Saturday, April 25, 2009

Recipe: Fruit Teabread

I love food and trying out new recipes, but as I've said before, I don't have the patience to blog about them. Usually.

But now that I'm at my parents' and the planning of daily tasks and menus is handled by my mother, my creative juices seem to be flowing stronger. Plus, with a proper oven here, I can fully indulge in my first culinary love - baking! So as I set about making this Fruit Teabread, I decided to put in the extra effort and share this recipe here because:

a. its incredibly easy and no-fuss: you don't need to bring out electric beaters / food processors, just simple hand mixing will do.

b. its very versatile: instead of the fruit, you could put dates or nuts like chopped almonds / walnuts, or you could do fruit and nut, or chuck it all and go wild with chocolate chips!!!

c. though the name says 'teabread', its closer to a cake, great for kids' tiffins or evening snacks (I made this one for my dad's teatime snack).

d. the way my mom showed me to make this, its healthy too!



- 300 g whole wheat flour (atta)
- 50 g oats
- 100 g unrefined sugar (read the Notes at the end of the post)
- 150 g dried fruit (or nuts etc. I used mixed peel, dried blueberries & cherries)
- 5 level tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt


- 300 ml milk
- 60 ml ordinary vegetable oil
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- Few drops food colouring (totally optional, but the kid in me LOVES coloured cakes, so :D)

This makes 1 900 g loaf.


1. Line a loaf tin with wax paper, or grease it with oil. *

2. Mix all the dry and wet ingredients separately.

3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ones in.

4. Mix ONLY to the point where all the dry ingredients are coated. DO NOT overmix this. Also mix everything only when you're ready to bake; if you leave the batter standing too long before, the efficiency of the baking powder reduces.

5. Pour batter into prepared tin, and bake at 180 degrees C for 1 hour 25 min or till golden and pulling away from the sides.

6. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

* My loaf tin struggles to release the finished product, hence wax paper makes our life a lot easier. If your baking dishes are more well-behaved, just greasing them will be fine.


1. This recipe was taken from the Good Housekeeping cookbook. The original calls for 350 g plain flour (maida) and 275 g sugar. But since my dad's diabetic, we try to make such dishes as nutritious as possible, without compromising on taste. And so I used lesser whole wheat flour (300g) to accomodate the oats (50g) as well. I drastically cut back on the sugar, as the dried fruits I was using would also add an element of sweetness, and it turned out sweet enough. But you can absolutely use the entire prescribed quantity of sugar, or lessen it and then add some honey / golden syrup into the wet ingredients.

2. The use of oil, instead of butter, is another plus on the health factor.

3. VERY IMPORTANT: The baking time listed was as per the original recipe. Ovens vary tremendously ....... my loaf was done in 50 minutes! Given the quantities, I think this teabread should take at least 30 min in most ovens, but do keep an eye on it from then on. If a skewer / toothpick inserted into the centre of the teabread comes out clean, its ready.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Week That Was......

...... was pretty much a whirlwind. On second thoughts though, ordinarily, it wouldn't really have been hectic, but with me halfway through my pregnancy, I tend to tire out a lot easily than before.

We landed in Kerala right before Easter and spent a few days with hubby's folks. The rainclouds came along with us, so we were at least spared the usual heat for the most part (but not the humidity :( ) There was one excellent thunderstorm, and I can say 'excellent' because obviously, I enjoyed it from the warm & dry comfort of home :)

Between an Easter dinner at a relative's place and an engagement, we had a lot of socializing to do. I've observed that Kerala socializing is still largely segregated on a gender basis, especially in smaller gatherings. So I spent most of the time talking to various aunties and ammachis *, swapping pregnancy stories - basically, who threw up and how much, what foods make us nauseous and so on :D

But the highlight of this trip was that I got a chance to get all decked up in one of my silk saris!!! Despite it being meltingly humid (and me eventually wishing I could take the sari off), I think I carried myself a lot better than in previous attempts, so yaaay on the gracefulness-in-a-sari front!!!

