In My Hands Today…

Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India – Madhur Jaffrey

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Today’s most highly regarded writer on Indian food gives us an enchanting memoir of her childhood in Delhi in an age and a society that has since disappeared.

Madhur (meaning “sweet as honey”) Jaffrey grew up in a large family compound where her grandfather often presided over dinners at which forty or more members of his extended family would savour together the wonderfully flavorful dishes that were forever imprinted on Madhur’s palate.

Climbing mango trees in the orchard, armed with a mixture of salt, pepper, ground chilies, and roasted cumin; picnicking in the Himalayan foothills on meatballs stuffed with raisins and mint and tucked into freshly fried “poori”s; sampling the heady flavors in the lunch boxes of Muslim friends; sneaking tastes of exotic street fare–these are the food memories Madhur Jaffrey draws on as a way of telling her story. Independent, sensitive, and ever curious, as a young girl she loved uncovering her family’s many-layered history, and she was deeply affected by their personal trials and by the devastating consequences of Partition, which ripped their world apart.




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Travel Bucket List – Europe: United Kingdom – 2

After I blogged about Part 1 of my UK bucket list, I spoke about it to GG. She immediately got excited and wanted to visit London immediately! Since S and to an extent BB had less interest in the historical sites we would want to see, she suggested that they stay back while we explore these places. I had to curb her enthusiasm a bit and promised her we would very soon go there. On to some more places in London and the UK that I would definitely want to visit.

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The Shard: In 2012, Italian architect Renzo Piano transformed London’s skyline with a strange but striking structure. Despite its glassy, futuristic look, the huge pyramid that is The Shard (now the capital’s tallest tower) was in fact influenced by the London of old. Piano took inspiration from the eighteenth-century spires he’d seen in artworks by Venetian landscape painter Canaletto. Reaching 244 metres from the ground, The Shard was built with everything in mind: offices, homes, hotels, bars, restaurants and, of course, the alluring viewing platform. From the highest point, the public is allowed access (floors 69-72) you get stunning 360° views of the city.

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The London Eye: The London Eye is a gigantic Ferris wheel located on the south bank of the River Thames. It was completed at the beginning of the 2000s, which is why it bears the nickname The Millennium Wheel. The wheel stands tall at 443 feet and has a diameter of 120 meters. A complete wheel turn takes about 30 minutes and the capsules provide visitors with a stunning 360° view of London. It’s recorded as the world’s tallest Ferris wheel and is a true beauty at night when it comes alive with bright neon colours. Tourists are entertained with a glass of royal champagne as they enjoy a sweet ride.

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Museums and Galleries: As I have mentioned previously, GG and me and to an extent BB are history buffs and so visits to the various museums and galleries in London like the British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Natural History Museum, Museum of London, Science Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Library will be a must. I understand quite a few of these are free and this will be a huge boon to tourists on a budget.

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Royal Observatory Greenwich: Visit the Royal Observatory Greenwich and stand on the world-famous Meridian Line with one foot in the west and one foot in the east. With your complimentary audio guide, learn about the discoveries of great scientists and inventors based at or associated with the Royal Observatory. Explore how great scientists first mapped the seas and the stars in Charles II’s magnificent Christopher Wren-designed Octagon Room – dating from 1675. Marvel at the Great Equatorial Telescope, the UK’s largest historic telescope which gave astronomers new views of the universe over 100 years ago. From the Royal Observatory, you will enjoy one of the most loved views of London across Greenwich Royal Park and the river Thames.

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Bath: One of the most beautiful cities in the whole of the UK, with a rich and varied history stretching back thousands of years, it’s easy to see why Bath welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. First established by the Romans who built temples around the hot springs here in 76BC, Bath has been welcoming weekenders for almost 2,000 years. This pretty spa town is oozing with history, from the Roman baths (of course) to its grand Georgian houses, parks and sweeping crescents, timeless attractions and Victorian gothic structures. Bath’s natural hot springs are what the city is most famous for, but it also has a fantastic cultural scene, with plenty of theatre, music, comedy, art and more.

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Stonehenge: One of the most important survivals of prehistoric England, Stonehenge consists of a group of huge rough-cut stones, some more than 20 feet high, arranged in two concentric circles. Located 10 miles north of Salisbury on Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge is Europe’s best-known prehistoric monument (the site is so popular that visitors need to purchase a timed ticket in advance to guarantee entry). Exhibitions at the excellent visitor centre set the stage for a visit, explaining through audio-visual experiences and more than 250 ancient objects how the megaliths were erected and telling about life when they were placed here, between 3000 and 1500 BC. After walking around the enormous stones, visit the authentic replicas of Neolithic Houses to see the tools and implements of everyday Neolithic life as volunteers demonstrate skills from 4,500 years ago.

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Manchester: S is a huge fan of the English Premier League and the team he supports is Manchester United. So for him, a trip to the industrial town is a must if we are in England. A visit to the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford where he can pay homage to his favourite players plus a visit to the National Football Museum and we should be done here.

