Festive blues


After a long, long time, I’ve spent an amazing weekend in the city. Plus, after a long time, I and my husband are alone on the occasion of Diwali. Though I kept myself busy with the cleaning and decoration of the house, by afternoon, I got a hint that we’ll be spending our three days of Diwali holidays in a dull mood.

The husband was busy with the carpenter, showing him the exact wall locations to put the nails on, to beautify our main door entrance. After making lunch, I gave a big hint to my husband that we better go out. Somewhere. I was bored already. So, we decided to go to my favourite bookstore in the city, the New Midland Book Shop in Arjun Marg market in Gurgaon.

There were a few makeshift shops selling Diwali stuff in the middle of the market, and I dived right in. Looking at the flower prices some of us shoppers couldn’t help but say, “Diwali mein Diwala nikaloge kya, bhaiya?” Meaning, you flower sellers will make us bankrupt during Diwali. A few steps ahead, chic paper bags were sold by a stationary shop. From gold motifs to chevron and paisley prints, I liked them all. After much bargaining and looking around, I ended up buying a set of paper bags, rangoli colours, diyas and jasmine and marigold flowers.

The highlight of the evening was the piping hot samosa that I had with tamarind and coriander chutney and my visit to the bookstore. You know, while having Indian street food, there are some rules that you can follow. Always opt for anything that is served hot. Avoid looking at the overflowing dustbins around the place. And, don’t even try to look at the waiter cleaning your table with a dirty cloth. Noticing all this will only kill your experience. It’s just you and the street food. Relish it like no one’s watching.


In the next hour, it was just me and the books. These days, it’s a rare case when I and my husband step out of the house just to visit a bookshop. I loved each second of my time there. The books were well categorised and the latest, must-read books were easy to spot. There was no ‘new arrival’ counter; the latest releases were mixed with the other bestselling books, but were highlighted by the owner.

Just as I stepped in the basement of the bookstore, I saw a dainty woman arranging some books. She gave me a cane chair to sit on, and then, dear readers, I was in heaven. It was just me and the sound of the flipping of the book pages. You can’t compare this experience with online book buys. You can touch the book, read it to see if you like its flow, and if you’re like me, you might as well sniff a book.

And then came the question of the evening, what’s for dinner? I and my husband both had a bad tummy episode after our last food order, so we decided to eat at home. I happily agreed, as you know, I was in a happy mood after an evening well spent at Arjun Marg market. Dear husband said the mood will last only till the next day, which I didn’t respond to.


Cooking when you’re hungry can be difficult. I looked for an easy switch. I had some spare wheat dough, and all I could think of was roti pizza. I’m sure almost all households must have this in their last-minute menus, but I’m still sharing its recipe. Have a great Diwali, dear readers! For some, Diwali means going home, and for some, it’s dealing with the feeling of home. Enjoy!

Recipe: Roti Pizza

I prefer making roti pizza as a last-minute fix, hence, using the oven is never an option for me. I just use a griddle and a kadai with no handles, and the pizzas crust comes out crisp and the cheese melts just fine, just as I like it. Plus, the pizza base here is  made of wheat flour and is not a fermented one, so it’s healthier.


Most of the times I use my good old Heinz tomato ketchup. But, sometimes, I also make my own pizza sauce. For which, you can blanch two tomatoes, peel them and once they’ve cooled down, grind them to a thick paste. Sauté the paste on a pan, with a dash of salt, olive oil, chopped garlic, red chilli flakes and oregano or basil leaves. When it comes to cheese, I mostly use processed cheese blocks. But, you could use mozzarella cheese, which is perfect for pizzas.


For seasoning, you could add anything that you like. I prefer a hint of crushed dried oregano leaves. You can use chilli sauce, chilli flakes, black pepper powder, basil leaves, olive oil and salt to adjust your taste.

For veggies, I almost always end up using a tomato, onion and green capsicum. You could use any other veggie as well. You can choose cottage cheese pieces as a topping with other veggies, some green chutney with your base sauce and a sprinkle of paneer tikka masala.

Here you go:

Roll a roti with a rolling pin and roast it on a hot griddle or tawa. Half-cook one of its side. Now lower the flame, take the roti off the tawa and keep it on a plate. Apply some tomato sauce on the cooked side of the roti. Spread some chopped veggies on it and cover it with grated cheese.

