So since I promised I would blog about it, here it is: The Zucchini soup.
Since we are leaving for a week this Sunday we were on the usual mission of clearing the fridge of all things that could turn nasty in our absence, and that included a lone zucchini that I was maybe planning to turn into the usual side dish of sautéed greens to go with some chicken, but I nearly forgot about it and there is no chicken left to roast in my freezer.
The problem with sautéed veggies is that they are kind of boring on their own, and for the life of me I don’t know many ways to cook a zucchini. Ironic considering that my grand ma who has a vegetable garden is harvesting monsters every Summer and was left with no choice but eat most of them and give them to family members. The problem is that while she did them in gratins, casseroles, and truck loads of zucchini bread for the freezer, none of these would help me with my one barely one pound store bought one. It’s not enough to make into a gratin, making bread or cake out of it is time consuming and the point is again” what do I eat with it? So I decided to Google zucchini to get some recipes idea. Not surprising, the main result is zucchini bread, there are even people making weird stuff like chocolate zucchini bread! Then there were the meant and zucchini lasagna where the past is replaced by strip of the green veggie in question, which sounds delicious, except I am out of chicken keema.
Then I found this recipe: Zucchini and cheese soup. The author says it’s popular in France with kids. I’ll take her words, for all I know it never crossed the border to Geneva, beside my mom was not big on soups so I missed something in the soup department. But this recipe is simple enough, quick and I had bunch of “Vache qui rit” herb flavour cheese wedges to use in my fridge as well…perfect!
The taste result was extremely good, not sure it is popular with Ishita, who still consider anything green that doesn’t look like broccoli a product of radioactive toxic waste not even worth ingesting though. She did dip a puri in it, poked the tip of her tongue cautiously twice into the green cream and called it quit. But for me this is a winner, and I think I will do it again, the monsoon is the perfect season for soups, and even though I don’t mind Maggi or Knorr they aren’t exactly over delicious here (we have much more variety back home).
Beside making soup is an easy one, and I finally have a use for the immersion blender attachment that came with my hand held egg beater/mixer…ha!
I used the Chicken Magic Masala cubes to make the stock, as there is nothing closer to chicken stock around here, vegetarians can use the Vegetable Magic Masala cube which are the closest to a vegetable stock in India, but apparently plain water works fine too. Any cheese spread will apparently do too, it just so happened that we had the brand name the lady refers to in her recipe around.
So there you have my zucchini story, or how I saved myself from playing survivor in my kitchen eating whatever needs to be eaten in their raw form just to prevent food wastage, this time I at least managed to get a gourmet experience out of very limited ingredients…for future trips I’ll have to check what else I can turn into a soup. Today all we are left with is half a cabbage I don’t like and leftover corn on the cob.
I have several blog post ideas in my notebook, a noodle review, a recipe from zucchini soup, languages issue in schools, and I bet my face cream would make a good blog post as well…among other things.
But the thing is I just didn’t feel like writing today, because we have a “vacation” coming super soon. And because the weather is so cool and nice since yesterday that I am just taking it easy and enjoying.
We are heading to Lucknow for a week this coming Sunday, to celebrate Ishita’s 3rd Birthday with the whole family. Basically it is the big production of a party we should normally have thrown accorded to traditions when she turned one, but in 2010 we were fresh out of the boxes in Navi Mumbai and DH had started a new job. In 2011 DH was on his last week at the old job waiting for his new new job to start while I was in Bangalore face with the hard cold reality of having to move again to Mumbai, not the time to fly to Lucknow to throw a party once again. So this year we have to do it, because that’s how it is done in the family, because one million relatives need to come to a social event to meet a toddler they probably didn’t know we had for the past 3 years. And because it is easier for Ishita to skip one week of Nursery class than it will be skipping one week of Jr KG or even Sr KG…or first or second or more standard. You get it, this is the only year left where it is still somewhat convenient to go there and celebrate.
For the occasion Ishi will be in a dress she chose herself (dress that I hid away because the last thing I want is a tantrum to wear it in school and ruin it), I even ordered last minute mascara and eyeliner for myself as I came to the realisation that I have no make up left after I threw all the one I bought in 2006 for my wedding and used only a couple of time over the year (gives you an idea of how often I wear some huh?). I made lists, I am on a mission to eat all perishable in my fridge (now I’ll have to post that zucchini soup thing tomorrow), got all the laundry done, and even made sure we pack the basics medicines to deal with a viral fever we hope Ishi won’t decided to get this time (In-law panic attacks and drama over 102 degree of fever is not fun). I even got a few cartoons downloaded for Ishi to watch, pray she will not be fussy about food so that I won’t have to explain that in the world of Ishita vegetables are radioactive toxic waste she will not touch but that yes the dal can keep coming just fine.
In a good toddler mom fashion way I even bought Ishi a travel gift: pencils and a notebook to scribble into while on the plane to hopefully get to read a magazine, and have the art supplies keep her entertained for a week, so that we do not face the boredom bug we faced last time.
I will remember to pick up a book at the airport because I forgot to browse flipkart in time for me to have reading material on the plane delivered, and the bookstore near to my place just seem to be closed down.
Yes I am scarily ready for our Sunday trip (no suitcases out though, not yet), and because of all this planning and being forced to finish unappetizing stuff in my fridge I am taking it easy on my finger and keyboard, and cooling off my brain.
But promise I’ll post about the zucchini tomorrow…I wanted a picture of the soup I didn’t take last night because I was hungry, and I have leftovers to plate properly for a snap today.
In the meantime…off to school I go to pick up my daughter.
I pimped my Facebook page a little today, adding pictures of all the places I visited in India for which I had pictures of, the rule was to post pictures of places only, whenever there was someone close to me in the picture they had to be hard to identify or shown from the back.
I am more of a people picture tacker, which is why I don’t have as many pictures in certain albums as in others.
I of course will add more over time, as I find them around my different back up sources. I find it amazing how I manage to be as disorganized with digital pictures as my parents were with the paper pictures that never made it into an album (one big cardboard box of memories with no order an rhyme to it, made for fun time).
Anyway, if you are curious about my pictures, you can now find them all categorised by location on my blog’s Facebook page, just click on the “Photo” image in the header…you’ll even see the last uploaded pic there.
Due to way too many photo thefts, I have removed every single photo albums that had pictures without my new watermark. I will of course continue to publish pictures on the blog, and on my Facebook page, but there will no longer be categories and not seen on the blog pictures anymore.
The monsoon in Bangalore is pretty harmless, it rains heavily a few hours and then it is dry and cool, the humidity doesn’t build up that much, if you suddenly find yourself during a spell you retreat to the nearest cafe and never have to wait too long for the downpour to become manageable again and head back home relatively dry, even if you forgot your umbrella. It is very rare to have to deal with dampness and mildew inside your home as well. For the people living in the garden city the monsoon is truly a welcome sight, it brings back the cool climate the city enjoys year round without causing too much havoc.
Mumbai has a much different scenario playing however, and this year is going to be my third Mumbai monsoon. Granted last year we moved back in the area in August and had about 1.5 months of ordeal we didn’t have to deal with, we still have until September end to “appreciate” it.
The downpour in Mumbai can be a constant for days at a time, in the early onset of the monsoon like we have now there are still enough sunny spells to just make the humidity in the ground seep right out steaming people and bringing in an insane level of humidity inside the homes, which leads to some serious problems, if left alone…and the task of tackling the mildew and fungus woe is never ending. We fortunately found out that the flat we are living in right now has a much better ventilation than those in the NRI complex in Navi Mumbai so we have it a bit easier.
So here are a few tips on taking care of yourself and your home during the monsoon if you live in an area that sees a lot of rain mixed with a hot climate.
For your home:
- Before the monsoon truly sets in go on a cleaning spree, the less dust and gunk accumulated in corner, the less hot spot for fungus you’ll have, think of all the places you normally overlook or don’t dust often enough and give them some TLC
- De-clutter! Make war to clutter in every room, clutter invites dust, and mold, humidity gets trapped in it and this leads to unhealthy living condition. Ban things like wooden decor items, pot pourri and excess decorative cushion from your place, store them in a wardrobe until the downpour is over.
