of taste buds by playing a delicious symphony as it stirs the palate, flows warmly through the throat to rest snugly in the belly. Cocooned thus, it ultimately brings back the safe, secure, simple love of childhood.

Coming of Winter

Touchwood this year Mumbai has what can be called a winter.
So while it’s here:
Enjoy the water rushing out of taps that chills your hands when you get up in the morning, reluctant to move out of the cosy confines of the blanket. You splash it on your face where it tingles the skin and prises open your eyes. Nothing can wake you up faster- or better.
Enjoy the bracing morning walks, as you see the colourful woollens carefully unwrapped from their long hiatus, the bright turqoiuse cardigan, the perky magenta muffler, the delicate ikat printed burgundy shawl, and for some, even a monkey cap thrown on to complete the winter look.
As you walk, the wind whips your open face, massages it with sharp strokes into your tousled hair, egging you on to walk faster so that your body generates some warmth – like a warm chocolate muffin soaked in vanilla ice cream.
Enjoy the few extra moments you give yourself in the shower, at once reluctant to leave its warm embrace, and yet, strangely, looking forward to the onslaught of cold waves that jab and envelope you the instant you step out.

Enjoy the sight of red noses glued to the closed window panes of school buses on misty early mornings; the crackling bonfires made from scraps of wood at street corners when darkness descends, a medley of hands held out to catch the warmth of the hissing flames as they fly outward, sharing a camaraderie after a long day hard day of manual labour; the birds fluffing their wings against the twilight drafts of cold breeze. It’s time to burrow into our nests, they seem to say with a twinkle in their beady eyes.
Enjoy the fragrances of the kitchen as you escape into it to seek the warmth wafting out of the stove, your red cheeks finding colourful company in the strawberry jam cooking in the pan, the sharp, tangy aroma of hand picked luscious fruit filling the surrounding as the juicy pulp bubbles and boils, leaving a lingering fresh, sweet aroma on your fingers. You stir and inhale the flavoured strawberry warmth just as a crisp evening breeze slides in through the kitchen window and carries this whiff to other homes, other spaces around you.
The breeze stokes the flames, turning it into a soft red, quite like the long lush carrots that arrive only in winter- those that create the perfectly moist gajar halwa, hot off the gas, sprinkled with raisins and cashews, oozing out home made ghee from the sides. Eat it hot, the sweetness searing through your tongue, warming you within, as it rests like a welcome duvet on your palate, in your tummy.
Savour the winter. Enjoy its spell, like love, while it lasts.