Sprinkle some plain flour on the griddle and put a few drops of olive oil or ghee on it (too much oil or ghee can burn the base). Take the roti and place it on the griddle; refer the pictures above. Keep the flame low. This way, your roti pizza will not stick to the griddle.

Cover it with a handle-less kadai or any other utensil that is big enough to cover the roti pizza and create a dome effect to trap the heat. Let your pizza cook for five minutes. Once the cheese melts, remove it with the help of a tong and serve!

Winters are coming


When winters arrive, my oven gets a new life. For nothing can beat a freshly baked batch of cookies or a wholesome cake in the cold weather. I love to be around my oven to see my cake rising, while I feel its warmth.

I make sure to use seasonal and fresh produce with my usual cake batter, be it ginger roots, oranges, peanuts, lemons, strawberries or carrots. Let me talk about the time I got a severe baking craze. When I bought baking books and challenged myself with a difficult recipe. I’m not into decorating and frosting cakes, so I’m not talking about those professional skills. But, just recipes that call for an elaborate list of ingredients or a difficult ratio to nail, could be enough for me.

Winter is also the time when I happen to bake carrot cakes. I experimented with it two years back, and tried some carrot cake last year as well. Which is why, I’m totally looking forward to bake it in the coming months as well.

In some way, I find the bone-chilling weather a cruel one. I’m not someone who enjoys sitting at home in closed doors, under warm layers of sheets. Maybe that’s why my hopelessness goes on a different level altogether. If you have a job to keep yourself busy with, it’s still better. But in my case, being a freelance writer means sitting at home, and being in Gurgaon means, only mall hunting. So I have nothing better to do but cook a great meal and relish it. Enjoying a meal or a freshly baked cake lends good vibes in the air, don’t you think? So what if it’s only for a short time.

Coming back to carrots. Nothing can beat the aroma of cinnamon that lingers in the kitchen, while you’re in the process of baking a carrot cake. In fact, it’s there in the air the following day as well. And I can’t stop patting myself for it. I like to use those seasonal carrots that are deep orange in colour and sweet in taste.

I’ve already shared my recipe of gajar ka halwa with you. For the upcoming season, I’m sharing my so-called elaborate recipe of carrot cake. Hold your breath. It might look time-consuming, but it’s worth it.

Because, sometimes we ought to stop the clock and lose track, dear readers. Like they often say, bake a cake and eat it too.

Recipe: Eggless Whole-Wheat Carrot Cake

2 cups – whole-wheat flour (roti ka atta)
2 cups – finely powdered sugar
2 teaspoon – baking powder
1 teaspoon – baking soda
1 teaspoon – salt
1/4 cup – ground almond and walnut
8 to 12 – raisins
2 teaspoons – mixture of finely ground cinnamon (dalchini), nutmeg (jaifal), cardamom (elaichi) and dry ginger (saunth)

2 teaspoons – light olive oil
1/2 cup – sunflower oil
3/4 cup – milk
1/4 cup – water
1/2 cup – melted butter
2 teaspoons – vanilla extract
3 – carrots (peeled and grated)

For frosting:
1/2 cup – heavy cream (I use fresh malai that I always have in my fridge)
3/4 cup – cream cheese
1/2 tsp – vanilla extract
1/2 cup – powdered sugar

For decoration:
6 to 8 – walnuts

1.) Preheat the oven at 180 degree C.
2.) In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Don’t forget to sieve the flour and sugar. You don’t want any lumps in your cake.
3.) Now add in all the wet ingredients (except the grated carrots) in a measuring mug. Avoid measuring the wet ingredients on the flour bowl. You might add in more than required. Once you have all the wet ingredients in your mug, pour it slowly in the flour bowl and gently mix it; avoid lumps, whatsoever.
4.) Add in the carrots in the cake mixture. And gently mix.
5.) Now take a round cake pan, grease it nicely and coat some flour on it. After doing this, fill the pan with the cake mixture. Make sure the pan should be left with enough space to rise. I fill the pan till its 3/4 part is covered.
6.) Bake it for about 40 minutes on 175 degree C. Still, one should check the cake after 30 minutes or so. Poke a toothpick in the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, you can take the cake out and poke a light finger on its surface. If it’s not spongy, leave it to bake for further 10 to 15 minutes.

From the airport


I’m someone who hates flying. Most of the times, I prefer our good old Indian trains. And even if I take a flight, I hardly buy any food item from the airport or on the plane. Nothing will happen if I starve for a few hours, is my general thought.