- Speaking of wardrobes and cupboard, they become mold breading ground during the monsoon and fortunately a new product launched in India last year 9or at least I saw it for the first time then): ABSORBIA
Absorbia comes in different sizes, and is basically something I knew from the west under dehumidifying granule containers, you have the ones for bigger space with a hard plastic shell, and those for wardrobes that look like this:
This one can hold up to one litre of moisture, and as you can see there is already some in the plastic pouch, I bought and installed these on the 24th in the evening, and this picture has been taken today…so in not even 2 days yet that’s how much moisture was in the hanger compartment of my wardrobe! I have a bigger hard plastic shell absorbia in the shelf section, that also started collecting water already. They might be a pit pricey, but will save your clothes from mildew infestation and bad odours, so I strongly recommend these in all the wardrobes and humidity hot spots in the house.
- In the kitchen, make sure ALL food items are kept in airtight canisters and remember to close them all after use, leaving cookies out for just one hour will make them soggy, lentils and flours stored improperly will become unfit for consumption. Transfer your continental cuisine herb mix and some spices not used often to the freezer compartment of your fridge.
- Cane furniture and decorative items do catch green fungus fast, in Navi Mumbai I was tackling it every other day on my bedside table lamps, so you need to wash and dust them daily, and at the first occasion of a sunny spell put them in the sun on your balcony for them to dry.
Wooden furniture aren’t spared either, so keep dusting them daily and pull them off the wall at least once a week to wipe the back as well.
- Take down your paintings and wall decor off the wall once or twice a week to wipe the back clean and prevent mold build up on the back of the frame and on the wall.
- If you can save laundry for sunny days as much as you can, drying a batch of laundry during the monsoon can take twice as long, so anytime the sun is making a special appearance, use it to your advantage to get things done and dry your clothes properly.
- Air your home as much as you can, proper ventilation is the key to prevent mold from building up. I had all kind of tips on that, people telling me to keep all windows shut at all time, people to tell me to shut them during a rain spell…the fact is after trying it all I found out that keeping EVERYTHING open to allow as much air circulation inside is what works best and will minimise the damage. I tried the closing everything in Navi Mumbai only to see the mighty green fungus come twice as fast on every surface inside the house…including my cooking spatulas…ewww!
Tips for yourself:
- Dress the part. Most women even those wearing traditional wear will expose their leg a little during that time, by wrapping a saree to a just below the knee length or rolling up their salwaar to a carpi length, the water level can rise quickly during a storm…very quickly, so when outside you want your clothes to keep as dry as possible. upper middle class women go for stretch capris, shorts, and easy to maintain fabrics during that time. Stretch cotton tops, and poly blend kurti also dry much faster. Dark colours are to be favoured as the muddy water splatter will not be as noticeable even if washing your outfit wont get rid of it all.
- Forget fancy shoes, simply put they will be ruined, get some plastic flip flops, crocs, or plastic slippers, every stores sell them at that time of the year, and you can find some really attractive designs if you are still fashion conscious. If you go to an office where you need to wear formal shoes, slip them in a bag while commuting, and change shoes at your destination. DH lost a pair of leather shoes to decay in one downpour…this is how bad it is!
- The monsoon is the time of the year during which the stomach bugs are out full blast. If you have a sensitive digestive system, avoid things like salads in restaurants, wash your fruits and veggies at home with purified water, and eat more boiled and hot meals. health expert will even agree that this is the time of the year where indulging a little in fried food is ok, and soups are always a definite winner. Avoid fruits that are heavily water based such as melon and watermelon during that time if you are prone to gastric problem. It is also a very good time to get your water purifier filter changed and the unit serviced.
- Keep your hair manageable, or by cutting them short, or tying them up neatly, this will prevent you from looking like a wet mop when outside. Wash them as soon as you get home after being caught in a downpour as rain water is pretty dirty around here, the last thing you need is a scalp issue to deal with.
- Of course the best is to invest in an umbrella. While they weren’t as popular in Bangalore for understandable reason, comes the monsoon in Mumbai and every single shop will be selling them in a lot of designs, quality and materials. If you don’t go out often a small foldable one you can keep in your purse will do, but they won’t keep you dry long enough. If you tend to be out a lot, it’s better to get a bigger one. DH invested in a wide one this season, it’s one of those that look more like a cane when closed so you can’t stuff it in your bag, but they do a much better job at keeping you dry from head to wherever the water level on the road reaches your leg. You can even keep your sweeter half dry as well…WIN
- There are times an umbrella won’t do, so worry not rain coats are as easily and widely available all over Mumbai, keeping those commuting by two wheelers relatively dry.
- Still in the waterproofing vein, keep your mobile phone in a Ziploc bag if you carry it in your pocket…DH lost a phone to the monsoon in 2010 because he was not prepared, he did the mistake once. If you are a lady, try to get a purse that doesn’t take water, and keep your mobile inside the main pocket where it will remain dry.
- Go for pedicures often…silly maybe, but feet exposed to moisture constantly makes for softer skin, and the door open for bacterial infection, so get your feet scrubbed of excess skin and calluses often. Keep the nails clean and wash your feet daily at night before stepping into bed.
- Last but no least…take time to ENJOY the weather, it’s that time of the year to just take the opportunity to do nothing at all on a rainy Sunday apart from curling up in bed with a good book, cup of tea and listen to the rain, or munch on comfort food while watching the downpour and rejoicing at the slightly cooler temperatures it brings.
I mentioned it in passing, but many of the newer building sin Mumbai have piped gas, and for a tenant renting a flat in which the owner did subscribe to the service and installed a meter this makes things much easier in the beginning as it is just a matter of opening the valve (if the previous tenant did think of closing it) after you connected your stove to the pipe.
Gone are the lengthy procedure of registering for a cylinder at a government subsidised company, or the hassle of explaining you want a transfer of address to them. Gone the arguing on no end for them to deliver the 2nd cylinder you paid for in the subscription…and goodbye to weeks of waiting to get a refill (yes weeks! That happened to us several time in Bangalore before we got fed up and shifter to an independent supplier).
In Navi Mumbai we were without cooking gas for close to 3 weeks if I remember well enough, and there is only that much you can cook on a temperamental hot plate, especially in pots and pans that have been designed to work on a gas stove to begin with (yes there is a difference).
When we moved back to Mumbai we were happy to know that this time it would be piped gas, the only glitch we had was that our old stove needed to be serviced as the pressure in the pipe is different from when you connect the stove to a cylinder and no gas was reaching the burner, but that was just a matter of handing 100 rupees to the maid and ask her to bring the stove to a shop that did service them, 8 hours later the stove was operational.
Since then we had zero problem, the bill comes in the mailbox every 3 months, and it cost us around 500 per trimester. And because it’s a continuous supply, we no longer have to dread running out of gas in the middle of cooking a meal anymore.
So what is this new “pro” to having piped gas? Well believe it or not it is response in case of emergency.
For the past few days both the maid and DH kept reporting that there was sudden wave of gas smell in our hallway coming from the window in Ishita’s room, I smelled it faintly on occasion, but no where did it seem to leak in our own apartment and we could not pinpoint from where it came from outside, for all we knew the smell could come from a nearby construction site, because they use chemicals every now and then that send some odd smell our way with the breeze.
This morning however the maid told me that we have to find a way to alert the people living downstairs because she was sure the smell came from there and it was stronger than usual. Again it came from the window in Ishita’s room and not from the kitchen, so I followed my own sniffer there and by the time I was on the balcony I heard a hissing sound of something escaping from a pipe indeed…the thing however was that the sound in question didn’t come from downstairs where the flat is fully occupied and people would have noticed, it came from one floor above us, and the reason the smell was more powerful in Ishi’s room was that the pipe is mounted on the wall closer to the bedroom than to the kitchen.
I woke up DH and told him to come listen to that sound and sure enough the breeze brought us a nose full of the gas smell to go with the sound so DH ran downstairs to alert the security guard in the lobby, who explained that the flat above us is vacant and that they don’t have the spare key to open and check, so they came in our place to see if they could see something on the pipe, heard the hissing, smelled the foul odour and decided to ask to have access to the balcony on the floor above the vacant flat to see if they could see better from there.
Sure enough the flexible steel connector pipe that connects the whole meter unit to the main pipe was leaking, and the main valve was opened (whoever lived there before never bothered shutting it down before vacating the place).
