Chandana Banerjee’s Queen Of The At-Home Lifestyle and Pumpkin Muffins

Chandana Banerjee’s got style and pizazz. She is after all a military wife. Her book Queen Of The At-Home Lifestyle is written for these uncertain times and don’t military queen bees understand unpredictability well, with countless postings, sometimes to places in the middle of nowhere.

She gives you tips on how to create a cozy home and how to become an entrepreneur from the comfort of your home. How to follow your passion, become successful at it, and importantly, not get caught up in the rat race. And she gives you sane advice on homeschooling, not without first hand experience, she’s been homeschooling her son for the past three years. She is a successful home entrepreneur and I’m sure she has a beautiful and clean home. She’s got her head and heart in the right place, and her writing too, isnt preachy or boring.

The author has her own YouTube channel and her blog at www.chandanabanerjee.com where she talks at length about how to main the work from home life and manage time as homemakers and small business owners.

She uses the word ‘nurturing’ in her book often as opposed to running a rat race or keeping up with the Joneses.

“When you’re creating your world in your home, there’s a lot of wisdom in investing time, care and effort in nurturing the house and family that lives in it”.

I love her take on homemaking, borrowing the age old wisdom of our moms and grand moms and mixing it with a large dose of common sense and some new ideas too to bring a new perspective to homemaking in these fickle and crazy times. Slow down a bit, she says, don’t pack yourself with more than you can handle.

The short and sweet book packs a punch, with an added list of resources at the end, with of course the author’s YouTube channel and blog that you can go to anytime for more advice. I’m sure you’ll be returning to this book time and again whether you’re a military or a civilian queen bee!

Here’s the link to the author’s book that you can purchase from Amazon. https://www.amazon.in/Queen-At-Home-Lifestyle-working-home-ebook/dp/B08C5HMX3V/

And now for the recipe. Make these lusciously scrumptious pumpkin muffins for you and the family to eat.They’re from a recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking, From My Home To Yours. I prefer to use a fork and a spoon for the beating and mixing.

If you try making these muffins with bottle gourd or zucchini instead of pumpkin please let me know how they turn out.

Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

A pinch of all spice

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin purée

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup moist, plump golden raisins

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

About 1/3 cup unsalted raw sunflower seeds, for topping

Instructions

1 Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter the muffin molds or fit them with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

2 Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.

3 Working with a stand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until soft. Add both the sugars and continue to beat until smooth. One by one, add the eggs, beating fro a minute until the eggs are incorporated, then beat in the vanilla. Lower the mixer speed and beat in the pumpkin and buttermilk. With the mixer at low speed, add the dry ingredients in a steady stream, mixing lightly, only until they disappear. Stir in the raisins and the nuts. Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups and spread a few sunflower seeds on each of them.

4 Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the centre of the muffins comes out clean. Cool the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then carefully remove each muffin from its mold and finish cooling on the rack.

The Good, Bad And Ugly, Eggless Brownie Muffins, And A Song

I’m opinionated they say. It’s always the right thing to have an opinion and not be a suppressed doormat. Here are some words that I’ve compiled listed in no particular order. They’re divided into the good, the bad and ugly.

Of course, we’re not going away without a delicious recipe, so later on I have for you dark, really dark, luscious chocolate brownie muffins made from a Tarla Dalal recipe.

At the end is a lovely song that all of you must have heard some time or the other. Imagine, originally sung by John Lennon, and this one put together by the Quarantine Music Project, The Better Half Production and made even more beautiful by the dancer Vrinda Chadha.

The Good

Humane, Justice, Humanity, Neighbours, Democracy, Kindness, Help, Generosity, Love, Cook, Bake, Cake, Sister, Brother, Family, Friends, Relatives, Mom, Dad, Daughter, Black is beautiful, Peace, Tolerance, Nature, Vegetarian, Communal harmony, Small, Love, Equality, Old people, Teachers, Astronomy, Aliens, No borders, No walls, Unity, Write, Read, Music, Food, Local, Politics, Anti-war, Simplicity, Roots.

The bad and the ugly

Us and them, War, Hate, Clannish, Racist, Casteist, Classist, Polarize, Kill, Arms race, Environmental pollution, Corruption, Wishy washy, Violence. Inequality, Injustice.

Recipe

Brownie Muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups chopped dark chocolate

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup condensed milk

3/4 cup plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Butter for greasing.

