Monthly Archives: June 2010

Fun With Plurals

While searching through old e-mails a few minutes ago in quest of a particular one I wrote almost three years ago, I found this really amusing poem, about the English language,  that Sukhie forwarded around the same time.

It’s a marvelous collection of all the exceptions to the rules.

It would be interesting to learn who wrote it, when etc.

Ode to Plurals

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,

But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.

One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,

Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,

Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,

Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?

If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,

And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,

Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,

Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,

And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,

But though we say mother, we never say methren.

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,

But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.

There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;

Neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins weren’t invented in England.

We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,

We find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,

And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing,

Grocers don’t groce and ha mmers don’t ham?

Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them,

What do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English

Should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.

We have noses that run and feet that smell.

We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.

And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,

While a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language

In which your house can burn up as it burns down,

In which you fill in a form by filling it out,

And in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And, in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother’s not Mop?



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Filed under NOT ABOUT FOOD

A thought about learning

During the GELN conference this last week, the lady from Danone said something that I felt a student overwhelmed by work might take heart from.

Certainly I would have been reassured by this idea, if someone had said this to me back when I used to be a student who often did not cope very well.

She was talking about how learning can sometimes be difficult because it places us in an environment where there is so much that is new and unknown and that this can be frightening for some. She then told us that there is a saying in Russian – that if it is not painful, it is not learning.

That is an idea that will stay with me.

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Filed under NOT ABOUT FOOD

Warm Spinach and Fennel Salad

At the same hotel – the Sophia Country Club – where I had the avocado and orange salad, I also had a dish for lunch one afternoon which had a very new and unlikely – to me – combination of finely sliced fennel and spinach leaves.

The vegetables seemed to make up a sort of warm salad that included some kind of seafood.

I had only the vegetables from this dish, however, and the combination was surprisingly good.

I need to figure out now how they’d been cooked together.

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Filed under Quick Meal Ideas, Salads, Versatile Accompaniments

Avocado and Orange Salad

This very simple but very nice salad was part of the buffet lunch one afternoon during the conference last week.

It consisted only of alternating, thin slices of avocado and orange, with a very slight drizzle of olive oil, if I remember right, or perhaps not even that.

Light, delicious and perfect for a summer afternoon.

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Filed under Salads

A Rocking Kermesse 2010

Today, it was the annual kermesse – a word derived from the Dutch language– or fete in Indira and Noor’s school.

This typically involves a dance performance by every class, followed by food and games stands.

Noor’s class – the moyenne section – were adorable as they did a German polka.

Indira’s class put on an impressive act as they danced to “I’ve got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas.

As I watched their well-practiced hip-hop moves, I found myself thinking that this was a far cry from the more sedate stuff we used to do in school all those years ago (cut to a memory of my classmates and me in Grade 5 or 6 or 7, holding candles on stage, dressed in white and singing “God’s love, is so beautiful…” or some such under Sister Manisha’s direction).

This afternoon was so much more fun !

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Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls, THE STUFF OF MEMORIES

Tomato Chutney-a Desi -and nicer-Ketchup

The boulanger never wants a chutney/sauce to accompany the vadas, tikkis etc. that I make for his customers.  He doesn’t seem to think it is necessary and this is difficult for me to understand, used as I am to eating any finger food with a dip of some kind.

So yesterday, since he was to going to sell summer-inspired platters of salads and finger foods – he asked for both the khamang kakdi and the carrot salad with chicken tikkas, shami kebabs and batata vadas– I decided to give him some complimentary tomato chutney to serve on the side, for him to test the concept again.

This chutney is another bit of nostalgia from my childhood. In the summer months, dinner was often just this chutney and vegetable pulav with yogurt.

I love the flavor that comes from the use of paanchphoran here and of course that it is so easy to make is another plus.

As I made it yesterday, I thought this chutney would be so much nicer to have, with Indian starters such as pakoras and tikkis, than ketchup.

Tomato Chutney

3 large, ripe tomatoes

1 tablespoon of oil

1/4 teaspoon each of mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds

salt and brown sugar to taste

Wash and chop the tomatoes very fine.

