Big Mouth Diaries: I am Kashmir, You are Kanyakumari!

app1

That wonderful thing called ‘Appam’

15th December, 2013: My family loves South Indian cuisine. Sambhar is a pretty staple dal in our kitchen and I have stopped finding any novelty in Idli-Dosa-Uttapams anymore. Recently though, after rustling up a lovely Kerala Style Roasted Chicken, I decided to savour it the way my Malayali brethren would. So, I toasted a few Appam from some left over Dosa batter (Yes, it is that common in my house. Dosa batter is ‘left over’), sat down on the floor and tucked in, while I watched a mindless Rajnikanth film dubbed in Hindi. Needless to say, I had to change the channel soon enough.

Few Indian breads are as healthy and heartening as the Appam. It complements meat and stews well, without being overbearing. The hot meat dishes find a lovely companion in the Appam, which creates a soft mush in the mouth, easy to chew and allows complete absorption of all flavours. And the best part is that you can have as many as you want without feeling stuffed or guilty! All in favour of Appam say ‘Aye’!

<This is where I say something smart in Malayali copied from Google Translate>

kash2

Kashmir

13th August, 2012: One of those places that I have been besotted with for the longest time is Kashmir. Other than the beauty of the valley and the wonderful people, the place is a food haven, with every family stocked up with distinct recipes. The cuisine is dual in nature. While some Kashmiri recipes can be extremely smooth and creamy with a nut and cream base for the gravy, others gravies are fiery and robust with their flavours, bursting in your mouth like a rustic folk circus. The creamier and sweeter Kashmiri gravies like the Kashmiri Aloo Dum have made it around the world. But on a daring expedition into the bylanes and narrow gullies of Srinagar, I found butch mutton and lamb kebabs with strong spices served on naans right out of a sheekh. And that was a brilliant introduction to the tastes of the Pathans.

In the houseboat that we were in, the owner’s family cooked up a lovely feast the night prior to our departure. Amongst other things, I clearly remember a very unique mutton preparation in white gravy with a strong set of spices that hit your neck but taste sour and lemony to the tongue. I have been snooping around for the recipe ever since, but in vain. Kashmir is a treasure trove, for all the right reasons.

So, I cooked a hot Kashmiri meat preparation called Kukkur Roganjosh. It is a slow cooking stew with simple spices beaten into yoghurt and then tossed into fried onion and garlic pastes. The meat and the gravy need time to allow all the flavours to seep in.

The result was delicious.

KR

Advertisements

Big Mouth Diaries: Of Cakes and Some Lebanese Lovin’

walnut cake 1

Chocolate, Marry Me

10th October, 2013: I will always say ‘I do’ to that. This cake (can also be made as a pudding) was an absolute chameleon. It looks so terribly complex, tastes like heaven on a plate, and…wait for it…is darn simple to make. Honestly, if it was not simple, I would not be making it in the first place.

The star of this cake is the impeccable crust, which is a very unconventional baking trick. While getting an even crust is tough on the first try, it happens with the second or the third. And even if it does not, it always tastes amazing and that’s the best part.

Beat up a usual batter with flour, powdered sugar, cocoa, baking powder, a pinch of salt, milk, essence minus eggs till it is nice and creamy. The batter will be slightly thicker than a normal cake batter (dropping consistency) but that is necessary for the crust trick.

Now, in another bowl, mix sugar, cocoa and crushed walnuts, and put some water to boil. Just before popping the batter into the oven (after pre-heating it, of course), pour the hot water into the dry walnut mixture, stir, and pour the whole thing on the batter, evening it ever so slightly. It has to happen really fast.

Stir water into walnut mixture –> Pour on batter and even –> Pop into oven.

And when the thing comes out 40 minutes later, a delicious crust forms on top, a soft fudgy cake in between, and surprise-surprise – A gooey chocolate sauce forms at the bottom of it all. Isn’t that absolute magic?

Cut a slice and serve with thick hot chocolate or vanilla ice-cream and watch your friends or girlfriend/boyfriend tingle with pleasure. This is theobroma – Food for Gods.

pomegranate cake 1

With love, from Lebanon

13th June, 2012: An absolutely mad cap cake with left over pomegranate juice! It tastes very unusual, sweet and tangy at the same time. And the best bit is that, due to the juice, you don’t have to use any form of fat AT ALL. And that makes a cake healthy and tasty for a glutton like me!

The colour of the cake comes from the juice itself which reacts with the baking powder and reaches this weird hue. The batter will look bluish-grey, like something out of a Tim Burton film. That makes me happier.

It is succulent and soft and sugary. Also, do remember to use powdered/icing sugar as granulated sugar descends to the bottom, making a sugary crust beneath the cake.

Enjoy, a Burton style Pomegranate Cake – an original recipe from Lebanon.

Big Mouth Diaries: The Big Fat Bangali ‘Pheesht’

holi2

Holi is just around the corner. Here’s a page from the Big Mouth diary.