Instructions

1 Melt the butter and chocolate over gentle heat and mix well so no lumps remain.

2 Remove from fire, add condensed milk and mix well. Cool to room temperature.

3 Add the flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix gently.

4 Add the walnuts and vanilla essence and mix gently until the batter is just combined.

5 Spoon the mixture about 3/4 full into the muffin moulds.

6 Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C, or 360 degrees F for 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the brownie comes out clean.

7 Cool the muffins, unmould and serve warm

Song.

Banana And Honey Teabread

I never wanted to get married, not desperately anyhow and definitely not to have kids. I love the way I am, not just child free, but single and unattached. I’ve never been able to figure out why people want to get married, and then to top it off, have kids! I think we’re doing an injustice to kids by bringing them into this terrible planet that we’ve made of the Earth. It’s most unfair to bring children into such suffering.

For those who think kids carry forth the family name and legacy. Do they really? They’re their own individuals who eventually go out and do their own thing, or at least should do so. So haven’t felt the need for that either.

If we must bring kids into this world let it be one worthy of them. We’ve messed up the world and we’re still unthinkingly enthusiastic about procreating.

Frankly, I’d rather bake. I love the idea of creating a batter and then putting it in the oven, then waiting for the batter to cook and rise into a beautiful cake with an even more beautiful aroma that fills the home. That’s homeliness for me, that’s togetherness and family. I don’t need children to complete my home, baking is just fine. At least I don’t bring children into a world full of plastic, pollution, water and resource scarcity, landfills……

So here is my recipe today. It is a recipe of a banana and honey teabread by Mary Berry. I love baking cakes and breads with bananas, and seek out different combinations of bananas and other things, so I was thrilled when I came across this one of bananas and honey! I improvised and decorated the cake with sugar and banana slices and then baked it. You can do that too, or just leave the cake without adding the banana slices on top.

Here is the recipe.

Banana And Honey Teabread

225 gms (8oz) self raising flour

1/4 level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

100 gms (4oz) butter

225 gms (8 oz) bananas

100 gms (4oz) caster sugar

Grated rind of 1 lemon

2 large eggs

6 tablespoons thick pale honey

For the topping

A little sugar

Banana slices

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C/Fan 140 degrees C/Gas 3. Grease a 900 gm (2lb) loaf tin and line the tin with baking parchment.

2. Measure the flour and nutmeg into a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

3. Peel and mash the bananas and stir into the flour mixture, along with the sugar, lemon rind, eggs and honey. Beat well, until evenly mixed, then turn into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Decorate the banana slices all over the cake and sprinkle sugar on top of the slices.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cover the Teabread loosely with foil during the end of the cooking time, if it is browning too much. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out, peel of parchment and let cool on a wire rack.

Gujarati Style Bottle Gourd Vegetable

Have you eaten a dish that is super easy to cook, light on the tummy, healthy, and still considered a delicacy? If you haven’t try making this dish at home. The recipe was given to me by my aunt, Kishori mami.

I ate bottle gourd vegetable the way only she could cook it when we travelled from Bombay to Poona during our school vacations. She is also known for making perfect Gujarati chapatis, rolled out doubled, and then opened out once cooked to make two splendid ghee smattered orbs, to get two chapatis out of one.

Our vacations were truly memorable. My cousins and we sisters would raid my aunt’s fridge at night and have midnight feasts. The next morning the soaked almonds were gone and the condensed milk had disappeared. We were little monsters in the garb of children and I’m certain my root canals now, go back to my food monster days.

So here is the recipe of bottle gourd vegetable, Kishori mami’s way.

Gujarati Style Bottle Gourd Vegetable

Bottle gourd vegetable cooked in my aunt’s style, good for diabetics and heart healthy too, and very tasty.

  • 750 grams bottle gourd peeled and chopped not small pieces
  • 3-4 tablespoons oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • A nice pinch of asafoetida
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or to taste
  1. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker pan on medium flame.

  2. Put the cumin seeds into the oil and fry till they change color, then add the asafoetida and cook till a nice aroma emanates, a few seconds.

  3. Put in the chopped bottle gourd vegetable into the pan and add salt to taste. Sprinkle with water thrice, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup water depending on the consistency you want once the vegetable is cooked.