Since the security staff doesn’t have the authority to enter a flat by all means, they called the gas company immediately, 30 minutes later they came in with their truck, and somehow got into the flat in question and fixed the pipe and closed the input valve to prevent anymore accidents that would take days or weeks to notice.
Fortunately, all the pipes run outside the building, and the segment of pipe that runs inside the kitchen to the stove is in one segment without connectors that could leak, all the potential leak points are outdoor which makes it much safer in case of a defect in one of the connector limiting the risk of severe accidents considerably. The leak that just got fixed upstairs probably went on for over a week or so but due to the gas being expelled in the open air the risk of something bad happening was minimal, and the other fortunate fact is that the gas company supplying us put a strong smelling agent in the gas itself to alert people something is happening, I don’t think remember the gas on any of the cylinders I had over the years smelling that strong as to be picked up one floor down from the leak itself, granted it was faint at first, but still noticeable.
What I find funny in the light of all this is that despite the convenience of piped gas, and the safety of it, there are still many people in our society and enclave, that refused to take a connection and have no meter connected to the main and still have cylinders from Indane or HP gas delivered. I had on two occasion a problem with a faulty regulator in Bangalore, and because our supplier was a local independent one he came quickly to change the rubber seal, but considering the lack of service we had with HP gas in the past I am not so sure they would have come that fast to change a seal. The way I see it they would have told us along the line of “Remove the regulator from the cylinder and don’t use it until someone comes” failing to add that the someone could never show up, or come days later (the someone that delivered the full cylinders took weeks to do so after all).
Beside I don’t think I ever heard of a gas leak accident that involved piped gas, but I read about quite a few happening with faulty cylinders that lead to death and massive destruction of property.
So all in all, I’m happy to have piped gas and now knowing that response of the company in case of emergencies is fast.
This one is another typically Indian flavour, and no don’t be fooled about the “Real Chinese, Tasty Chinese” moto on the pack. Because Manchurian is one of the popular taste in the Indian Chinese cuisine, and yes here is such a thing if you don’t believe me I’ll refer you to wikipedia. If you still have your doubts, well let’s just put it this way, China is India’s biggest neighbour, and the border regions share some cultural similarities, including a food repertoire, the migrants that settled all over India adapted their cuisine to suit the Indian palate and things like Manchurian gravy dishes was born. You can Google Manchurian gravy if you want, and you will have a list of links that will take you to a desi cooking site or another.
The taste is so popular that both Ching’s and Knorr came up with a instant gravy powder mix to which you just add water to get the sauce. I know the Knorr one, never tried the Ching’s one.
But here I am reviewing the thing from Ching’s secret I DID try: The Manchurian noodles.
The smell of the taste maker and cooking noodle is definitely reminding me of the smell of the Knorr instant gravy powder I used a couple of times, which appeared to be promising a good taste.
A taste that never came, the noodles have a vague taste of spring onion flavour to them, but masked by a whole lot of chilli taste and nothing else. No Manchurian gravy flavour, in fact not even the trademark gooey texture of the gravy, the noodles are dry and as far as I am concerned a bit disappointing.
The taste isn’t awful, I think if someone is after spicy noodles this will do the trick just fine. My expectation of something labelled Manchurian was much higher which resulted in my taste buds not feeling exited with this one, in the end I felt un-satiated too thanks to the lack of flavour.
Ishita didn’t taste this one, she was in school and I had a 12pm hunger pangs and nothing ready for lunch, so I ate that one instead of having lunch with her later.
I feel quite safe to say that this is one flavour I’ll never buy again, but by all means if you have a curious mind and palate do try it out, it isn’t a disgusting one.
To all smarty pants spammers out there, I’d like to remind you one thing about the comment section on my blog:
This is not a place where you can just post your links to whatever business you have. And don’t think you are fooling me, Disqus and even blogger, half your crap is getting caught and sent to the spam folder.
Trying to outsmart me or my tools by posting a generic “Nice post” “Very Interesting” “Will come back again” along with a link that more often than not has nothing to do with the content does NOT work. I log in several time during the day and catch everything promptly so you are NOT going to get any free publicity here.
And thanks to Disqus, not only do I do not allow any comment with URL in the body to get to my blog without moderation, I blacklist spammers and trolls.
The comments on my blog have to be well written, on topic, and polite, anything but that will get deleted, I said it before, but occasional repeats never hurt.
To all my regular commenters, if you post a link your comment will go into moderation, but just be patient, I’ll whitelist you so that you should have no problem in the future.
That’s all on the moderation topic for now, I have a few entries in the making, I just need time I didn’t get much of this week to write them.
There is one topic of conversation that almost always end up into an awkward talk with my family and friends that do not live in India, and this is the infamous Hired help topic.
Back where I come from, hired help is costly, very few have a maid that comes more than once a week to do some heavy work if they have one at all. Most people in Switzerland do pride themselves on doing all the work in their home or almost. A housekeeper is a sign of luxury, or at the most a necessity that some dual income families need to get because nobody wants to scrub the bathroom clean every week. Those who get hired help do hire them for one or two hours a week max. In the middle class the idea of having a maid coming daily is associated with rich people living in mansions and are dubbed as snobs.
In this light it comes as no surprised that each time I mentioned having a maid come in daily to do my dishes and mop my floor, I was called…SPOILED
When I tried to explain that in India having a maid is almost a necessity if you can afford one, I have been called ridiculous by some friends, and they were quick to point out that they do all the cleaning in their home themselves, some even saying that no house in a city can get as dirty as the country home they live in and that I am exaggerating a great deal and am possibly lazy.
Well I so wish these people were right (not that I would love being called lazy and spoiled), but the truth is that they simply have no clue about housework in India, so just let me try to explain it a bit better.
India has a much different climate to begin with, there are about 3 months of monsoon during which all gets damp and soggy, in some areas of the country even catch mildew in no time, and the rest of the year, and we are talking a long 9 months stretch, everything is dry, not a single drop of rain will fall outside the monsoon in most places, this means dust gets airborne very easily and will get absolutely everywhere in someone’s house. The high temperature means that you leave the windows open as much as possible to get some air in. AC units are not something everybody can afford, and those who can like me know that the electricity bill will skyrocket just for using it at night in one room, which makes closing all windows during the day to run the AC 24/7 unaffordable…so much so you need to deal with dust.
In cities you need to add pollution to the mix, and India has been recently pronounced the most polluted country in the world. The dust that accumulates in my place is a greasy black one, and it accumulates so fast I get to dust the equivalent of one week of Swiss dust in just a day here in Mumbai.
I walk barefoot in my home to avoid dragging more dust around with shoes, my maid comes in the morning to sweep and mop, I wash my feet and by 10am both marble floor and my feet are squeaky clean…by 7pm my feet are starting to look black again, as if I walked barefoot outside the home, and the next morning my maid is sweeping away a huge pile of blackish dust off the floor in such an amount that I would get sweeping my floor once a week in Switzerland…that is how much airborne dirt you get in a day in Urban India.
The maid I have right now, also dusts my furniture, and usually by the late afternoon that is as if she didn’t do a thing so I do it again, in just 3 days a duster goes from white to blackish grey and good for the laundry bin. My ceiling fans look black and disgusting in 2 weeks flat as well.
As for my dishes, well DH likes Indian food in his tiffin, and Indian food is pots and pan heavy, each oily enough, add to this the regular load of plates and bowls and glasses, and we are talking about a total 45 minutes of washing up the dishes a day easily. Back home as a family of 3 I would probably have a dishwasher, here they are costly, do not fit in many kitchens, and the dish detergent to use in them isn’t widely available (I have friends who did buy a dishwasher and each told me the detergent is a pita to find), the maid coming in daily in many home just does the job of a dishwasher.
I have a washing machine for the clothes, so I don’t need my maid to do my laundry, but in many middle class families it is still done by hand daily by the maid. And to those wondering why clothes need to be washed daily, well simply put India is a dirty place as I said. So since a house need to be mopped and dusted daily, imagine what goes on one’s clothes when you add sweat to the mix?
I generally do 2-3 batches of laundry a week, because apart from denim shorts and jeans, and maybe cargo pants nothing can be worn more than a day without or looking dirty and frumpy or just stinking up a storm. In Winter I can get away wearing a t-shirt twice before washing it, in Summer I am lucky enough if a cotton kurta will last me a day thanks to the heat and humidity that leads me to sweat buckets. Beside if you don’t believe me and ever come to India, just go out 2-3 hours come back home or to your hotel room and wipe your face clean with some toner and a cotton pad…and then think about the gunk your just removed from your face only….would you want to wear clothes that have the same sweaty dirt on more than a day? No thanks!