The next day saw me on a plane early in the morning, headed for my maika* (sadly alone; hubby's leave situation is such that we need to preserve it all for when the baby comes). I landed in Dubai by noon, and got off at the spanking new Emirates terminal.

Like most places here, its all bright-lights and sparkling-tile gloss. But what had me absolutely gobsmacked were these huuuuge elevators that take you down to the ground level to Immigration and Baggage Claim. I guess they could take 30-40 people at a time, and they're completely automated with doors that sound an alarm (like subway trains) before closing. I was maha-impressed by that!!!

I got out fairly quickly, and settled in for the drive to Abu Dhabi. Again, I was gobsmacked by the many, many changes I saw ...... and its just been some 7 months since I was last here! The construction on the Bangalore Metro (at least in the MG Road area) has been as is since I first saw it in early 2008; but the Dubai Metro has made such giant leaps forward since last August!!!

Even within Abu Dhabi emirate, there has been soooo much development. Skeletons of buildings already several storeys high are up where there was just plain desert last year. The most fascinating construction was this building near the Al Raha Mall - its in the shape of a circle!!! Whatever people may say about the UAE (and anyone who's lived here for any length of time can say a lot!), no one can deny that things move here. The autocratic government works to the extent that things happen, and they happen fast.

Anyway, with the travel and the impact of all these changes, it took me a couple of days to settle in. I'm here for a couple of months, in which time I hope to get into a good exercise regime (despite the tempting food options!), get out and see my old haunts which should, Inshallah, translate into some fresh photographs!!!

Ammachi - grandmom in Malayalam
Maika - a woman's parents' house in Hindi

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Tune Tag

When Reflections tagged me to do this some days ago, I realised with a little jolt, that there's nothing at all on this blog about music. Pretty odd, considering how much it means to me. I learnt a couple of instruments till my teens and had a decent voice back then, but it was always listening to music that was ........ uplifting.

Uplifting. That's putting it mildly, but I had to struggle even to come up with that word. And that's perhaps why I've never written about music (despite requests from my equally music-mad better half to sometimes contribute to his blog too). I've almost always experienced music on the level of pure 'feeling', sometimes on an entirely spiritual plane, and its very difficult for me to translate that into words.

Looking back, the earliest memory I have of feeling the power of music is at age eight. My parents, grandparents, uncles & aunts were all watching a Malayalam film, His Highness Abdullah, starring the family favourite, Mohanlal. I was watching too, in parts, but I was more interested in playing with my sister. There's this one song, its like a contest between Mohanlal's character and a highly accomplished singing guru. I don't know the actual name of it; I refer to it as the 'Anandam' song because that's the word most repeated at the end.

When it first started up, I wasn't really listening. But as it progressed, it caught my attention. I was suddenly as engrossed as everyone else watching the movie. The changes in the melody and the raagas completely fascinated me, and by the time the song reached its climax, I was spellbound. I don't know who the other singer is, but K. J. Yesudas sang for Mohanlal, and the sheer power and passion of his voice and the melody towards the climax left me breathless. My throat felt tight, my heart ached, and I had shivers down my spine ...... but in the most beautiful way possible.

In terms of this tag, which requires you to list your 10 favourite Soulful, Slow & Melodious songs in any 2 languages, hubby told me that this Anandam song isn't exactly 'slow'. But among the very few Malayalam songs I've heard, it is certainly the most soulful & melodious, and holds a very special place in my heart (Nancy, this selection is for you, since you specially asked for it :))

Getting back to the main requirement of the tag, I'm listing 10 favourites in English and Hindi. Again, not all might meet the 'slow' description, since more than tempo, its the soul & melody of a song that grabs me. It took me a while to do this, because I was facing a problem of plenty: how do I restrict myself to just 10??? Anyway, here's my list, in no particular order:


1. Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers
2. Everything I Do I Do It For You - Bryan Adams
3. Hallelujah - the Leonard Cohen & Rufus Wainwright versions
4. Hey Jude - The Beatles
5. Going Home - Dire Straits
6. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel
7. Harvest Moon - Neil Young
8. May It Be - Enya
9. Father Figure - George Michael
10. Kiss From A Rose - Seal