  4. Now close the cooker and cook for two whistles. Switch off the gas and check to see that the vegetable is cooked well, but not mashed.

  5. Add the coriander powder and the sugar and cook on slow flame for one to two minutes more. Serve hot with ghee chapatis or Indian flat breads.

Breaking Bread With Rachel Carson



So the whole world is under lockdown. We’re hearing stories about how nature is rejuvenating. Birds and insects and animals are reclaiming their spaces. Whales have appeared on the Bombay coastline. Crows are showing up where I live. Spring is in the air and what a comeback she’s making when we stopped interfering.

But here is a fable for a not so distant tomorrow. Once the lockdown is over and things get back to “normal”. What will the normal be? There may come a silent spring. Can you imagine a silent spring? A spring without bees humming and birds chirping? Where the birds don’t sing anymore? A spring that brings with it death and destruction?

“No witchcraft, no enemy action has silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people have done it themselves”. These are Rachel Carson’s words from her book Silent Spring written in the early 1960s, even more relevant today.Carson wrote about death and destruction by humans. Not destruction by wars and weapons, though she foresaw that as an immense possibility too, but another kind of weapon. Man made synthetic chemicals used as pesticides.

Carson was a marine biologist, conservationist and a writer whose book Silent Spring helped launch the global environment movement. Her book was first published serially in four additions of The New Yorker in 1962. [1]

Not surprisingly, the pesticide industry responded with a campaign of disinformation and sexism. Carson’s gender, looks and unmarried status were all seized upon by her critics, who called her a hysterical woman, a priestess of nature and a spinster……In a letter to President Eisenhower, Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson asked “why a spinster was so worried about genetics” and….. Monsanto got in on the fun and printed a brochure parodying the book. [2]

The insecticide industry was the child of the Second World War. When chemical warfare was being created, for instance nerve gas to destroy the Jews in Germany, some of these chemicals were found to be lethal to insects. This discovery did not happen by chance. Insects were used as agents to check their efficacy on humans. So were born streams of these dangerous man made synthetic chemicals.

Insect invasions have happened from time immemorial. In the olden days people used natural methods to ward of insects. Then after the Second World War came man made insecticides. There was limited awareness of the nature of these chemicals. Each specialist had his own small view and not a big picture of the problem. Add to that, it was the age of industry, where money talked. And people who took a stand against these death traps were “fed little tranquilizer pills of half truths”. Carson wrote this in the sixties but as you can see nothing’s changed, in fact we’re far worse off now.

Humans have silenced nature by dominating her and paying no heed to her. The shadow of death looms large over all of us as we pollute the air, water and soil with these deadly chemicals. The nightmare won’t end.

Rachel Carson’s book is a must read for those who are concerned about the environment and about how we have the power to alter the world around us, are using this power selfishly and unwisely, and are moving at an accelerated pace towards our own and the planet’s doom.

Here is an photo essay showing the damage done by insecticides to farmers in Punjab in India, by Sean Gallagher. https://gallagher-photo.com/environmental-stories/pesticide-poisoning-punjab-india/. This is true of not only Punjab but many parts of India. Carson gives hundreds of examples of these occurrences in Europe and America in her passionate poetic prose of a book.

Paragraphs [1] and [2] are taken from an article by Katie Halper called Happy Birthday, Rachel Carson.

I’ve baked bread today, an Irish Raisin Bread from the book Secrets of a Jewish Baker by George Greenstein. This bread is rich and tastes divine with the whole lot of raisins that it has. It keeps well too. Here is the recipe.

Irish Raisin Bread

A sweet bread, choc a bloc with raisins, this bread is delicious at tea time or at breakfast.

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast. ( 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons skim milk powder (optional)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 5 to 6 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • Pinch of ground cardamom(optional)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Cornmeal, for dusting baking sheet.
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt, for egg wash
  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast above the warm water and allow to stand for a few minutes to soften. Add the sugar, butter, milk powder, egg, 5 cups flour, salt and cardamom. Mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

  2. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes), adding flour 1/4 cup at a time if the dough is sticky. The finished dough should push back when pressed down. Add the raisins and gently knead them into the dough.

Rising

  1. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and set aside until doubled in volume. Punch down, cut in half, and shape into balls. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Shaping

  1. Knead each round lightly, then shape each into a tight ball. Place on a cornmeal dusted baking sheet, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size. Brush with the egg wash, then allow to dry for several minutes,then brush with the egg wash a second time to ensure a high shine when baked.