Once I was flying from Bengaluru to Mumbai. It was early in the morning, and I was looking for something that could shut my morning tummy noises at the airport café. I felt lost looking at the glass display counters. Cookies. No. Muffins. No. Packed sandwiches. Nah. I came back to my seat with an agitated face. I hate airports! I thought to myself. A few minutes later, a woman sitting next to me got a box of fresh-looking salad. “It’s a Greek salad and a healthier option,” she smiled confidently. Early morning if a sensible looking woman advises you something, take it. I decided to listen to her, and guess what? I was totally sold over the crunchiness of the veggies, freshness of the olive oil and lemon dressing and the softness of the cheese.

One day, I decided to try this salad at home. The original recipe calls for Feta cheese and more colourful veggies. Some people add olives and Pita bread to it as well. But I decided to give it a twist and packed it with my husband’s office lunch. Guess what? He totally loved it. I also took it for one of our train travels and our friends loved it, too. That was a stamp. Turns out, this version of Greek salad is not bad at all.

Recipe: Greek Salad (with an Indian twist)

In a bowl, add some chopped onion, tomato, cucumber and green capsicum. Cut them into square shapes or big chunks. You can also add some colourful peppers, if you have them available in your refrigerator. You can remove the tomato and cucumber seeds, if you want to. Next, add some homemade crumbled cottage cheese or paneer in the same bowl. Crumble the paneer with your fingers. Add a dash of salt, crushed black pepper, dry oregano or fresh basil leaves, juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of olive oil. And, there you have it, my dear readers. A quick Greek-inspired salad.

A piece of Matunga


I have a soft corner for the Southern part of India. Well, I can’t really explain the reason. But, let me try. I’m talking about Chennai, where my maternal family has been living since decades. I have spent a number of summer holidays there, which got me exposed to South Indian cuisine, Carnatic and lots of AR Rahman music, classical dance, and of course, the Hindu newspaper and filter coffee! I truly adore the Madrasi way of living to the hilt.

Luckily or unluckily (as I miss it to the core, and it really has taken the peace out of my current life), I had a chance to live in Mumbai with my husband after our wedding. That’s when I got a chance to explore our beautiful neighbourhood called Matunga. People call it a mini Madras.


My editor was the first one to speak about Matunga. So, one day, I decided to witness it myself. As I was walking on the busy streets of Matunga, I could smell the aroma of freshly-ground coffee beans, lots of jasmine flowers, sambhar (weirdly, yes), and sandalwood, too. How could I not love Matunga?


A usual Matunga trip would be incomplete without a mini meal at Arya Bhavan (and the Anando thandai available at the restaurant), a second-hand book purchase from King Circle (off the road) and a short visit to the Chheda Stores, from where I bought my idli batter, green chutney, Rao’s rasam masala, Gujarati dry snacks and other kitchen essentials. Buying mangoes from the Matunga Mango House was a big thing for me. And, I also loved the O’Hair salon situated over there.


You may now know, why my breakup with Mumbai was a dramatic one. How can any place replace Matunga?


Currently, I might be used to the luxuries of Gurgaon; its spacious houses, gardens, posh malls, endless social gatherings and all, but if given a choice, I’d take the first opportunity to go back to Mumbai. Gurgaon has taught me some different lessons in life. And I get how this city is becoming one of the best cities to work in. But, it’s just that, this place is not made for me. Here’s what I think I should do. Find my handmade scrapbook and see some saved Matunga food bills.

An unusual love



There’s something about me and potatoes. God know why I love this vegetable. I can use potatoes in the kitchen every day. Believe me, whenever I’m out of vegetables, or if I don’t get the time to go to the grocery store to pick something interesting, or when I’m just bored of pulses, potatoes come to my rescue. In my early days of marriage, when I could hardly think of any recipe to cook, all I could see was potato. So I could have all these recipes in a week: aloo matar, aloo gobi, aloo tamater, and aloo pyaaz. Thank god, I have got some creativity in me in the last few years. But the fact remains the same. Call it laziness if you want to, but I thoroughly enjoy my different versions of potatoes.

