Thursday, October 30, 2014

Masala Ghugni: Spicy Yellow Peas Curry

I was feeling restless and in need of a simple sandwich, so we walked around New Market that day because it was perfect for walks. I was not that keen on picking up food, but gave in when I saw some lemongrass. We picked some of it off from a greengrocer who was sitting in the place where the guy I usually buy from sat. I didn't ask questions, but panicked in my mind that he will give me rotten stuff (and turns out, he did! He switched the packet of mushrooms with a bad one, and I hated him for it). V needed cheese, so we hopped over for some nice Kalimpong Cheddar, because post-Diwali, there's no Parmesan or Feta in the market.

Of course, I had to snack at Maa Kali Stores, because I wanted a sandwich with eggs and vegetables and sadly V got stuck with the sweet corn and mayo, which was too sweet for my taste buds, and I wisely stuck to my own. Coming back, I devised a spicy Ghugni in my head, and discarded and added spices and herbs to it. The result was tangy, reminded me of the stuff I generally eat off the footpath, which basically means my food achievement of the day was done.

I generally soak 200 gm. yellow peas in plain water, after giving it a good wash, overnight. I like to give it a good soak in water that runs about an inch higher over the peas, because somehow I have realized I am not much of a fan of the idea of dry peas cooking in the pressure cooker, and I don't like the idea of adding baking soda to peas to cook it quicker. I have ethical issues against both. So, all you need to do is dump the container filled with the peas into a pressure cooker, add a cup or two more water (depending on how runny you want the final result to be - I prefer adding two, because well, you never know, do you?), and then cook it in a pressure cooker. I generally let the steam build up, and when the pressure cooker is at full pressure, drop temperature to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool down naturally. Meanwhile, I peeled and chop two medium potatoes into 1-inch dice.

Meanwhile, on a heavy bottomed vessel, heat 2-3 tablespoons of mustard or vegetable oil, and add a bay leaf, a couple of dry red chillies, 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin, 2 slightly bashed up green cardamom, 1/2-inch stick cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon crushed peppercorn. I prefer using peppercorn which is semi-crushed, because the aroma is beautiful. Stir them about for 20-30 seconds, and then add 1/2 cup chopped purple onions, stirring briskly to make sure the onions are fried to a light brown.

When the onions are light brown, add 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste, 1/2 teaspoon green chilli paste, 1 tablespoon coriander powder, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder (optional), and 1 teaspoon red chilli powder. At this point, you can of course add kashmiri chilli powder and it will add color. However, I was looking more for heat, so red chilli powder was the way I went. I also dropped in a couple of whole green chillies, and then poured in 1/2 cup tomato puree. I basically make a batch of tomato puree, and I refuse to buy store-bought stuff. However, if you have the store-bought stuff, you are more than welcome to add it. My mind also suggested adding tomato ketchup to this, but I resisted. You, of course, my dear fellow adventurer, are free to add that.

Cook the tomato puree till the oil starts to separate from it.  Add the potato to the mix, and stir well. You need to cook the potatoes for one-two minutes, stirring over medium-high heat, so that the potatoes get a nice start before adding the peas.

Pour in the cooked yellow peas, and add a bit more water to it if you feel that the peas aren't wet enough.

 That sounded wrong.

Anyway, let the mix come to a boil, then drop heat, cover, and simmer till the potatoes are cooked. Add salt and sugar at the very end, top with some chopped coriander leaves and more green chillies, and my mother loves adding some tamarind pulp on top, but I generally refrain from it. I am also a purist, and I like eating this alone, without any accompaniments. However, if you are feeling peckish, I would suggest a few puffed up luchis will work wonders, or a few flaky parathas, or, my favorite application, thick chunks of crusty bread.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kalipujo and Diwali Greetings

Of course, Diwali is upon us, and Goddess Laxmi reigns in many Indian household. In most parts of Bengal, however, we celebrate Kali Puja, invoking the dark Goddess of Destruction, the woman who tamed Shiva with her wild ways, and destroyed mercilessly, to let chaos reign. She drank blood, danced wildly, and I wish that the chaotic spirit will run through your veins all this year and make you do unpredictable things, which you will look back, and laugh at, in retrospect.

I wish you best wishes this Kali Pujo. Oh, Happy Diwali too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Get Naturally Glowing Skin with Garnier BB Cream


About a couple of years ago, back in early 2013, I had guest posted on my friend Sophia's amazing blog, Panache, about the beauty that is Garnier BB Cream. I have to say, my opinion remains unchanged till date. I love the really lightweight texture of the Garnier BB Cream, and the fact that it really does not make my face look like I have put on anything, but rather, adds a lovely natural glow to it. For the last two years, it has been one of those few products which I have repurchased over and over again, and now I am onto another tube of it. One large tube lasts me around 3 months, so that's a big bonus too. I can blend it in super quickly, and then apply some kohl and lipstick, and bang, I'm done.