1. O Mere Dil Ke Chain -- Mere Jeevan Saathi
2. Zara Zara -- Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein
3. Ajnabee Shehar -- Jaan-e-mann
4. Tum Se Hi -- Jab We Met
5. Tu Hi Re -- Bombay
6. Aksar -- Shaan (the singer, not the movie ...... its a lesser known track from one of his albums)
7. Dil Kya Kare -- I love both the original version by Kishore Da and Shaan's later take for Instant Karma.
8. Saaiyan -- Kailash Kher
9. Sar Kiye Yeh Pahar -- Strings (the best thing to come out of Pakistan)
10. Tere Khayalon Se -- Shankar Mahadevan

I now tag Amrita, Deeplydip, Mumbai Diva, Smriti and Thought Warp to do this.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Success of Secular India

My mom sent me the article below, entitled "Indians and Pakistanis are no longer the same people" by Vir Sanghvi. There was a time when I naively believed that we were the same - ordinary people with similar aspirations. But today, I believe we are the same only in that we are all human; however, as a nation, that collection of human beings has chosen a very different path, one that only leads downhill.

Despite that, I still wouldn't go to the extreme of saying that EVERY Pakistani is an India-hating, West-hating, Islamic fanatic, just as I don't believe that EVERY Indian is true to the idea of India.

Recent events, especially here in Karnataka, show a growing and alarming intolerance on religious, gender and linguistic grounds. Our neighbours across the border are a glaring example of just what intolerance can deteriorate into, so we, as a nation, need continual reminders to not stray onto that path, consciously or subconsciously.

Which is why I liked this article. It reminded me that all our successes and achievements, whether individually or nationally, are at least partly rooted in our national ideals of democracy, tolerance and most importantly, secularism.



by Vir Sanghvi, Hindustan Times, The Mint

The same people? Surely not.

Few things annoy me as much as the claim often advanced by well-meaning but woolly-headed (and usually Punjabi) liberals to the effect that when it comes to India and Pakistan, "We're all the same people, yaar."

This may have been true once upon a time. Before 1947, Pakistan was part of undivided India and you could claim that Punjabis from West Punjab (what is now Pakistan) were as Indian as, say, Tamils from Madras.

But time has a way of moving on. And while the gap between our Punjabis (from east Punjab which is now the only Punjab left in India) and our Tamils may actually have narrowed, thanks to improved communications, shared popular culture and greater physical mobility, the gap between Indians and Pakistanis has now widened to the extent that we are no longer the same people in any significant sense.

This was brought home to me most clearly by two major events over the last few weeks.
The first of these was the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team on the streets of Lahore. In their defence, Pakistanis said that they were powerless to act against the terrorists because religious fanaticism was growing. Each day more misguided youngsters joined jihadi outfits and the law and order situation worsened.

Further, they added, things had got so bad that in the tribal areas the government of Pakistan had agreed to suspend the rule of law under pressure from the Taliban and had conceded that sharia law would reign instead. Interestingly, while most civilised liberals should have been appalled by this surrender to the forces of extremism, many Pakistanis defended this concession.

Imran Khan (Keble College, Oxford, 1973-76) even declared that sharia law would be better because justice would be dispensed more swiftly! (I know this is politically incorrect but the Loin of the Punjab's defence of sharia law reminded me of the famous Private Eye cover when his marriage to Jemima Goldsmith was announced. The Eye carried a picture of Khan speaking toJemima's father. "Can I have your daughter's hand?" Imran was supposedly asking James Goldsmith. "Why? Has she been caught shoplifting?" Goldsmith replied. So much for sharia law.)

The second contrasting event was one that took place in Los Angeles but which was perhaps celebrated more in India than in any other country in the world. Three Indians won Oscars: A.R. Rahman, Resul Pookutty and Gulzar.