Back in Switzerland I could easily go a week without changing the bed sheets, even 10-15 days in winter, in India stretching to 4-5 is a maximum, so needless to say that it makes for a laundry batch fast enough.
If you live in an apartment you are spared the hassle of keeping the water tank filled and clean at all time, or the hassle of keeping the outdoor premises clean, but if you live in a house then add these to the chores.
As for cooking, Indian food takes time to prep, the veggies need a lot of cleaning, peeling and cutting, your chapatti dough need to be made almost daily, some lentils need to be soaked in advance, and you won’t find much in the way of shortcuts such as frozen veggies, pre-cut veggies, canned soaked beans and lentils…so it’s all labour intensive. One regular vegetarian meal made all from scratch takes about an hour to pull, a regular continental fare will not keep you more than 30 minutes in the kitchen, and while I can leave a roast chicken in the oven and do something else, Indian cuisine doesn’t leave you this luxury, you need to stir your food almost constantly on the stove.
I made the quick calculation that if I were to keep the house clean all by myself and cook every meal I would spend at the minimum 5 hours inside the house doing the household chores. Add to this grocery shopping, picking up kids in school, and playing with them, or helping with homework and you have a very long day, now how many of my friends in the West spend 5 hours A DAY just cleaning the house and cooking?
My maid does a total of 2.5 hours of work in my home each day, I cook continental for myself, leaving her the job of cooking DH’s Indian fare. The amount of clothes I send out a week for Ironing probably tally up to 1 hour of ironing for whoever does it. And with all this taken care of, I easily spend 2-3 hours a day cleaning stuff my maid doesn’t, organizing stuff, de-cluttering, cooking, storing away clean dishes, sorting out clean laundry, folding away what doesn’t need to be ironed, hunting mosquitoes and pests (fortunately not too much of these in this current apartment), watering the plants…then picking up Ishita in school and doing all child related activities with her.
Now people from back home, don’t tell me you wouldn’t get help if you could given the circumstances? Don’t tell me that you think 5 hours of cleaning a day is no biggie and that I must be lazy for wanting to cut some of it out.
And if you still think I am lazy and spoiled, can you then blame me for giving some work to a person who needs it to feed her kids? Can you blame me for keeping a person off the street by encouraging honest hard work?
I didn’t think so!
I mentioned on several occasions that bathrooms in India are generally ill planned and are pretty much just one big empty wet room that turns slippery after a shower. What I might not have mentioned is that after 8 years of living in India my current apartment is the first one ever to have bathrooms that have been designed with separate wet and dry areas and a shower cubicle that looks like this:
This is a standard structure in every flat in my colony it seems and it’s pretty neat to have glass doors that prevents the water from splashing everywhere. The designers even have thought of a way to conceal the water heater creating a false ceiling of Plexiglas supported by a wooden frame, all in all it is a pleasant looking bathroom and quite safe.
But that stops here, this morning DH went into the shower and opened the door to suddenly have the entire glass panel come on him: door hinges and glass side panel! Thankfully nothing broke, and DH was fine, but what happened should not have happened in the first place and this is due to several big building mistakes.
The door and side panel were anchored in the wall on just one side and held into place by one thin rail of aluminium screwed into the marble clad wall, the bottom part of the support glass panel was loose and resting on the marble divider at the bottom, and glued with silicon glue to the false ceiling’s frame…after said frame has been painted with a cheap substandard paint not designed to be used in a room exposed to steam and humidity.
The whole damn door was heavy, DH and I struggled to lift it and store it in the shower cubicle of the common bath so that Ishita would not get hurt with it while we wait on the carpenter to come fix the thing.
Once the door removed I took a picture of the wooden frame gluing fiasco so you guys can better visualise the thing:
As you can see there is the aluminium railing on the left and the entire top part is wood, which probably has never been repainted since the flat was built. There is still some of the yellowing silicon glue attached to the frame, and you can see the paint has been chipping in many places, leading to the heavy door’s collapse. There is nothing wrong with using wood or plywood in a bathroom, but you need to use primers designed for wet usage, such as marine primers, and you need vinyl paints to cover it. Here it’s a cheap standard acrylic emulsion that has been used. It might look good and safe at first, but not a few years later, beside considering the weight of the door structure, an additional railing on top and bottom would not have hurt one bit, we are talking about 30 centimetres extra of railing here, or just a small bracket to hold the support panel, because it’s an absolute no brainer that when a door is opened and closed there is traction on the frame or support panel, so not anchoring said panel is plain sheer stupid!
Luckily no one was hurt, even more lucky was that it wasn’t happening when Ishita was in the shower of pulled on the door by herself!
Now the two big questions are 1) when will the carpenter come once we call him as DH is out of town for 2 days and 2) Will he actually understands the fact it has to be secured in better this time around? And bonus question number 3: Considering that the glass panel has been cut to exactly fit in the space, will there be enough space to put a bracket in to make it safer?
In situations like this what I miss the most is the type of big hardware supermarkets we have back home, were you can take your time to look for the things you need without having to explain to a sales person who has never seen your shower what you want, and get all the extra tools you will need. I am a do it yourself type of lady, as an interior decorator specialised in sofa making and wall covering I worked with all kind of power tools, and I pretty much feel disabled around here. Granted not everybody has a “Do it” bone in their body, but that freaking repair is a fairly simple one I wish I could take care of myself.
And to continue with my “just Noodling” series, here is another flavour in a the Maggi brand: Thrillin’s curry.
This particular one wasn’t always called that way, back in 2003 the flavour already existed, but was simply labelled: Curry
I tasted it once and the only thing I remember was that it was spicier than the original masala noodles, and since that is not enough material to review it, I bought a pack again. The smell of the taste maker is a cross between the “madras curry” that was found in my mom’s kitchen and garam masala and definitely makes for a warmer smell than the previously tried “Koka masala noodles”, and while sharing some similarities in smell with Maggi masala noodles, the smell is stronger suggesting a hotter taste.
The first thing I noticed while draining the cook noodles was that they had a stronger yellow hue than in the masala version of the same brand, which leads me to think there is some turmeric in that taste maker, I also noticed bits of green stuff that seem to be coriander leaves and red bits that looked like chilli flakes, definitely not your good old plain Jane Maggi noodles.
Taste wise, the first flavour that hit the palate is a bland bitter taste of what I suspect is onion or garlic mixed with coriander leaves, and it is NOT pleasant. The after taste is a sharp hot chilli taste that frankly does nothing for me, not one bit. The curry noodles also have 32 calories more than the masala version, and frankly considering the taste of the Curry noodles, there are no reason as to why preferring the Curry Noodles over the Masala ones, because they don’t make up for the extra calories. This is one Maggi avatar that is less than “Thrillin” which is probably why I tried it only once when it was still called just “Curry”.
As I see it, the Curry version could work for those in need of hot and spicy fare, while the Masala one are the more diplomatic suit all palate noodles.
At this point I think that…gasp dare I say it…the Koka Masala/curry noodles fare much better than this one…which is ironic considering I suggested to give them a miss. Interesting though Ishita ate two fork full of the Maggi Curry ones while she spat the Koka one out refusing to have anything to do with it.
More seriously, I would say stay away from both the noodles cited above, stick to Maggi Masala if what you want is a little warmth and spice.
Back in my early days in India big retail chains like Shopper’s Stop, Westside and Lifestyle used to have more ethnic wear than they had western wear. It was easy to find both casual and formal wear in this category, prices were a bit higher than in a local market, but not that much higher, judging by the goods on offer there was a bigger demands for “sets” comprised of a matching kurta, pants and dupatta, and less choice in “mix and match” where you just buy each pieces individually.
That has gradually changed over the years of course, the modern urban Indian woman while still liking to wear a kurta, now prefers shorter ones, that can be paired with jeans or capri, when they buy traditional style bottom, most prefer elastic churidars, or cotton churidars that have a more slender fit on their legs, and dupattas are really reserved for super traditional settings, most of the ladies I know see it as an annoying piece of fabric that keeps sliding and need to be readjusted all the time. So with the new trends it comes as no surprise that the retail chain that pretty much cater to the urban middle class modern woman are selling more indo-western options and less and less conservative traditional wear.