In a frying pan, heat the oil, then add the mustard seeds and the nigella seeds. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the fennel seeds and the cumin seeds. When these start to brown, add the fenugreek seeds, fry for just a couple of seconds and put in the tomatoes.  Add salt and cook the tomatoes till they are completely soft. Add some sugar  (the chutney should be tangy, not too sweet), cook for another minute, then add water and simmer for a few minutes till the water is well-blended and the chutney is a little thick.

This chutney is a great accompaniment with puri and jeera-aloo, too.

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Filed under Dips,Chutneys,Sauces,Spreads, Easy One Pot Cooking, Versatile Accompaniments

Shami Kababs

Ma used to make these sometimes, to serve with soup in the winter months or sometimes on Holi.

I was pleased that the ones I made yesterday for the boulangerie tasted quite like the ones I remember from all those years ago.

I have adapted the recipe here from the one in chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s “Khana Khazana”.

I decided to add an egg for binding the kabab mixture, though the original recipe does not require this, since the mixture seemed rather dry and I thought this might cause the kababs to break on frying. I also used a little more lime juice than the original recipe mentions because when Indira tasted a kabab from the trial lot I made last week, she thought a little more lime juice would be nice.

She was right -the kababs I made yesterday definitely benefited from that.

Shami Kababs

350-400 gms of chicken mince

1/3 cup of split pea lentils, soaked in warm water for 4-5 hours

1 and 1/2 teaspoons each of finely chopped ginger and garlic

1 large onion, chopped very fine

2 tablespoons each of finely chopped mint leaves and coriander leaves (or a little less)

about 1 and a 1/2  tablespoons of lime juice

1 egg

2 tablespoons of oil

1/2 a teaspoon of cummin seeds

2 pods of black cardamom

1/2  a teaspoon each of garam masala powder and Kashmiri red chili powder (or  stronger variety if you like)

1/2 teaspoon, or a little more, of coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon of green cardamom powder

salt to taste

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the cummin seeds and the black cardamom, fry for a few seconds and then add the ginger and garlic and fry these for half a minute. Now add the chicken, drained lentils and about 1 and a 1/2 cups of water. When the water begins to boil, cover the pan, turn down the heat and cook till the lentils are completely soft, stirring the mixture occasionally. Then remove the cover and cook the mixture on slightly higher heat till all the water has dried up.

Leave the mixture to cool, then grind it to a smooth paste. Take it out in a large bowl, add the onions, the herbs, the lime juice, the salt,  the spices and the egg (whisk it in a small bowl very lightly with a fork first, to blend the white and the yolk) , mix thoroughly and leave in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Divide the mixture in to equal portions – this quantity will make about 15 – and form these in to little patties. Shallow fry the kababs till they are nicely browned and crisp on both sides.

I made a tomato chutney for the boulanger to serve with the kebabs and he told me today that his customers liked that too.

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Filed under Starters and Snacks

Helping Hands

Indira and Noor both love to help in the kitchen and I confess I enjoy having willing hands take on all the little chores.

On Saturday we made a carrot cake together. I took some for the baby shower we had for Ayesha at Shefali’s home on Sunday and packed the rest for gouter for the dads and children who obligingly spent the afternoon together at the park in Sophia playing tennis, while the women partied at home.

The highlight of that baking session was that Indira  peeled the carrots. She learned the technique just then but did a remarkably good job anyway.

So this morning as I peeled carrots to make salad for the boulangerie, I found myself missing that help !

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Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls, THE STUFF OF MEMORIES

Chicken Pulav(2)

This recipe is quite similar to the other one I’ve used a couple of times to make chicken pulav for the boulangerie. The chief difference is that this one requires tomatoes, while that other recipe calls for lemon juice.

I did without an ingredient that the original recipe – which is from Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s “Khazana of Indian Recipes” – requires  and that’s chicken stock.

I suspect that would add a great deal to the taste but never having got the hang of how to make stock, I made this pulav yesterday with water instead.  Fortunately it passed muster with both Patrick the boulanger – I will be making this for him next Tuesday – and Maria, our guest last night at dinner.

