Taking Stock 1

I’m kicking off a new sub-series within my blog, inspired by something my friend and fellow blogger Meenaxi does. Meenaxi is a food blogger 6 days of the week. On Fridays, she fasts (figuratively) and touches on other subjects. And so her Friday blog entries are named Foodless Fridays. On that day, she lists out what she’s been reading, cooking, watching, doing and so on. I liked the idea and decided to emulate her. Beginning today.

This serves more as a chronicle in personal interest, to help me take stock, if you will, of what I have been up to. Hence the name of the sub-series: Taking Stock. The numeral at the end will reflect the number of times I have taken stock.

I am open to suggestions on what to read, cook, watch, do and so on. So feel free to comment/suggest.

Reading

Let me state that this section will not include reading that I do for work or reading/editing my husband Dr. A’s articles for academic journals and so on. The books mentioned here are those read for pleasure. Not that reading his work is not pleasurable. But you know what I mean. (I’m tempted to resort to some hashtagging, as is the rage nowadays, but not of the annoying, stating-the-obvious variety.) #SkirtsALandmine. There! I did it. 🙂

I am reading two books these days.

(courtesy: vidyasury.com)

(courtesy: vidyasury.com)

One is a collection of timeless poems by writer, poetess and activist Maya Angelou. Her words are so soothing – music to the ears. This one is titled “Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer”. Here is a sample. (I reckon you will want to pick up a copy, or read it online).

Each of you a bordered country
Delicate and strangely made, proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, current debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.

(An excerpt from ‘On The Pulse of The Morning’)

(courtesy: bookvista.com)

(courtesy: bookvista.com)

Dr. A and I have embarked on a new project, which I hope becomes “our” tradition. We have begun reading a book together: Raag Darbaari by Srilal Shukl, a Hindi writer and former civil servant who also received the Jnanpith, Sahitya Akademi and Padma Bhushan awards for his work. I must confess that I had never heard of or read him until a few days ago. The only Hindi writer I have read is Premchand, and that too because it used to be on CBSE’s reading list in school. But I’m hooked on to his work now. His style of writing is satirical and political, in a subtle way. When I say we read it together, I mean, Dr. A reads out loud for both of us. Today is my turn. We turn the page to Chapter 2.

Feel free to recommend more books. Books written in other languages and translated into English or Hindi are welcome.

Watching/Seeing

Courtesy: loadtv.biz

Courtesy: loadtv.biz

I’m just coming out of a marathon-viewing of Broadchurch, a British crime drama television series, produced by ITV. It’s a classic whodunit set in a small coastal town. The Latimer family loses their 11-year-old son in a brutal, cold-blooded murder. Detectives Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller pair up grudgingly to solve the murder. The case spans 8 episodes. The investigation to find the killer ends up causing many skeletons to tumble out of the town’s residents’ closets: sex, lies, theft, infidelity and paedophilia to name a few. It’s almost as if every one has a past to hide, to run away from.  To complicate matters, and this is the part that I love, Hardy is a brooding cop with a heart disorder, tonnes of emotional baggage and a manner that won’t win him any prizes in a Mr Congeniality contest. I love such protagonists. Eccentric individuals who fail miserably at the everyday, in their personal lives but perform exceptionally and show extraordinary genius on the job. Other favourite eccentric, broody protagonists whom I love include Sarah Lundt from Forbrydelsen (The Killing) and Saga Noren from Bron Broen (The Bridge). Both crime drama thrillers are based and produced in Denmark. Man, I love the Danes. Hollywood doesn’t hold a candle to their writers and producers. Seriously.

Cooking

When a sweet craving collides with acute laziness, it’s time to cheat in the kitchen. I wanted to make a classic North Indian delicacy Gajar ka Halwa. Now there are multiple ways of making it. Some folks like to tenderise the grated carrot in a generous dollop of ghee first before adding the milk in. Others like to reduce the milk down before adding the carrots in. Both with tasty outcomes but way too time-consuming, especially when time is not a luxury and laziness is calling the shots. So I went online to find some cheat codes. The result: A 400g can of Nestle condensed milk. Using this cuts down the cooking time by half. The normal way (the two options mentioned earlier on) takes about 1.05 hrs. The condensed milk way takes 25 minutes.

I finely grated a kilo of carrots. Added them to a hot kadai (deep, thick-bottomed wok), greased with 3 tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter). On a slow heat/low flame, I cooked the carrots till they became more tender and looked tungsten-coloured. Stirring occasionally. This took about 15 minutes. I then added about 350 g of condensed milk. The mixture became wet, gooey. I kept stirring, until the carrots absorbed most of the condensed milk. A sprinkling of green cardamom powder and a cupful of nuts (crushed, assorted). I used almonds, cashews and dark raisins. You don’t need to add sugar, as the condensed milk is sweet enough. Too sweet for some.

The halwa turned out fine. Not great. This is not to say I am never using condensed milk again. I will modify the recipe the next time around. Maybe adding 3/4th cup of milk and reducing the condensed milk to just about 200g. I promise to take a picture of the new and improved gajar ka halwa the next time the stars are aligned for a sweet experience.

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