I came up to this true realization this past weekend, as I was shopping for the birthday party we are going to have for Ishita in July while in Lucknow. My everyday wear is pretty much the same as any desi mom around here: capri and short kurta or t-shirt, with toddlers running around we need practical easy to maintain clothing, for a bit more fancy occasions I have better looking still casual cotton or stretch cotton tops of all kind, and when I wear ethnic, and I do in winter more than in Summer, I like my stretch churidars.
The problem with this party is that it will be held by my in-laws with lots of relatives, and DH’s family is a bit more on the traditional side, and even if I don’t go as all out as I used to a couple of years ago to look the part, I still think it’s respectful enough not to show up in western style outfit at a party. The heat in July is such that I know from my wedding experience that sarees even the lightest ones get uncomfy fast, beside this time I am in charge of a toddler and the last thing I want is to look totally un-kept because my daughter pulled on the wrong bit of fabric so I nixed even my more Summer heat weight saree as a possible attire. And since I wear less and less ethnic nowadays my collection of yesteryear also shrank, and I have no outfit whatsoever that is nice enough for a party.
The issue I faced shopping so far, is that first I don’t have time to go the dress material route, then I don’t want to spend huge sum of money on an outfit that I will not wear often. And finally it has to be decent enough not to cause an uproar in the rank of relatives. Unfortunately, most decent fancy sets out there are priced in the 3000 rupees range which is far off my budget, the mix and match section that would leave me the option of buying just a kurta and pair it with churidars is overly casual, and when you finally find something a bit more formal it or comes with a high price tag, or is too westernized for my in-law family’s mind-set, and we are talking spaghetti strap kurti, deep cleavage and even thin strap sleeveless kurti. I have no problem wearing such things to begin with when in Mumbai, but it will definitely not cut it in Lucknow, so much so that right now I miss the old fashioned traditional days of circa 2004, as I am realizing that something as simple as finding one outfit for one party is proving to be so difficult I should have started planning a few months back.
Even my favourite label “Global Desi” is too progressive for most of their pieces to be worn at a party around my in-laws…sigh
The apartment in which we live right now is one of the best when it comes to space management and planning. From the big bay window type, that allows proper ventilation, to the functional kitchen, and the bathrooms with properly separated wet and dry area down to the indoor washing machine area:
This little corner is set into the narrow hallway that goes from the living room into the bedrooms and would otherwise be lost space, the architect planned it in such a way that the tiles in this area are lower to prevent any risk of water flooding out of the already specially designed deep drain in which you plunge the washing machine draining hose, it comes with a special tap at the right height to hook the water input hose and a 15 ampere plug specially designed for appliances that heat (like front load washing machine with a built in water heater). The space is specially designed for a washing machine and an utility storage corner as I already mentioned in a previous post using the same picture to demonstrate how one can hide a cluttered storage shelf using a shower curtain.
Frankly after years of having had to store the washing machine on outdoor utility balconies at the mercy of the elements, or on top of a Indian style toilet, or in my kitchen when it was still or semi automatic top load (which I had to push across the flat to the bathroom to use) I was happy to know my relatively pricey machine would finally get some TLC and be tucked away nicely in an indoor location, way from sun, pollution dust and even rats. I figured out everybody thought the same…until a month ago a notice appeared on the message board in the lobby signed from the society manager informing people that it has been shown that the storm water drains were bearing far more volume of water than they should as a result of people hooking their washing machine in the wrong place (the balconies) and that the excess water was stagnating in drains not designed to take that load and even over flew on the tiled walk path/parking driveway of the mezzanine casing tiles to pop out, fungus to develop and mosquitoes to breed, not to mention the constant water stagnation in these area could lead to serious damage to the overall structure of the building. The notice kindly asked every residents to remove the washing machines from their balconies and put them in the specially designed spot inside their home for the sake of the building’s structural integrity and the health of all living there.
It comes as no surprise of course that no one budged, and that for a whole month the foamy water kept gushing out of the storm drains in various location. So much so that the letter that appeared in the message board last week was much less kind with the manager announcing that a survey of every single apartment in the building would be conducted with a maintenance official just checking where the machine is and note down the detail in a notebook. Residents which at this point still have a machine on their balcony will be asked to move it indoor and their flat number will go on record.
The guy came to my place yesterday, noticed the washing machine was in its designed space and left. What I can see from my balcony is that despite the survey several washing machine are still outside though and that irks me, because this is blatant disrespect for the society, the building’s integrity and the health of everybody living there.
DH pointed out that many thought that the indoor space could be put to better use as an extra storage space, and while I get that Mumbai apartments are short on storage, we are talking about 2 square feet of space, if one is that space conscious they can still have the washing machine inside, and have a carpenter build some wall mounted cabinets or shelves above to store some knick knack…believe me I am thinking about it to store all the cleaning products truly out of reach from Ishita.
Those who ignored the two notices and survey guy, are jerks, plain and simple, and I would like to know what actually makes then think that they have VIP status above anybody else that allows them to carry on defacing a building in which they probably bought the flat rather than renting.
And on top of it all I wonder why some people will just want to submit their washing machine to a shorter lifespan storing it in a place where it will get exposed to harsh climatic conditions when they clearly have a better safer option inside.
And the sad part is that these people are probably going to be the first to complain about how badly built and planned buildings in Mumbai are, and cribbing about the “Good Money” they spent on a flat that is catching fungus and breaking apart.
Of all the places I have lived so far in India this one has the most active society management, maintenance is carried out very regularly on everything from keeping the garden attractive, the foot paths with broken tiles never stay in such conditions long, the marble tiles in the lobby get replaced as soon as they crack, kiddie rides in the playground get fixed properly and promptly if they break (happened twice), the cleaning staff make sure all common areas are clean of litter and soiled spots at all time, so much that even the parking area gets doused in phenol from time to time and is otherwise washed with hoses regularly.
It’s a place where maintenance charges flat owners pay quarterly to the cooperative is put to excellent use.
I wished a many residents being in the wrong would realise that, do their bits and be grateful to the staff that cares about hygiene in their building.
And those, would be peaches for those not fully familiar with them. India seem to rave about the Mango Season comes April-May, and while I like them, they aren’t my favourite, I find them a bit messy to eat, and I don’t find them super special enough to call them the king of fruit…to each their own.
Peaches however is an entirely different story, for the first few years in India I didn’t even know they existed, fruits were not so popular back then, and the choice was limited. The first time I saw a peach around here was in 2006 when my in-laws gifted me a huge fruit basket as part of the engagement ceremony, the basket contained quite a few peaches and I even packed the ones left when we went back to Bangalore after the wedding simply because I just couldn’t get enough of them. The next year I saw them for the first time in Bangalore at a local fruit vendor’s shop, but no supermarkets were selling them yet, the year after that the same scenario repeated and the first time I saw them in bigger retail outlets was in 2009, and they truly became popular enough to be everywhere in my area in 2010, not before.
The season for peaches is quite short, they start appearing May end/early June and by July end you can kiss them goodbye. And this ear I have been checking the shelves of the supermarket and my local fruit vendor’s display for a few weeks. I chanced upon a 2 pack of 4 that came at the price of gold 2 weeks back, but one pack had peaches that were almost raw and then they never re-stocked again.
Today I kept with my routine of checking the fruit vendor’s cart in our street but didn’t expect much, and that is when I saw them! All nice and orange with just the right amount of blush to suggest they were ripe. Finally my favourite fruit (along with strawberries) was there for the season, making the arrival of the monsoon that much sweeter. Our local vendor is selling them at 100 rupees a Kg which is totally affordable, so I bought one kilo (which is the exact amount of fruit you see in the picture) And Ishita and I already went through a total of 3 peaches, at this pace I might become a regular buyer at my local street vendor’s cart so much so he’ll have to keep them stocked up.
And the best thing is that DH doesn’t particularly care for them, in pretty much the same way i do not particularly care about mangoes, so they are all mine and Ishi’s, who is a fruit lover like her mom.