Their victory set off a frenzy of rejoicing. We were proud of our countrymen. We were pleased that India's entertainment industry and its veterans had been recognised at an international platform. And all three men became even bigger heroes than they already were.

But here's the thing: Not one of them is a Hindu.

Can you imagine such a thing happening in Pakistan? Can you even conceive of a situation where the whole country would celebrate the victory of three members of two religious minorities? For that matter, can you even imagine a situation where people from religious minorities would have got to the top of their fields and were, therefore, in the running for international awards?

On the one hand, you have Pakistan imposing sharia law, doing deals with the Taliban, teaching hatred in madrasas, declaring jihad on the world and trying to kill innocent Sri Lankan cricketers. On the other, you have the triumph of Indian secularism.

The same people? Surely not.

We are defined by our nationality. They choose to define themselves by their religion.

But it gets even more complicated. As you probably know, Rahman was born Dilip Kumar. He converted to Islam when he was 21. His religious preferences made no difference to his prospects. Even now, his music cuts across all religious boundaries. He's as much at home with Sufi music as he is with bhajans. Nor does he have any problem with saying 'Vande Mataram'.

Now, think of a similar situation in Pakistan. Can you conceive of a Pakistani composer who converted to Hinduism at the age of 21 and still went on to become a national hero? Under sharia law, they'd probably have to execute him.

Resul Pookutty's is an even more interesting case. Until you realise that Malayalis tend to put an 'e' where the rest of us would put an 'a,' (Ravi becomes Revi and sometimes the Gulf becomes the Gelf), you cannot work out that his name derives from Rasool, a fairly obviously Islamic name.

But here's the point: even when you point out to people that Pookutty is in fact a Muslim, they don't really care. It makes no difference to them. He's an authentic Indian hero, his religion is irrelevant.

Can you imagine Pakistan being indifferent to a man's religion? Can you believe that Pakistanis would not know that one of their Oscar winners came from a religious minority? And would any Pakistani have dared bridge the religious divide in the manner Resul did by referring to the primeval power of Om in his acceptance speech?

The same people? Surely not.

Most interesting of all is the case of Gulzar who many Indians believe is a Muslim. He is not. He is a Sikh. And his real name is Sampooran Singh Kalra.

So why does he have a Muslim name?

It's a good story and he told it on my TV show some years ago. He was born in West Pakistan and came over the border during the bloody days of Partition. He had seen so much hatred and religious violence on both sides, he said, that he was determined never to lose himself to that kind of blind religious prejudice and fanaticism.

Rather than blame Muslims for the violence inflicted on his community - after all, Hindus and Sikhs behaved with equal ferocity - he adopted a Muslim pen name to remind himself that his identity was beyond religion. He still writes in Urdu and considers it irrelevant whether a person is a Sikh, a Muslim or a Hindu.

Let's forget about political correctness and come clean: can you see such a thing happening in Pakistan? Can you actually conceive of a famous Pakistani Muslim who adopts a Hindu or Sikh name out of choice to demonstrate the irrelevance of religion?

My point, exactly.

What all those misguided liberals who keep blathering on about us being the same people forget is that in the 60-odd years since Independence, our two nations have traversed very different paths.

Pakistan was founded on the basis of Islam. It still defines itself in terms of Islam. And over the next decade as it destroys itself, it will be because of Islamic extremism.

India was founded on the basis that religion had no role in determining citizenship or nationhood. An Indian can belong to any religion in the world and face no discrimination in his rights as a citizen.

It is nobody's case that India is a perfect society or that Muslims face no discrimination. But only a fool would deny that in the last six decades, we have travelled a long way towards religious equality.

In the early days of independent India, a Yusuf Khan had to call himself Dilip Kumar for fear of attracting religious prejudice. In today's India, a Dilip Kumar can change his name to A.R. Rahman and nobody really gives a damn either way.

So think back to the events of the last few weeks. To the murderous attack on innocent Sri Lankan cricketers by jihadi fanatics in a society that is being buried by Islamic extremism. And to the triumphs of Indian secularism.

Same people?
Don't make me laugh.