There’s something else I’m crazy about as well. Yogurt. If I have nothing in the fridge, but just some fresh yogurt, here’s what I do: I just take a bowl of it, add a few teaspoons of bhujia in it and eat my heart out. You cannot replace the goodness of a fresh bowl of yogurt. Have it for breakfast or have it for lunch, homemade yogurt is super cheap and fulfilling!

So, what do I get when I mix potatoes and yogurt? No, it’s not a potato salad. This shall tell you what I’m talking about: Once, I went to meet my mum’s sister, my masi. After a while, her daughter-in-law insisted me to have lunch at their place. I said no. She kept on insisting. You see, when you live in another city, people never let you go when you visit them! I loved all the special attention I got over there. I decided to take a peek into her kitchen and saw some Dahi Aloo cooking on her stove. A thin layer of oil and red chilli powder was floating around the bubbling curry. Holy lord! I had to have lunch at their place! I shyly said yes, and shamelessly had a few rotis with my favourite version of potato. I still thank my masi’s daughter-in-law for treating me with a big smile.

Hey, readers. Are you looking for a quick-fix for lunch? Give this a go.

Recipe: Dahi Aloo

  1. Boil two medium-sized potatoes. Give it 3 to 4 whistles and strain it.
  2. Let the potatoes cool down a bit. Peel and chop them in chunks. Keep it aside.
  3. Take some fresh yogurt. For two potatoes, you can go for two cups of yogurt. Whisk it properly, so that you can see no lumps.
  4. Take a kadai. Heat two tablespoons of ghee or oil in it. Add a pinch of asafoetida, a teaspoon of each: cumin seeds, turmeric powder, coriander powder and red chilli powder, and some roughly-chopped green chillies.
  5. Add the chopped potatoes in the kadai. Coat the spices well to the potatoes. Add salt to taste.
  6. Now it’s time to add that whisked yogurt, or what we call in our language, feta hua dahi. And, add 1/4 cup of water to make give it a thinner consistency.
  7. Let this boil for a few minutes, not much though. Because, this can make the yogurt curdle, way too much.
  8. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with hot phulkas.

Life in a desert


My mother grew up in a desert near Jaiselmer in Rajasthan in a small village called Chelak. She has four siblings, and all of them used to do household chores including taking care of a small shop called a kiryana, where they used to sell things like grains, Lux soaps and Paragon chappals. For them, and my Nani, especially, a life without electricity meant using survival techniques. As you know, in those barren lands, only rough climate ruled. Hence, came in food items that lasted them for a long time. Kadi is one such dish. Made out of sour buttermilk and a few spices, Kadi is an idle menu item that can be eaten with dry bajri ki roti or chapatti for a day or two, without storing in the fridge or reheating.

My earliest memory in the kitchen is nothing but stirring the Kadi. My mother used to temper the spices, put the buttermilk in the pan and ask me to stir it on the slow flame. That’s the secret of a good Kadi. If you don’t continuously stir the buttermilk, it will curdle and its texture will be spoiled. It’s thin in consistency, looks non-glossy (unlike other versions of Kadi), and has a sour taste, which I die for! After the stirring business, she usually switched off the flame, poured some Kadi in a bowl and gave it to me to drink, as my reward. The first cup of Kadi came to me, in the entire house! Do you know how special it felt? I used to go and relax on the settee in our living room (stirring was hard work, after all) and relish my super hot Kadi, sip after sip. Yes, imagine those typical slurping sounds!

As a child, I remember playing the entire day outside, and coming back home, entering the kitchen hurriedly, taking a dry roti from the roti ka dabba (box) and pouring some leftover Kadi kept on the kitchen platform in a small bowl and enjoying every bite. My mum’s Kadi, when eaten at any given time of the day or night, never fails to touch my soul.

When I went to study in Bangalore, for my post-graduation, I used to ask my local guardian to just prepare some Kadi the day before I decide to meet them. And, finally, when the day came, my LG gave me a day’s old Kadi and sukhi roti, with a big smile, and I felt better, but terribly homesick.

If there’s anything I want to eat before I die, it’s my mum’s Kadi. She’s famous for her Kadi in our entire community in Surat. A lot of people wonder, why we eat Kadi so much. I guess, now you know the reason.

Recipe: Kadi

All right, so first things first. There are many versions of Kadi available in all the corners of the country. But this is my mum’s version. And it’s thin in texture and sour in taste! So mind that.

