Of romance and desserts


When I come to think of my growing bond with my husband, I can’t help noticing how we enjoy desserts over some amusing conversations. Ironically, our very first meet was at an ice-cream parlour in Surat. That time, we didn’t quite know that we’d become best friends. I won’t call us soul-mates; really don’t know what that means. But this guy can crack me up like crazy. I literally end up begging him to stop his humorous talks with tears in my eyes. It’s a real blessing to find that he can make me laugh–even when it is only for a few seconds, for I’m a pessimist and he always looks at the bright side of life. We’re complete opposite, that way. So, yes, desserts easily fetch big smiles on our faces. Meals are generally tedious, for when hunger strikes, all you do is listen to your tummy. It’s only when the sweet part materialises on the table, do we fill our hearts with pleasure. Next month, we’ll be completing five years of marriage.

I’d like to share some of our favourite ‘dessert’ moments. I remember how he used to visit me during his time at a post-graduate school and surprise me with some chocolates from Wenger’s Bakery, Delhi; it was his sweet act of compensating for our distance affair. I can’t help smiling with pride, thinking of those ‘after marriage’ moments in our tiny Mumbai home, when we treated each other with some Alphonso mangoes (bought from Matunga Mango House) dipped in Naturals’ malai ice-cream.

Thinking of our honeymoon. I tipped the chef at Apple Orchard resort in Lachen, North Sikkim, for the cherry dish he served us after our meal. I wonder how some really talented people love treating their guests with the best.

And, thinking of home. We love to keep going back to the classic American dry-fruit ice-cream or the cold coco drink in Surat, to relive the early days of our friendship. In the last two years, he showed me how to enjoy piping hot desi sweets in the bone-chilling cold weather of January, at the famous Gohana’s Jalebi shop and at Bikanervala, in Gurgaon. Luckily, he knows when I desperately need my plate of Paris-Brest at L’Opera, my favourite patisserie shop in Gurgaon. The crunchy texture and the smoothest hazel-nut cream of the Paris-Brest can quickly fix those minutes of agonies.


Not to forget, during our travels, A-One Kulfa in Amritsar, was the most memorable one. A mix of falooda and kulfi, discovering the kulfa was truly a winning act. It’s amazing to have some hearty talks, make a few sweet confessions and share some hope for the future–all over desserts!

Of late, I have noticed that my husband enjoys homemade desserts the most. It does take efforts to please him, but the whole process is definitely worthwhile when we both are together in the kitchen, cooking or baking a heart swaying sweet dish. It is in winters when I make some gajar ka halwa or carrot halwa, to get him charm me with the award of being the world’s best cook (at least for him).

Although there are various recipes of Gajar ka halwa found on the internet, I like this one the best. It’s how my mum makes it. Ghee is the star here and so is the celebration of love!

Recipe: Gajar ka Halwa

  1. Grate three to four medium-sized carrots. Keep aside.
  2. Take a kadhai or a wok. Add lots of ghee. Once it’s hot, add the grated carrots. Make sure the entire batch of carrots is dipped coated with ghee. Till I don’t see my carrots shining, I keep adding more ghee.
  3. Roast the carrots for a few minutes in the ghee. Don’t let the colour or texture of the carrots change to its extreme.
  4. After about four to six minutes of roasting the carrots, you can add about 300 ml milk. I make sure that the carrots are totally dipped in milk. Keep low flame and keep stirring it to make sure there are no sticky substances under and around the kadhai.
  5. You will notice that the milk has been absorbed by the carrots. Once the carrots start releasing the ghee, add 3/4 cup of sugar. You can add less initially, if you want.
  6. Add 3/4 teaspoon of cardamom powder, some cashew-nuts (broken in halves) and raisins. Once you notice that the sugar has melted, remove it from the flame. Serve hot.

Magic of aromas

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At my parents’ place, we sit on the floor and eat our meals (served in a thali). Nobody is allowed to walk inside the house with shoes on; so the floors are spotless and just perfect to sit and relax.

Funny as it may sound, as a child, one of my many fascinations was to eat at dining tables. My dad likes to eat sitting on the floor, so we never got one up until now. Which is why, whenever I went to my neighbour aunty’s place–who owned a fine dining table–I made sure that we had a chitchat at her table. If I got lucky, I got to enjoy a meal or snack too. But there was a bigger reason for me to wish to eat at her place: the earthy, aromatic food that she cooked for her family.

Kalpana aunty is an amazing cook, who can create magic with basic vegetables found in an Indian kitchen. Originally from Tinsukia, Assam, she has a talent to keep her recipes simple, without losing the essence of the grains and the veggies. This lady has been our neighbour for more than two decades now. And I could tell you what she’s cooked, just from the aromas that come from her kitchen to our common corridor. And, as you know, when you like someone’s style of cooking, it’s hard not to imitate them.

The picture shows one of her classic thali menu, Dal Bhat  that comprises dal (lentils), bhat (rice), patta-gobi ki sabzi (cabbage) and roasted papad. Roti, pickle and salad can be added according to your preference. The rice acts like a binding agent here. The dal’s aroma, the crunchiness of the sabzi and the papad, will force you to rethink before you call this typical Indian lunch menu boring.

To me, this thali evokes beautiful memories of the chatty afternoons I spent at her place as a kid. It reaches to my soul in no time, and I feel content right away. Not many things in life will really lend you such a feeling, people. I’d say, try it to believe it.

Recipe: Dal

  1. Soak a cup of yellow moong dal in water for about 15 minutes.
  2. Put the soaked dal in a cooker, add a teaspoon of ghee and a pinch of turmeric powder. Add water which shouldn’t be much; just an inch above the dal. We don’t want to overcook it. We can always add more water later. Close the lid and give it two whistles. Sometimes, I just give a single whistle and boil it later, if required.
  3. Whisk the cooked dal lightly and keep aside.
  4. For the tadka or chaunk: Take a small pan made only for seasoning. Add a teaspoon of ghee. Once it’s hot, add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds, a few curry leaves, one finely-chopped green chilli and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder. These will splutter within seconds; make sure you switch-off the flame on time.
  5. Put the tadka in the dal with some salt. Mix well. Boil the dal for a minute or two before serving it (if required). Serve it with hot, boiled rice.

Recipe: Patta-Gobi

  1. Wash and chop some cabbage. I take half of a medium-sized cabbage for the two of us.
  2. Add some water in a pan. Once it starts to boil, add the chopped cabbage. After another boil, remove and strain the cabbage. This step will simply give you a batch of super-clean cabbage leaves.
  3. In a wok or kadai, add a teaspoon of ghee. Once hot, add 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder and a chopped green chilli.
  4. Once you notice that the seeds have spluttered, add the cabbage and sauté it for a few minutes.
  5. Now add a small tomato, chopped. Mix it well. Mash it a bit, so that it mixes with the cabbage properly.
  6. Add 1/4 teaspoon of red chilli powder, salt to taste, 1/2 teaspoon of coriander powder and a pinch of mango powder (amchur; optional).
  7. Remove from the heat and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Recipe: Mooli Salad

For this salad, all you need to do is to grate a radish. Add a teaspoon of roughly powdered mustard seeds, rock salt and a few drops of lemon juice.

Include this wholesome thali to your weekly menu. Your family will thank you later.