Last Monday I hosted the monthly kitty party that my group of friends take turn to host, and decided to make a vegetarian pasta salad that was a big hit with everybody, the result of which being that my pantry became pasta less for the week, a glitch I had to rectify this weekend when we went grocery shopping of course.
I usually go for Del Monte or San Remo pastas because they are still fairly priced and still good quality enough not to disintegrate to much while cooking them, but my local supermarket is now carrying a new brand that caught my eye: Borges Pasta.
Now Borges I knew the name, it’s a Spanish producer of olive oil, I had no idea they were doing pasta as well. And the only reason I noticed them in the shelves is because they came with a cardboard box labelled “Mediterranean Starter kit” which of course came free. That was enough to catch my attention, but for me to buy something the price need to be competitive too, and I turned the pack around searching for the elusive price tag to finally find it: 145 rupees for 500g of pasta, and that makes it in the same price range as my two favourite brand, so in the cart it went.
At home I opened the Mediterranean starter kit and here is what it contained:
It contained a small recipe booklet with easy vegetarian pasta recipes (and the option to make them non veg) some of them actually sound good enough for me to want to try them (and I usually don’t like these free recipe booklets much).
A small glass bottle (yes glass!) of Borges olive oil which is the brand’s main product, and two herb seasoning mix from Urban Flavorz which is apparently a new desi brand of herbs and spice on the block, the two mix in the kit are Pasta Seasoning, and Cheese and Italian herb seasoning, both being the mix listed in the ingredients of the booklet’s recipes. Urban Flavours also included a small leaflet with the list of all their packaged herbs and spices and what they are normally used for while cooking, I’m going to try finding the crispy onion flakes and garlic flakes in their range one of these days.
I can’t tell you how everything taste yet because I just bought it yesterday, but the whole thing looked cute and I had to take a picture and share it.
DH commented that pasta is becoming more and more popular in India these days and seem to go beyond the simple tomato sauce affair it once was. I pointed out that with more and more dual income families or even single income families with the office going parent having long commute leaving the other in charge of the house and kids for long shift, you could not blame the homemaker for wanting to spend less time sweating away in the kitchen, especially in nuclear families. And pasta provide a healthier option than Maggi at preparing a quick meal. Add to this the numerous cooking shows on TV and magazines coming with more and more easy recipes packed with fresh veggies and herbs and you have a new trend in the making. As I pointed before, plain pasta is pretty much at par with white rice when it comes down to nutritional values, and both fare the same when topped with a healthy home made fresh vegetable mix in gravy. Pasta Sauces are easy to make, versatile and your imagination is the limit. So what’s not to love for the urban stressed out and pressed for time Indian?
I knew the Nissin Cup Noodle from back home, my dad used to store some of these on our sailboat, because they have a long shelf life, and when you are on rough water (and the lake of Geneva can be VERY rough at times) you might not want to go into cooking something too fancy should you be stuck in a harbour, or in the middle of a regatta during which hunger pangs strike. For that cup noodles come very handy, because all you need is to boil water, pour it in the cup and close the lid, wait for 3 minutes and enjoy. The one we had the most often on the boat was the Shrimp variety and till date every time I see a pack of Cup Noodles it reminds me of rainy boat weekends being stuck in the cabin and slurping warm noodles…the ultimate boat comfort food!
Now I suspect that Shrimp might be one of the variant that are part of the original Japanese range, but this one below sure isn’t:
Yes you are reading right, it’s PANI PURI noodles! Now for the non initiated Pani Puri is a classic Indian street snack, which in it’s original form is a golf ball size fried crunchy puffed ball of dough that has been filled with a mix of chickpea and water flavoured essentially with coriander and cumin, it is prepared fresh at the stall, and the vendor prepare one ball at a time which you put whole in your mouth and crush releasing the sour tangy water stored in it. This is by far my favourite street snack (and I’ll have to do a blog post on snacks or chaat as we call them).
So back to our noodle, according to the pack they are to be pani puri flavoured, minus the fried dough balls which obviously are substituted by noodles. And it is a purely desi variant of the ramen noodles of course, probably made for the Indian market, and yup made in India as the label on the cup mentions (the manufacturing plant is in Bangalore apparently). The price of a cup containing 50g of noodle is 18 rupees, again not something to break the bank as it is the case with most noodles (imported ones included).
So I decided to try after having a noodle craving at 10pm last Monday (had a busy day hosting a kitty party at home, and cleaning up afterward) Ishita was in bed, and I just about needed a soothing treat, and as mentioned before, cup noodles have that effect on me.
When I opened the pack, there was no surprise, in true blue Nissin Cup Noodle style the noodles in there are mixed with the taste maker and have a lot of dehydrated full veggies and stuff bit (in the Shrimp version back home you even find full dehydrated shrimps), in this version the dried up thingies are bits of coriander leaves and chickpeas quite obviously. When I stuck my nose into it it had practically no smell, which left me highly skeptical about the quality of the finished product. I went ahead, boiled my water and poured it in.
What happened when the water hit the noodles was an explosion of scent hitting my nostril…the pani puri aroma was indeed there, full blast and multiplied. So much so that waiting the 3 minutes it takes for the noodles and tid-bits to rehydrate themselves seemed like an eternity.
Taste wise, the noodles are far exceeding my expectations, I wasn’t expecting much to begin with, because frankly a lot of the international products that have been somehow desified to appeal to the local market seem to fall short, either because the company has not much idea of what the local spice palette taste like, or they make disastrous combination of taste and textures.
But this one doesn’t disappoint, far from it. The taste is a bit spicier than your average pani puri, but doesn’t miss the tang and sour that makes this street chaat so distinctive. What’s more, the taste is good from the moment the noodles hit your tongue, until much much much after you gulped down the last drop of soup. There is no odd after taste that will urge you to just get another fork full in your mouth, and because the taste remains a pleasant constant in your mouth the whole time, this is one serving of noodle you eat slowly and savour.
And savouring noodles is definitely something I look for in ramen noodles. Because let’s not forget that they are essentially starchy carb and fat with little nutritional value. What I like in Cup Noodles soups is that first the weight is 50g of dried material, which is almost half what all the other packs have. And when you look at the calorie count written on the pack which as a standard list the nutritional value for 100g you just half all the numbers which now brings you to this nutritional value per cup:
- Calories 214
- Protein 4.2g
- Carbohydrates 32.5g
of which sugar: 3.4g
- Fat 7.5g
Which makes a whole lot of difference when you consider that a pack of Maggi noodle is nearly 500 calories to begin with. The thing being that what is sold as an individual serving of Maggi actually makes two that should be part of a balanced meal, but end up looking ridiculously tiny on your plate if you do so. Cup Noodles is packaged in a way that fools you into thinking you are getting more than you are actually getting, has a lot of water content because it is a soup, and if you decided to call one of these a lunch when served with a freshly tossed green leaf and tomato salad, you end up with a meal that isn’t too catastrophic in the end. And because the taste is so good and lingers in the mouth intact so long, I actually felt satisfied eating just one serving too.
Ishita didn’t get to taste that one, I indulged while she was fast asleep, but DH did take a fork full and said it was better than he thought that would be too. That is one variety of noodles I am likely to buy again, because I just love the taste.
And here is a small bit of info I forgot to write about before hitting send: Thes noodles contains NO MSG so they are safe for those sensitive to ot and small children.
The weather is overcast today, and while the humidity was insane yesterday and a little bit today, we had a drizzle in the morning, a few more days and we will have more rain, the monsoon is pretty much upon us. And that marks the first time I spend the whole Summer in Mumbai.
The first time around in 2004 I stayed only from March end until May end, I remember it was hot, and nights were uncomfortable back then as we had no AC, we then left for Chennai which frankly was worse than Mumbai climate wise and we still didn’t have any AC back then.
The second time when we were staying in Navi Mumbai, we escaped our hell hole in mid-February when the weather was starting to be warm enough to make nights slightly sticky since…yup surprise we still didn’t have any AC.
This time around I went out of Winter into Summer in the same place, and survived Summer, at first the heat was still dry enough, and the AC was required only at night (yes we have one now, though it’s not ours it came with the flat), as the Summer grew more humid as we went into it, nap time could just not happen unless the AC was on and our power bill went up. But I still managed to find staying in the living room while awake bearable, thanks to large bay windows I could open wide to let the evening breeze in.