First step is to make the buttermilk. Take your curd, and add double its amount of water to it and whisk it properly. I use my Boss machine to do this. Once its texture is clear with no lumps at all, strain it in another vessel and keep it on your kitchen counter for 6-8 hours. This should make it sour. Once you have your buttermilk ready, you can follow the following instructions.

  1. Mix two to three tablespoons of gram flour in the strained buttermilk and whisk it. Add a teaspoon of red chilli powder to it as well.
  2. Now take a pan or kadai. Add two tablespoons of ghee.
  3. Once the ghee is hot, add a teaspoon of cumin and mustard seeds, some chopped green chillies and curry leaves. You can also add a small pinch of fenugreek seeds, to make it healthier. Now add a pinch of asafoetida, a teaspoon of turmeric powder, salt to taste and some chilli powder and add the whisked buttermilk.
  4. Now is the time to act quickly. Leave all the rest of the kitchen chores and just stir the Kadi. No you can’t talk, no you can’t relax, my dear turtles! Just keep stirring so that the Kadi doesn’t curdle. If it’s going thick, add a small bowl of water to it and keep stirring again. Keep it on low flame, as of now.
  5. After a few minutes of stirring, you’ll see that the buttermilk has cooked. Once hot, its taste will be built, and you can then taste it to check the salt.
  6. Now increase the flame, and let it boil. After a few nice boils, you’ll see the hot buttermilk touching the Kadai’s ends. Switch off the flame. Garnish it with freshly chopped coriander leaves.
  7. At this point, I transfer the Kadi into another room temperature vessel so that it doesn’t curdle. You can skip this, if you want to.

A beautiful chaos


For me, the feeling of home is all about being with my parents. Last month in September, I had gone to my mum’s place, in the city of Surat in Gujarat. I reached there at the break of the dawn. And then, slowly, everything started. The apartment’s lift, which is more than two decades old now, has a pre-recorded setting in it. And as I open its doors, the lady starts singing. Welcome! Please close the door. I say hello to this lady, and to the watchman, who comes behind me, lifting my heavy bags.

As I enter the corridor, I wave to my neighbour aunty. Once inside the house, I hit the sack and hug my sleepy brothers. Next, I try to wake them up by tickling their feet. My father scuffles my hair and switches on the television set as he settles down on the sofa. I can see only breaking news and zodiac forecasts on the TV. Then, my mum goes to the terrace. I follow her as I still feel the Rajdhani train jerks. She feeds the pigeons some handfuls of jowar grains. Then, she fills the shallow pots with some water for the little birds and squirrels that loiter around on the terrace. Now is the crow’s turn. My mum says they like spicy stuff, so she puts some gathiya, a type of Gujarati spicy namkeen (snack) on one of the roofs for the crows.

In the next hour, my dad prepares a glass of hot dudh chai for me; a mix of tea and milk, with some freshly ground ginger root, lots of black pepper, cardamom and other spices. There’s a little window from which I can see him in the kitchen. And I smile to myself, as I realise how I look like him. Super slim with flesh-less cheeks.

Next, my father wakes up my younger brothers. And then, his ranting starts: “How can you reach the textile market this late? How can a businessman work like this? When will you were bring discipline in your life, if you really want to taste success? I should marry you guys off and let your wives rectify your spoilt lifestyles.” My brothers have no effect, whatsoever. They’re just checking their phones, with their eyes half-open. My mum keeps looking at me, and hugging me. I just keep my head on her lap, close my eyes and think to myself: “I’ve been missing this, ma.”

In the next hour, which is around 9 in the morning, my mum prepares the veggies in the kitchen. My dad helps her as usual and kneads the dough. Then, the both of them will make some rotis and go to the nearest cows’ shelter and feed the rotis to them. Later in the hour, my mum serves breakfast to my brothers, who are presently in a rush to hit the textile market. As they leave, a little battle starts between my mum and dad, and I totally love their loud conversations. My dad will now complete his chores and promise to run away to the textile market, as soon as possible. He’ll tighten the bed sheets (believe me, nobody does a better job than him), and leave each bed crisp and even-looking. Then, he’ll make some business calls as if he’s pissed with them, before going off to work.

And me? What am I up to? I just smile looking at my hardworking dad and my loving mum, while they argue, every morning. It feels so good to be home, to be with them, in the midst of all that chaos. When are you visiting home? How does it feel like?

Oh, yes. Happy Dussehra, dear readers! Hope you achieve victory in all your tasks.