Baking

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, 190 degrees C. Bake until the loaves emit a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom with your finger tips. (35 to 45 minutes).

    If baking on an oven stone or tiles, bake the loaves directly on them for the last 5 to 10 minutes.

Green Pea And Corn Soup

My friends love it and so do my neighbors. My sister and brother in law who were here from the U.S.A some time ago expressed delight over its taste. It is by no means an ordinary soup. Green pea and corn soup is a delicacy, fit to serve special invitees whom you wish to impress with your culinary skills. But, this soup, as sophisticated as it looks and tastes, is just so easy to make. A wholesome, heartwarming, not to mention healthy soup!

Peas are a great source of vitamins and antioxidants like vitamin K, C and folate. They are also rich in manganese and fiber. They are heart healthy too. You get peas all the year round these days in the form of frozen peas. No tedious shelling required. Just open the bag, thaw the peas, and use them in your cooking. Similarly with corn. You get frozen corn all the year round too. And corn is wonderful because it is easily available, affordable, rich in antioxidants and fiber and high in protein. This recipe is also great for diabetics as it has no oil, sugar or fatty substances in it.

I’ve taken this recipe from Tarla Dalal’s book Delicious Diabetic Recipes from which I make recipes often, including Green pea parathas and Mooli or white radish salad and many others which are not just finger licking good but are healthy and nutritious too. Just a hint of fresh garlic and a touch of freshly chopped coriander lend the soup it’s aromatic flavors and add to its delicious taste.

I used the pressure cooker to cook the peas, corn, onion and garlic for three whistles before puréeing them in a mixer. Also, I added full fat milk in the end instead of low fat milk, but you can use low fat milk if you wish.

Sometimes, I add 1 full onion instead of only half and more than 1 cup of corn kernels. You can play around with this recipe. Enjoy!

Here is the recipe.

Green Pea And Corn Soup

Have this soup, served hot, and I assure you your taste buds will tingle with joy!

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup low fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped coriander
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped mint
  1. Combine the peas, corn, onion, garlic, salt and 4 cups of water and simmer for 10 minutes until tender. Cool and blend in a mixer t o get a smooth purée.

  2. Just before serving add the milk, coriander and mint and bring to a boil. Adjust for salt. Serve hot.

Breaking Bread With William Saroyan

How many of you remember reading William Saroyan in school? His essay Locomotive 38, The Ojibway, appeared in our class 11th or 12th (I can’t remember which) CBSE textbook. That was the start of my lifelong love affair with Saroyan. I’ve always repented for not saving those textbooks as literary gems in my library

William Saroyan was born in America in 1908. He came from a family of exiled Armenian immigrants who lived in poverty in Fresno, California. He was not interested in studies but even as a young child he nurtured a secret ambition to be a writer. His determination didn’t falter through the depression years. In 1933 his story The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze was chosen by Story, a national magazine, and he received fifteen dollars for it. More stories were printed that year and by 1934 Random House had published The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze And Other Stories. Saroyan had arrived on the literary scene and was causing quite a stir!

Saroyan wrote many books in his lifetime but my favorite one is definitely My Name Is Aram which was published in the year 1940, and like most of his books was largely autobiographical, about his eccentric and colorful fellow Armenians in his hometown during his childhood.

William Saroyan’s style of writing was unorthodox which he worked on a great deal to develop. It reflected his zest for life, his joy with his people and his surroundings and his humor, and this style eventually came to be known as Saroyanesque.

Saroyan wrote not only stories but also plays that became famous and opened on Broadway.

The film based on his story The Human Comedy won an Oscar.

Saroyan died in 1981. I was only eleven years old. I wish I had lived in his times.

Arto Der Haroutunian was an Armenian architect, painter and restaurateur, famous in his own right, who opened his restaurant in London in 1970. He wrote cookbooks too. His restaurant was the watering hole for many fellow Armenians of his time, one among them being the famous Saroyan.

This recipe is from his cookbook Vegetarian Recipes From The Middle East. It is a delicious Armenian pasta recipe called Banirov Arsha or macaroni with cheese.

Banirov Arsha or macaroni with cheese

An Armenian lunchtime favorite.