Of course, it does not cover dark circles, but it does provide a nice bit of hydration, and it makes my skin feel nourished. I have realized that adding a bit of Garnier Skin Naturals Daily Care Lotion during winter before applying it makes the application even more smooth, and it stays on for a longer period of time.

The key to using a good BB cream is to see how well it does two jobs together -  provide a natural glow to the skin without giving much coverage, and hydrating the skin. During summer and the rains, my normal to dry skin (as I am growing older, my skin has turned towards dry from being oily to super oily - Just my luck!) gets the right amount of hydration from this cream, and in the winter season, I need to put on a bit of moisturizer or cream underneath it, but that is the sensible thing to do anyway.

But hey, don't believe me, just see the proof here. All I did here was to apply a bit of eye liner, and some BB Cream. By the time this photo was taken, I had eaten off my lipstick and you can see how easily the cream gave me a lovely glow, right. That's the beauty of it. This is one of the best products for my medium skin tone, because it is not really very pigmented, and it does provide a good amount of sun protection, which is an essential thing needed by a girl who goes out virtually every day in the afternoon, and my skin needs something to protect me against tanning.

Most BB Creams, when applied more than a bit, end up looking ashy on me, and my skin tone looks weird afterwards. I have had this issue with brands which are far more expensive, and promise the world. The fact that Garnier BB cream does not claim all that is great, and yes, one color fits fair to medium-skinned beauties. But I would really love it if Garnier comes up with more shades for this excellent product.

If you are curious, then you should definitely head over to Garnier's BB Cream Page where you will find more details about the product and the benefits. Personally, I would say that it is one of the few products which I can recommend with ease to my friends and followers.

Disclaimer: This post is a response to Indiblogger's Garnier BB Cream Contest.

Forever Yogurt, New Alipore, and Announcing a little Contest.

chocolate and blueberry yogurt topped with chocolate pieces (snickers, specifically) and blueberry crush
Tucked away in the heart of Alipore, the main outlet of Forever Yogurt was all pink and purple, and bright and inviting. I walked up to the door where my friend M was waiting for me. They have a wall filled with funny and cute quotes. I looked around and met the guys manning the machines, who invited me in.

The concept of Forever Yogurt is quite cool. The idea is to get as much or as little frozen yogurt from the tap, cover it with whatever topping you want, and then, consume. You can choose from their huge range of toppings, which includes freshly cut fruits, crunchy muesli, chopped nuts, chocolates, blueberry and strawberry pie filling, marshmallow, and sprinkles.

I heart sprinkles.

I talked to Deval, who explained the concept in simple words. "It's simple, you see. Frozen Yogurt is essentially a healthy option when compared to ice cream. But its the topping that makes the difference. You want healthy? Add muesli, fruits, and nuts. There, you have a very healthy dessert! But well, you want it with loads of chocolate on top? Well, that sure isn't healthy, but its a very tasty thing."

So all you have to do is get your share, put toppings on it - and yes, toppings are unlimited - take whatever you want, and then weigh the final result.

The array of toppings were tempting. I loved the butterscotch chocolate ball (bottom left) and well.. you know that I love sprinkles right? Especially when they are rainbow sprinkles?

It's just dysfunctional of me I guess, but there you have it. I settled down with the first bowl of concoction - the Blueberry flavor was mild and fruity, and good for someone who is not an intense blueberry fan like me. As I was topping this with more blueberry filling, chocolate frozen yogurt and chopped snickers... well... ahem, I have to say that I was otherwise distracted. The strawberry was my favorite of the lot - the strawberry tang very prominent on my tongue. The chocolate flavor was milder than I would have liked, but nothing some chocolate sauce could not improve. My second cup proves it.

The final concoction is priced at 99p per gram, so knock yourself out eating more.

Now for the CONTEST. I was thinking of making people happy this Diwali, and Forever Yogurt has kindly offered a lucky reader of this blog a treat this Diwali. Please note, the offer will last till 30th October, 2014 and it is available at the Quest Mall as well as the New Alipore Outlet. To participate in this contest, all you have to do are the following things:

1. Like my page on Facebook.
2. Share the picture of the Frozen Yogurt and tag a friend who you would like to share it with. Find the share link here. Make sure when you are sharing the picture, its status is public, so I can check.
3. Leave a comment below with your Facebook name.

The lucky winner will get a voucher which will make him/her eligible for 2 cups of frozen yogurt from Forever Yogurt. Eat it yourself, or share with a friend this Diwali, because you see, sharing is caring. The last date for redeeming the offer is 30th October, 2014.

This contest will end on the 21st of October, 2014.