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Loch Ness and Inverness: Nessie is Loch Ness’s oldest resident, first sighted back in the sixth century. Over the years, a host of hunters and hoaxers have followed in her wake, but we’ve yet to get a clear shot of the monster. If you fancy your luck, Jacobite offer a range of tours on the water, from sedate cruises to the high speed ‘Beastie Boats’. Even if Nessie is feeling shy during your visit, the loch (never pronounced ‘lock’ with a hard ‘k’ sound) remains a prime example of austere Scottish beauty. Gazing into that deep, murky water, it’s hard to shake the feeling that something is staring back.

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Stratford on Avon: This market town in England was the birthplace of Shakespeare and so the best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon includes plenty of attractions related to its most famous inhabitant. Catch a show by the eminent Royal Shakespeare Company at one of its theatres or visit some of the well-preserved buildings whose very walls tell the story of the Bard’s life and death.

I am sure there are many attractions and places I have missed on this list. I am going to do some more research and see if I can come up with part 3. Are there any attractions or places you feel need to be included? Would love to hear from you.

In My Hands Today…

Invincible Summer – Alice Adams

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Four friends. Twenty years. One unexpected journey. Inseparable throughout college, Eva, Benedict, Sylvie, and Lucien graduate in 1997, into an exhilarating world on the brink of a new millennium.

Hopelessly in love with playboy Lucien and eager to shrug off the socialist politics of her upbringing, Eva breaks away to work for a big bank.

Benedict, a budding scientist who’s pined for Eva for years, stays on to complete his PhD in physics, devoting his life to chasing particles as elusive as the object of his affection.

Siblings Sylvie and Lucien, never much inclined toward mortgages or monogamy, pursue more bohemian existences-she as an aspiring artist and he, as a club promoter and professional partier.

But as their twenties give way to their thirties, the group struggles to navigate their thwarted dreams. Scattered across Europe and no longer convinced they are truly the masters of their fates, the once close-knit friends find themselves filled with longing for their youth- and for one another. Broken hearts and broken careers draw the foursome together again, but in ways, they never could have imagined.




Recipes: Mixed Vegetable Korma

Korma, Kurma or Qorma has its roots in Mughlai cuisine tracing its history back to the 16th century and consists of meat or vegetables braised with yoghurt or cream, coupled with water and spices to produce a thick sauce or glaze.

Various regions in the Indian subcontinent have made it their own and though it started life as a meat dish, it has vegetarian versions also, one of which I made a few days back for our Sunday lunch.

My recipe is a simplified version and is fairly easy to make. It took me around 45 minutes from start to finish to make this dish.

Mixed Vegetable Korma

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mixed vegetables (I used a combination of carrots, potatoes, broccoli and peas. You can also add cauliflower, spinach and cabbage)
  • 1 cup frozen paneer, soaked in hot water for 30-40 minutes
  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 4-6 almonds
  • 4-6 fresh red chillies (you can use green chillies if you don’t have red chillies)
  • 1 pod of garlic (10-12 cloves)
  • 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp of red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp Kasuri methi
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1-2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup thick beaten yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and when the oil warms, add in the chopped vegetables plus 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and cook until it is 80% cooked. When cooked, remove from the pan and keep aside.
  • In a blender, blend to a fine paste the onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, red chillies and almonds and keep aside.
  • In the same pan you used to cook the vegetables, heat the remaining oil and when the oil is warm, add the cumin seeds. When the seeds pop, pour in the blended tomato paste and let it cook. When the paste starts to bubble, add the dry spices – red chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and salt and let it cook till the paste starts to reduce and oil starts to come out from the sides.
  • At this point add the semi-cooked vegetables and stir well. Let it come to a rolling boil. You can add some water, but be careful not to water down the gravy too much.
  • Reduce the flame to a low medium and pour in the beaten yoghurt. The yoghurt should be very smooth otherwise it may curdle. The presence of the masalas and the ginger garlic paste does not allow it to curdle, but keep stirring on a low flame so that it is not allowed to curdle.
  • Chop the paneer (optional) and add to the gravy. I prefer to chop the paneer to the same size as that of my vegetables, but you can choose to keep it as you brought it.
  • Check for seasoning and crush the Kasuri methi in the palms of your hands and season the gravy with it.
  • Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.
  • This goes very well with Indian flatbreads or rice. I served it with a simple jeera rice.

In My Hands Today…

The Secrets of Flight – Maggie Leffler

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Estranged from her family since just after World War II, Mary Browning has spent her entire adult life hiding from her past.

Now eighty-seven years old and a widow, she is still haunted by secrets and fading memories of the family she left behind. Her one outlet is the writing group she’s presided over for a decade, though she’s never written a word herself. When a new member walks in—a fifteen-year-old girl who reminds her so much of her beloved sister Sarah—Mary is certain fate delivered Elyse Strickler to her for a reason.

Mary hires the serious-eyed teenager to type her story about a daring female pilot who, during World War II, left home for the sky and gambled everything for her dreams—including her own identity.

As they begin to unravel the web of Mary’s past, Mary and Elyse form an unlikely friendship. Together they discover it’s never too late for second chances and that sometimes forgiveness is all it takes for life to take flight in the most unexpected ways.