The only issue I have with Summer in this city is that there isn’t much to do when you have an active toddler on your hand. Going outside between 10am and 4pm is pretty much out of question, the playground in our building is blistering hot with no shade to relax into. So much so Ishita continued going to school after the academic playschool year finished on April 29th, straight into the “Summer camp” which was two hours of fun projects a day, and two hours of peace and quiet for me. Now she has a week of holiday before starting again next Monday, and there is only that much painting and crafts projects that will keep her entertained. Fortunately the rapid climb in humidity level in the air has taken the toll out of her the past 2 days and she doesn’t mind a long nap followed by playing couch potato for a few hours until the playground gets playable again. I for myself can’t wait for her to be back in school and with her friends and get into a routine again. That too without sweating away buckets like I have been the past few weeks. With the clouds looming over thicker and thicker each day I strangely start feeling alive again and look forward to more baking and cooking done in my kitchen, and even a few craft projects in the think tank.
My verdict about the Summer though, is that having an AC makes your nights more restful, and that taking it slow during the day isn’t a bad move at all. All in all it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I am glad it is over. The irony being that back in Switzerland Summer was my favourite season with early Fall, and Winter the one I hated with passion, and now Winter is my favourite and Summer my least.
The original version has been written in 2012. However, I just made a few changes to reflect the changes the Indian market has seen in the past few years.
Baking cakes and yeast bread isn’t really part of India’s culture. The notion came along with the British, and most Indians will buy bread and cakes from a store rather than bake it themselves at home. As a result, finding baking tools and ingredients can be challenging at times.
The good new however is that the trend is catching and there are now far more cake moulds and cookie cutter than there used to be a couple of years back. When I got my microwave/convection oven in 2006 finding cookie cutter was quite tough. The only ones I found back then was an old dusty box of basic shapes found in the back of the Nilgiri Supermarket in Bangalore. And, the day I found a muffin tray I bought it immediately not sure I would see one ever again.
So, here is a little guide to what you can find and where in India when it comes to baking supplies. As of 2015, you can find everything you need online if you are not living in a big metro. I included a few of my Amazon picks at the bottom of this page in my affiliate widget.
First thing first, don’t expect to be able to equip your kitchen with a cooking range or a full size convection oven as I pretty much explained here. Few are the ones who hve the space for such a luxury in apartment living. You will need to make do with a smaller oven, Oven/Toaster/Grills (OTG) are small but do the trick at baking. Microwave ovens that comes with a convection oven option are generally a bit bigger, but you will still need to bake cookies in much smaller batches than you would back home. But, in all other aspect the convection mode in your microwave oven is as good as in any oven (it really does work the same).
As far as gear is concerned hypermarkets and even some supermarkets are offering a selection of cake pans, moulds and cookie cutters nowadays. For fancier shapes, department stores like lifestyle and Home Stop are the place to go if you hate online shopping (though trust me for super specialised bakeware nothing beats e-shopping). The silicone mould trend has also started to become really big. I have seen them in many places including Big Bazaar which frankly was the last place I would have expected to see them.
I must say that silicone is great, I never used it in Switzerland, but I recently found these in my local supermarket (which is small-ish but located in an area where there is more likely to be a market for these):
These are cupcake moulds, and they came in a pack of six, since they were too cute for words and we do cupcakes and muffins a lot around here, I could not resist buying two packs. I can fill my oven’s baking plate with one batch.
The supreme advantage of silicone is that it’s easy to remove the cake from the mould, because you gently peel it off. As a result, it does well for fancier more intricate shapes than with a tin mould. We use these lot, not only to bake cakes, but they work great to make cute looking jell-o deserts too.
As far as cookie cutters are concerned, don’t expect really crazy out of this world shapes like you would find in a speciality store in the West, at least not in brick and mortar stores. Most stores are at a point where they are now selling basic shapes and Christmassy one during the holidays. I found a great set of Holiday themed ones in our local supermarket last year. For now, all my fancy shapes are still the one I bought in 2008 in Switzerland. Again, in 2015, date of this latest updated post, you will find tons of super cute and super specialised cutters online...at a price of course.
Pie dishes are easy to find now but so far I have seen only in Lifestyle and Home Stop, and of course online. Since the Swiss pies aren’t deep ones I have two stainless steel Indian plates with an edge that pretty much do the trick once lined with baking parchment so I never felt the need to hunt for better pie dish. Though a Quiche dish would be something I would buy one of these days. I bought 4 individual pie dishes in Switzerland in 2008 as well because while the big dishes are available there wasn't much in smaller sizes back then.
If you are going to bake often there is one thing you ABSOLUTELY need:
This is a hand held beater, mine comes with a dough hook attachment and a hand blender. I bought it last December on Flipkart after being sick and tired of sweating forever beating egg and butter mixture for sponge cakes, and even more tired of the fact that my food processor that came with a egg beater option failed to produce a good stiff egg white foam and never ever managed to process whipped cream.
I haven’t yet used the dough hook on that new toy, simply because I like making bread dough by hand, but I have used the blender a couple of times, it comes handy to whip up lassi without having to take the whole food processor out to make one cup.
Making pancake or waffle batter with this one is super fast too, and far less messy than in the food processor as well.
All you need with it is a good sized mixing bowl, and because the beater is powerful, don’t go for plastic, it will be scratched, instead go for a stainless steel one, the only place I have seen mixing bowls so far is Lifestyle (that was in 2012...this has changed).
Baking parchment is no longer though to find, online that is. For years I used the stash I had from Switzerland, then I chanced upon a roll of Wax paper in Mumbai. This was a HORRIBLE mistake, as all dough and pies stick to it like glue. In despair I turned to Amazon and found it there, indian brand and good quality (check my affiliate widget at the end of this post for the link)
If you are into cake decorating, piping bags are available in some select stores, and Westside had at one point. I didn’t buy one so far because I don’t do fancy icing often enough to justify the expense.
Small items like measuring cups and spoon are more and more available even in your small supermarket. Since I cook in metric measures I use a weighting scale more often though, I still own the tiny manual scale I bought eons ago in a cheap store in Bangalore. But I am thinking of upgrading to a digital model. They are available in big stores, online, and I even saw them in tiny stores that sell small appliances and electronics.
As far as ingredient goes here are a few things one should know:
- When a recipe tell you to use all purpose flour, this is called Maida here and it’s plain old white flour, available even at your local general store.
- Self rising flour does exist, but it is CRAPPY, I never got anything to rise with it, don’t waste your money on it, add baking powder to regular flour instead.
- Yeast is another massive waste of money, the one sold in stores around here is poor quality, and fresh yeast doesn’t seem to exist in stores. I used a stash of Swiss brought yeast for year. I recently found quality dry yeast in India and blogged about it.
- Baking powder will have issue rising properly too as most are sold in packages that can let humidity in. Just make sure to double the quantity of baking powder in a cake recipe to be on the safe side, and once a pack has been opened, it is better to have it stored in a small airtight container.
- Butter in India is commonly salted, so in cookies and cake recipes, you don’t need to add the pinch of salt, it’s already there in the butter. if you really need unsalted butter for a recipe or in the case of a butter cream icing, then know it does exist, it is called “cooking butter” and unless this mention is on it, you are dealing with regular salted butter.
- Cake decorating is pretty much non-existent outside specialised baking supplies websites. The closest I’ve come to cake decorating in regular stores is a few sugar sprinkling beads and chocolate vermicelli. In Phoenix Mill in Mumbai the gourmet store had Disney Princesses sugar cupcake toppers set and that was about it. There is no shortcuts in that department, if you want to make a fancy looking cake you need to know how to make your own fondant and make your own decor items (again specialised websites selling tools exist you just need the know how)
- Flavouring essences and artificial colouring exist. The colours come in liquid form and powder, and there are quite a few flavours around as well. The one I stock at home are vanilla (the most used), bitter almond, orange and lemon. But you will find others as well. Supermarkets will offer the basic flavours, gourmet stores go the extra mile, and speciality websites have the widest choice.
- When it comes to brands, I found that “Weikfield” is the most reliable.
- Regular sugar has too big grains, fine sugar is called caster sugar in India. A distinction that is not made where I come from. Brown sugar will only be found in bigger supermarkets.
- Allspice or pumpkin pie spice mix is something you need to make from scratch yourself, you won’t find it.