Also, Forever Yogurt's Grand Opening is happening at their New Alipore Outlet TODAY. Check out their Facebook event HERE and land Up to get a free cup of frozen yogurt. Remember, the offer is limited, so check the event before going.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Growing up with Dabur Chawanprash: Happy Memories

My childhood was all about running around like a hooligan, and basically creating mayhem. As a child, I was a happy, skinny kid, and I had a very active imagination. My mother sometimes reminds me of some of the pranks I did as a kid, and we both shudder, sometimes in mutual horror. Truthfully speaking, I was the epitome of a curious and active child, and books were the only way someone could keep me still for more than five minutes at a place. 

Thankfully, my family learned early, and gifted me with books whenever possible. After school, I would come back home, hastily finish my homework, and then settle down with a book. Of course, with the book, I would need something to munch on, or chew on, or taste. What better than some pickle or chawanprash? 

At that time, Dabur Chawanprash would come in these wide white and red dabba, and would have a layer of silver foil on top. My mother would carefully measure out a teaspoonful, with a tiny bit of silver on top, and I would savor it, slowly, making it last longer. Of course, I would admit to stealing some later on, and yes, the memories are still rich and vivid.

I have to say, my childhood was spent relatively free of any major illness, thanks to my mother and grandmother’s constant vigilance, and I grew up in a happy household. Dabur Chawanprash was as much a part of the household as Borolin, the common Bengali obsession. We still continue the tradition, and the reason is simple – Chawanprash builds up immunity over time and allows the body to fight illness more efficiently. 

Dabur Chawanprash contains a number of essential Indian medicinal herbs and spices, like Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Bala, Satavari and Viradikand. Ashwagandha is known for its anti-stress properties, and it is a strong anti-oxidant that helps reverse the signs of ageing and reduces chances of cancer. Guduchi and Bala are known anti-oxidants too, and they help build up the immunity of an individual quite efficiently. Satavari is used in Indian Ayurveda for memory boosting and strengthening the eye. Viradikand is known to rejuvenate the body.

Children today suffer from a number of issues related to poor immunity. This is further promoted because children nowadays are exposed to a lot more pollution and they eat a considerable amount of junk food. To combat these habits, parents should ideally give them something which would boost the body’s immunity considerably. Dabur Chawanprash boosts the natural killer cells of a body which immediately acts to fight virus and bacteria more efficiently, and it results in your child gaining more strength to fight bacteria and germs and grow up stronger and healthier. This is essentially the reason why you should give your child Dabur Chawanprash, to ensure that your child stays strong and safe from germs. Check out this link for more details about Dabur Chawanprash. Let's make an #ImmuneIndia.

Disclaimer: This post was a response to Indiblogger's "A Healthy Child Makes a Happy Home" contest in association with Dabur Chawanprash.

Of Past Diwalis....

You know, there is Diwali, and then there's Kalipujo. We Bengalis have two things to celebrate - Kalipujo first, Diwali next. They fall sometimes on the same day, but mostly next to one another - and right behind them come "Bhaiphonta", the Bengali "Bhaai Duj". My Diwali/Kalipujo is essentially two days of sitting at home cooking and feeding people - friends and relatives tend to come over to our place for some fun and frolic, but more importantly, these days are reserved for me playing with some of the kids in my neighborhood.

I never was one of those who was squeamish about firecrackers. As a kid, I would even help make it. My uncle would made giant "tubri", the ones which, once lit, will spill a burst of light straight up. Sometimes, he would stuff the mixture of iron powder (lohachoor) and a number of other stuff too tightly, and it would burst, and I was therefore mostly strictly told to not go near them when he lit them up.

Nevertheless, I did. Of course I did. I was a bad girl.

But Diwali to me was also about the homemade desserts, the bowls of rashamalai and gaajar ka halwa, the plates of nimki and gujiya, and the platters heaped high with luchi, with tiny bowls of aloor dum to keep them company. It would mainly be an all-vegetarian Diwali for me, and we would celebrate with bottles of cold Pepsi and cups of hot tea, and later in the night, coffee, to keep us awake through it while we played cards.

One fine year, I found myself stuck in Bhuvaneshwar for work during Diwali. Imagine my utter chagrin to find myself in a little hotel room, with no one to talk to, and only super polite hotel staff to keep me company. I was busy feeling sorry for myself, quietly in my room, missing my family, and having a lovely pity party for one, when suddenly someone pounded on the door. I waded reluctantly to open it, and to my utter surprise found a very old friend of my uncle on the other side. Apparently, my uncle was worried about me, and he wanted me to not be alone on Diwali, so he called up his friend and gave him my hotel address. It took no time for the friend to figure out in which room "Madam Banerjee" was located - after hearing his story the hotel staff, who was standing behind him - was only too happy to guide him to me.

So, I spent a happy Diwali at his place, getting fed many many good things, and I left with a huge smile on my face afterwards. When I saw this advert, I was suddenly reminded of that event, and felt slightly sappy. Probably, this is the season - the little nip in the air is back, and so is happiness for me. Also, my uncle's friend's in town, so maybe I will return the favor, what say?

Check out for the ad and more!

Disclaimer: This post was written in response to Indiblogger's #GharwaliDiwali Contest.‎