Maria’s daughter was away this week on the same school trip as Indira and since her husband is traveling on work, we asked her to eat with us yesterday.

Dinner was this chicken pulav, rasedar aloo tamatar, salad with mesclun, red bell pepper,corn and asparagus and multi-cereal baguette. I planned the meal this way because I wanted to suggest the first two dishes to Patrick for next week, along with some carrot salad. Luckily he liked both and Maria appeared to enjoy her dinner too so that turned out okay !

Here’s my adaptation –

Chicken Pulav

2 cups of Basmati rice

500 gms of boneless chicken, cut in to small chunks

3 teaspoons each of ginger and garlic paste

1/2 a teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder



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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Picnic Food, Rice-Pulavs,Biryanis,Baaths

Peanut Chutney – Desi Peanut Butter, could we say?

When I made rava idlis last week, I made this peanut chutney to go with them and it was a big hit with Shri and the girls.

I had found myself thinking, as I made it, that this was almost a desi version of peanut butter. That thought was validated when Indira asked if I could make her a sandwich one day with this chutney 🙂

The recipe here derives from two blogs, here and here.

Peanut Chutney

1 cup of grilled, unsalted peanuts

1 small onion, chopped in to large chunks

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 red chili (or more, as per taste)

3 teaspoons of oil

2-3 tablespoons (or to taste) of thick tamarind paste

salt to taste

1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds

1 teaspoon of  dhuli urad daal (skin less black gram lentils)

5-6 curry leaves

Heat two teaspoons of oil in a frying pan. Add half of the red chilli, the onions and the garlic and saute till the onions start to turn a little brown.

Take the pan off the heat and leave the onion mixture to cool.

In a blender, combine the peanuts, the onion mixture, the tamarind paste and salt with about 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup of water.

Take the chutney out in to a serving bowl.

Heat the third spoon of oil in a small frying pan. Add the mustard seeds and when these start to pop, add the curry leaves and the other half of the red chili. Fry for a couple of seconds, then add the lentils, fry till they turn golden brown and pour this mixture in the pan over the chutney and mix everything together well.

I let the chutney sit for a while before serving it; I think the flavors come together better with that.

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Filed under Dips,Chutneys,Sauces,Spreads

Thakkali Sadam or Tomato Fried Rice

This rice preparation – native to the south of India – would make a nice meal on a summer day, with a raita on the side and perhaps a light vegetable dish such as cauliflower with paanchphoran or beans poriyal or jeera aloo.

I have adapted the recipe from “Samayal”, a cookbook by Viji Vardarajan. To make it interesting for the customers of the local boulangerie – where they served this today with mint- and coriander-flavored chicken, pumpkin raita and salad greens- I skipped the green chillies in the original recipe and added cashew nuts on a whim.

Thakkali Sadam

1 and a 1/2 cups of Basmati rice

2 large tomatoes, chopped fine

1 small onion, chopped fine

3 tablespoons of oil plus 1 teaspoon to add to the water in which the rice will be cooked.

1/4 of a teaspoon of mustard seeds

1/4 of a teaspoon of cumin seeds

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder

a few curry leaves

50-60 grams of cashew nuts, halved and then fried lightly for a minute or so in a teaspoon of oil

Wash and soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes , then drain the water and cook the rice with 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of oil in 2 and a quarter cups of water.

When the rice has cooled a little, separate the grains a little with a fork.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the mustard seeds. When these start to pop, add the curry leaves, fry for a couple of seconds and add the cumin seeds. As soon as they start to darken in color, add the onions and fry fora few minutes till they begin to look translucent. Now add the tomatoes, cover the pan and cook till the tomatoes are quite soft and their juice has almost dried up.

Add the turmeric, fry the mixture for another minute, then add the rice and toss everything together. Cover the pan and cook the rice for 6-7 minutes, turning over the rice a couple of times till all of it acquires a uniform yellow color. Just before taking the pan off the heat, mix in the cashew nuts.

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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas, Rice-Pulavs,Biryanis,Baaths