  • 1 egg
  • 5 tbsps finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 6 tbspns melted butter
  • 225 gms cheese, ex. Haloumi, Kashkaval or Cheddar
  • 225 gms macaroni
  1. Mix the egg, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter together in a bowl. Add the grated cheese, mix well and keep aside.

  2. In a large vessel boil some lightly salted water. Add the macaroni and cook till done, approximately 10 minutes. Strain into a colander and rinse under hot water. Mix 2 tablespoons of butter into the macaroni.

  3. Grease an ovenproof dish about 9 inches(22.5 cms) in diameter and spread half the macaroni into the bottom of the dish. Spread two-thirds of the cheese mixture over the macaroni and top with the remaining macaroni. Spread the remaining cheese over the top and sprinkle with the remaining butter. Place in the centre of the oven preheated to 400degrees F/ 200 degreesC/ Gas 6 and bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

  4. Cut into squares and serve hot.

Breaking Bread With Yashica Dutt

Yashica Dutt did her Masters in Journalism from Columbia University, the same place Dr Ambedkar, the visionary light of the Dalits received his PhD from in the year 1927.

When I read Yashica’s memoir I was disheartened. We cannot imagine….Casteism is India’s dirty blot. it has been going on for years without recourse to the affected. The caste system was introduced in the Hindu sacred text Manusmriti thousands of years ago. Things have’nt changed much over this long stretch of time. The Dalits have lost years and years of progress because of casteism. Those lower castes who do manage to do well for themselves must hide their identities and put in twice the amount of effort as an upper caste. In India the truth is that if you are an upper caste your chances of “swinging it” in any sphere are tenfold.

Of course the arguement of most upper castes is that the Dalits already get too many benefits from the Government. But do these benefits really peter down to reach the most disadvantaged? Even if some lower castes do take advantage of these benefits they are mocked and ridiculed for their caste as students and in their jobs.

It feels shameful to hear, in this day and age, about the atrocities that upper castes inflict on lower castes. Sometimes it’s sporting a mustache that irks them and sometimes its riding a horse to ones wedding. They also practice untouchability; they don’t drink water or eat from the same utensils or even sit near the lower castes.

While the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation uses machines to clean manholes, in the suburbs around Ahmedabad such as Bopal which is an upcoming industrial and residential area, humans still have to do this disgusting job. One of my friends told me of an incident when the sweeper who was let down a manhole in her society resurfaced with condoms stuck to his body.

If you feel the way I feel, if your heart and head says that Dalits deserve far better than they have now, read this memoir. It is heart breaking, eye opening and will convince you to take a stand.

In her memoir, Yashica writes that her mother loved baking cakes for her when she was a kid. Once she baked a cake for her and decorated it with gems. I’m not baking a cake but making a gem laden, chocolate circle that is at once attractive and tasty too.

Gem Chocolate Circle

Make this delicious sweet for a kids party. the children will love it.

  • 1 tin Milkmaid condensed milk
  • 100 gms butter
  • 6 tbspns cocoa powder
  • 200 gms biscuits
  • Gems to decorate
  1. In a pan combine Milkmaid, cocoa, and butter and heat, constantly stirring.

  2. When the mixture starts bubbling,reduce heat and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.

  3. Mix the coarsely broken biscuits and remove from fire.

  4. Spread the mixture in a greased circular plate and leave to cool.

  5. Decorate with gems of different colours.

Carrot Halwa For Christmas

Carrot Halwa in the making

Except for the effort you’ve got to put into this halwa stirring away continuously to cook it, it’s really an easy peasy dish to make. Not too many ingredients either. But when you taste it you’ll feel like a king or a queen. Carrot halwa turns out delicious.

Halwa is an Arabic word and the halwas that the middle eastern traders taught cooks in India during the Mughal period were made of flour and nuts. Carrot or gajar halwa on the other hand is made with ghee and milk and grated carrots and nuts and without flour and must have been introduced by some terrific Punjabi cooks to the Mughal emperors.

But where did carrots come from in the first place? Purple carrots were grown thousands of years ago in Afghanistan and Iran. The Dutch brought the orange carrot with them to India in the 17th century and when the cooks of Punjab got a taste of this delicious vegetable they lost no time in experimenting and making tasty dishes with it, sweet and savory. One of the dishes was gajar halwa.