- Till date I haven’t come across almond paste/marzipan to use as a filling in some cookies.
- You’ll have to make all your pastries from scratch, and while making a cake pastry is easy, I will mourn puff pastry forever, unlike in the west you will not find ready to use dough in the refrigerated or freezer area, and certainly not ready to use sheets. I tried to make my own puff pastry from scratch, it takes nearly 5 hours of rolling, greasing, folding and refrigerating cycles, and mine never ever puffed. I asked my grand ma who is a very good baker and cook by profession, she looked at me funny and asked “Why would you want to attempt that?Some bakers in Mumbai will sell some if you place a large enough order, the good new is that the pastry freezes well so you can portion it and store it for later.
These are the one I can think of for now, if you have questions regarding baking, feel free to share them, and I might even have the answer.
Another noodle taste review, and another from the Koka range, this one is the Masala flavour, and I suspect they changed the name of the flavour to appeal to the desi community, like the other it is imported, and cost 25 rupees a pack, but I’m still fairly sure it is called “Curry Flavour” in other countries because this is how the side of the packet looks:
The German and French text both say Curry, and on the other side of the pack there were more languages all stating it was a curry flavour.
Maggi Noodles have both the original Masala flavour and the curry flavour that is now called “Maggi Thrilling Curry” (which I bought today and plan to taste sometimes soon because I don’t remember the taste enough, even though I had it before.
So how do the Koka Masala noodles fare on the taste bench? Well first while cooking I stuck my nose in the taste maker powder…it strongly smells of the curry powder my mom had in her kitchen and is known in Switzerland as “Madras Curry” even though you will never find it anywhere in India, while cooking the noodles the same curry smell emanated from it, whcih pretty much explain why the flavour is called Curry in all the other languages on the pack…it IS curry, and yes there is a difference between Masala and Curry. It also smelled like some ramen noodles I had back in Switzerland that were…surprise surprise…curry flavoured.
Now to the taste shall we? Well frankly I’m highly divided on this one, it is by far not the best curry noodles I ever had, and it’s definitely not like any masala one I had. When you first put the noodles in the mouth your palate is hit with a complex fragrant taste that last about a nano second and is immediately followed by a bitter tongue numbing flavour of fennel/clove with a little sour taste of onion, nothing really pleasant, and it has for effect to have you gulp the next fork full of noodle in a jiffy to get that nano second of good aroma back in the mouth, and in a matter of 2-3 minutes your noodles are gone from the plate leaving you strangely unsatisfied and drinking tons of water to just get rid of that tongue numbing taste, not a good sign at all.
So yes the so brief instant the noodles hit the tongue the taste is great, I just wished the flavour would linger so one could actually savour the noodles instead of wolfing them down madly just not to have to deal with the after taste.
Oh and Ishita took one fork full and spit it out almost instantly refusing to take another one and syphoning the entire content of her sippy cup, if that is an indication of how weird the taste is.
So based on our experience with that one time try, I won’t be going for more of these…ever and I can advise you to give a miss to that one altogether, not worth the 25 bucks spent on them, and definitely not an indulgent junk food-y treat at all, this is junk all right, and considering the calories, the msg and the sodium in them, the least I can expect from a plate of ramen noodle is to actually satisfy my taste buds.
Now as a tease to what’s coming, I bought the Maggi Thrilling curry this weekend and will try it on a day I feel in mood for some noodles. And I also found a “Cup Noodle” in the flavour Pani Puri…it’s can’t be any more Indian than that and coming from an international brand! I just had to buy it of course, and that actually might be the one I will taste first out of my modest noodle loot of the week.
I have been saying it for years, chocolate fixes everything, and if you don’t believe me well give it a try next time you are about to shred your surrounding to pieces. For me chocolate is the ultimate PMS feel good remedy, and even when completely fine there is no saying no to chocolate.
But then why the bathroom mention in my title you’ll ask? rest assured I haven’t installed a mini-fridge in there to stock up on Lindt to eat it in secret…nope, I haven’t gone that far down the cocoa trail. But then almost. The chocolate in my bathroom looks like this:
The Chocomania body lotion from The Body Shop was a random no special occasion gift from my husband after I mentioned that The Body Shop came up with a chocolate scented lotion. I have a seriously dry skin that screams for attention in the dry cool winter month, and if my body lotion can moisturize and smell divine at the same time I am not going to spit on that. And of course like most The Body Shop products, this lotion delivers, it smells fantastic, in fact so goo you almost would want to eat it, and it does make my skin happy, even in the pulling pain days of Winter. The only downer is that like all The Body Shop Products it is pricey, and at 595 the bottle it’s not something for everyone.
But chocoholic fear not, I found out last week that you can get your chocolate fix in the shower for much much less, comes in the brand Aloe Veda that has a whole range of scented shower gels to try. I first discovered the brand a few months back when I was looking for an alternative to Palmolive's shower gels (my skin is so sensitive that yes even dove soap bar dries it). Back then I tried a Hibiscus scented one that was not at all bad, and lasted me a great deal longer than a Palmolive bottle too.
I have never seen this brand in stores, I buy it online at Goodlife.com which is the sister site of Firstcry where I buy diapers and kids items. So whenever I need something from one site I usually visit the other as well, frankly shopping for cosmetics online spare me the harassment brand promoters in supermarkets make me endure and I can take my own sweet time to browse products, compare, and make my choice. So this time I was looking through the shower gel section and noticed they added much more products in that brand, and then suddenly there it was: Chocolate shower gel!!!!!!!!!!! That was it, I hat to try that one, at 180 rupees a 300ml bottle it’s definitely easy on our budget. And it is a product of India, I’m all for encouraging local companies versus a multibillion dollars multinational.
The verdict on that shower gel: BLISS, the scent is actually vanilla/chocolate, and one whiff at it makes you want to eat it, and you don’t need much more than a few drops on a loofa to make a thick fragrant foam. And it makes taming the PMS beast in the shower even more efficient, now I don;t have to just rely on hot water to soothe my nerves, I can take a good whiff of chocolate as well.
And while writing this entry I referred to my bottle, and I just noticed that Aloe Veda had a website of its own as well: www.aloeveda.com
So I’ll leave you there and go check it out myself…
My apartment complex has a really nice park, with a giant fountain that since we moved in last August has been working only twice, the second time being the day before yesterday.
For as long as I lived there until last February I thought this fountain was defective and not working at all, after all it’s always dry, and the pump pit while having a little water in it seem to always have plants leaves clogging it. So just about imagine my surprise when one nice February morning I heard a waterfall sound coming from downstairs and saw that the fountain was in perfect working condition, that day they left it run for an hour after filling it completely and then drained the water, and that was the end of it.
The whole Summer the fountain stayed dry when it could have easily doubled as a kiddie pool and kept our little one cool, but through blistering heat and suffocating humid evenings the fountain only gathered dust and more leaves for the filter.
Wednesday evening, they suddenly decided to fill it again at about 5pm, and even used the fire department hose as it is after all a very large fountain, a L shaped structure of 10 meter long and 3 wide. The kids were all super thrilled and all hopped in (and yes that is Ishita you can see playing in the picture). Some parents had reservation about their kiddos going in there because they thought that maybe the water was not clean enough (and funny how the same kiddos would be let to dip on Juhu beach), but as a vast majority the Fountain became a gathering point, kids playing in the water, parents sitting by the big bench next to it admiring it and taking the freshness it was generating.
Then by 7pm the fountain was turned off and the water drained the next morning. And it hasn’t be filled again so far.
My question is WHY, if you have a fountain, it is a pleasant addition to a garden, the sound is soothing, it creates enough health beneficial negative ions to charge the air and clean it, it energize people, and aside from looking pretty it is loads of fun for the kids. Since the fountain operated on a closed circuit it doesn’t even waste that much water if used regularly. The two just barely 1-2 hours uses for which they filled the whole thing to drain it afterward however IS a waste of water. Not to mention that leaving it running prevents mosquito from breeding in it too, while the puddle of water that remains at the bottom of the pump pit even when not in use becomes a breeding ground for all kind of crap.
In city as stressful and polluted as Mumbai, a soothing water feature is not too much asking for, especially in a higher end residential complex where the designer thought this would be a good idea in the first place and money was put in to built it…oh well, I guess we’ll have to take the few special occasion they decide to make it run and enjoy them.