Gajar, the Indian name for carrot is derived from gazar in Persian. So anyway, we were talking about Gajar halwa and it became very popular with the Mughals. And the dish spread to almost every part of India with the Mughal empire at its zenith.

We in India share many things in common with our Pakistani brothers and sisters. One of the things is food. Pakistanis love Gajar Halwa and make it for festivals like we do.

Here is the recipe of this easy peasy carrot halwa.

Carrot Halwa

This desi dessert is excellent to celebrate Christmas.

  • Milkmaid condensed milk 1 tin, 400 grams
  • Milk 5 cups
  • Carrots 1 kilogram
  • Ghee 2 teaspoons
  • Nuts and raisins 50 grams
  1. Grate carrots. Add to milk and bring to a boil. Cook on a slow fire, stirring ocassionally till milk dries up.

  2. Add Milkmaid. Cook on a slow fire till dry, stirring occasionally .

  3. Add ghee and cook for another 10 minutes

  4. Garnish with nuts, raisins and serve hot.

Breaking Bread With Ruskin Bond

While most of us run a rat race to catch the fast train to nowhere, try to get a seat next to the latest hotshot, and keep up with the Joneses, Ruskin Bond is perfectly content to have Friends In Small Places (the name of one of his books). And, so charming is his world in the hills of small town Dehradun that he has us all bowled over.

Are they true or just a figment of an immensely fertile imagination, these stories that enchant and capture the imagination of his audience, both young and old? He keeps us guessing. No guns and violence for this Bond though. For one thing’s for sure, he is the James Bond of tender feelings. His stories treat us to the fresh, cool air, simple ways of life, quirks, and delights of the people of his home in the hills. Ordinary folks, sometimes with extraordinary hearts filled with kindness. Or does Ruskin Bond spread wonderful vibes around him wherever he goes?

He must be a keen observer of human nature because he has so many stories to tell of everyday people around him. His dad who he adores, his wayward uncle Ken, murderer uncle Bill, the Lafanga tongawalla who is actually delightfully sweet to him, his aayaah, not to forget the maharani who lives on the very top of a palace and is in love with the humble gardener.

Bond has written more than five hundred books, beautifully bringing to life the spirit of life in the hills. He still writes at the grand old age of 85. He’s written his autobiography which is a must read. It’s called Lone Fox Dancing.

One of Ruskin Bond’s favorite dishes is kofta curry. Most probably he eats a non vegetarian kofta curry. Most probably too, he downs a beer or two with his kofta curry meal. Since I’m vegetarian I’m posting a recipe here of a vegetarian bottle gourd kofta curry adapted from a recipe by Tarla Dalal. It’s heart healthy and tasty too.

Bottle gourd Kofta Curry

This delightfully tasty kofta curry, is heart friendly too, with the koftas dunked in the curry with only shallow frying them. Eat them with hot parathas or plain rice.

For the koftas

  • 1 1/2 cups grated bottle gourd
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup bengal gram flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped green chillies
  • 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil to shallow fry

For the curry

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon roughly chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilly powder
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour dissolved in 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • Some finely chopped fresh coriander
  1. Squeeze the grated bottle gourd of all its water. Keep aside the bottle gourd water to add when making the curry.

  2. Put a pan on the fire. Put all the ingredients for the koftas into the pan and mix well and stir till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and a cooked aroma emanates.

  3. Remove the bottlegourd mixture from the pan and let it cool for a few minutes. Then divide the mixture into 14 to 15 oval shaped koftas.

  4. Heat oil in a flat pan for shallow frying. Put in the koftas and shallow fry on all sides. Keep aside.

  5. Put the teaspoon of oil in the pan and put on the stove. Add onions and fry till golden brown. Now add the tomatoes, turmeric powder, coriander cumin powder and chilly powder and stir till the tomatoes are mushy. Let cool.

  6. Now make a paste of the onion-tomato mixture in the food processor.

  7. Put the two tablespoons of oil in a pan and put on medium heat. Put the cumin seeds into the oil. When they begin to sputter put the onion-tomato paste into the pan. Add the bottle gourd water and 1 1/2 cups more water and let the curry come to a boil. Now add salt and cornflour-milk mixture and cook for one minute. Add garam masala.

  8. Gently put in the koftas into the curry one at a time. Heat for not more than a minute. Sprinkle finely chopped fresh coriander. Serve hot.