12th March, 2012: Dol or Holi is a very big deal at home. And like all Bengali homes, we also have Holi-specific cooking on this colourful day. While numerous sweet dishes include besan ke laddoo, badam ke laddoo, corn halwa, besan halwa, jalebi, motichoor ke laddoo, malpua, and innumerable gulab jamuns and roshogollas, I generally deal exclusively with the thandai and the kosha maangsho or thick mutton curry. My mother handed the kitchen over to my uncle and me last year, relaxing and playing holi with my aunt and her friends all through the day. It is one hell of a responsibility in a Bengali home, I tell you.

I generally prepare the thandai the previous night to let the syrup ripen its flavours. It is a gruelling process as I love sticking to the traditional method of pasting the watermelon seeds-khus khus-peppercorn-almonds-rose petals and other dry ingredients and then diluting and running the syrup through a muslin strainer over and over until all residues have been excluded. Then, with a cupful of rose water, half a litre of sugar syrup, and cardamom powder, the thandai base sits overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, when everyone is effectively thirsty, the ‘bhar’ or clay cups are filled 3/4th with the syrup and then with kesari milk. Heaven!

The mutton is a long drawn process as my uncle hates steaming it first in the pressure cooker. So, the meat is marinated in a curd-and-spices mixture overnight and then fried in caramelized onions-garlic-ginger-tomatoes masala. A host of other spices, from nihari to shahi garam masala is used copiously to make the most succulent and spiciest mutton gravy ever.

Holi is a traditional day, when the whole family of uncles and aunts and cousins sit down on the floor with sal and banana leaf plates and enjoy a piping hot lunch with maangsho-bhaat – Bengali picnic style!

holi 1

What happens at your home on Holi? Share your stories here! And if you have any traditional Holi recipe that is unique to your family, I am all ears!

Big Mouth!

(Juvenile writing, I know. But such delicious memories!)

Yawn worthy Gunda gardi

1

1971. Two boys. Doing bhai se bhi zyaada pyaar with each other, land up in Calcutta after Bangladesh is made.

1a

Political drama. Hindu-Muslim love. Refugee camps. Hungry kids dying without food. Gun couriers. Corrupt police officers. Child abuse. Serious art house film, you know.

The two boys become coal thieves.

Bees saal baad

2a

Bikram and Bala. Super hot, dumb-belled, oiled, bronzed, waxed bodies. Still coal thieves.

8

They decide to become organized dacoits and take over (read: fight and kabza karoing) a mobster’s thieving business.

4

Last men standing get the coal, the mobster challenges.

5

Bro, do we dare? WE DARE!

6

<Series of high-flying slow-motion jumps-kicks-bitchslaps later>

7

<After a lot of grunting-shunting-teeth-grinding-muscle-flexing-dhishoom-dhurum-dhoom-dharakka>

2

Hum Jeet Gaye! Organized crime, zindabad! Let’s run!

11

Because we are so happy that we took over an illegal coal business, we are running during Holi-cum-Durga Puja!

12

We open more illegal businesses and provide employment to the gareeb!

14

We do kusti in the mud to celebrate that.

10

We get our ration cards. Legally Indian. Legally illegal businessmen. (The writer is legally blonde).

13

Indian government rocks, bitches!

But now we are bored. Within seconds, we have achieved everything. Calcutta is known only for two things now – Howrah Bridge and Bikram-Bala. Not the roshogolla. Not Durga pujo. Not Tagore-Ray-Communism-Lazy Bengalis-Football. No. Calcutta is known for two illegal businessman with their fans waving Communist flags while they sing-and-dance in designer wear.

And so we are very bored. Enter hot chick.

15

She is a cabaret dancer at Calcutta Cabaret House. (How creative!)

16

She dances to assalaamey-ishqum ishqum in Broadway inspired costumes which NO dance bar in Calcutta can EVER afford. But because of her thriving (please read the sarcasm heaped on that word) pop singing career in Hollywood, she has to look all international, na? Isi liye…samjha? 

gunday-13b

Yes, this is happening in a dance bar in Calcutta in the 90s. So Believable. Andrew Lloyd Webber Calcutta ghoomney aaye aur gaana compose kiya. Twyla Tharp haath mein haath milaake choreograph bhi kar diya. Kameeno, agar Webber aur Tharp ko nahi pata, jaake chullu bhar paani mein doob maro. Nahi toh abhi Google karo.

gunday-movie-still-19

Aaaand yes, BOTH the boys fall in love with Nondita!

priyanka-chopra-gunday-movie-stills

Oh, and by day, she dresses like a sati savitri, buying flowers in the Howrah flower market.

Ok, so Bikram and Blah-blah, madly in love, wants her to take her pick.

gun11-dec20

The roop ki rani can have only one chor. No ek phool do maali business! No ulto-palta thingsh in bhodro-shobbho Calcutta. So which mushtanda will it be?

17

But wait. Did I mention the film has Irrfan Khan?

gunday-22b

Yes! Saving grace! He is the police officer brought in specially to get Bikram and Bala in jail. He is always sniffing around. And burning stuff.

Meanwhile, Bala makes a major fuck up when he shoots a chap because he whistled at Nondita because she was dancing to a Sri Devi song IN FRONT of the audience in the Metro cinema WHILE the song was playing on the screen. That was Nondita’s swayamvar gone bad.

Bala obviously has to flee to Dhanbad (which is just a bike ride away from Calcutta, according to the film), but he asks Bikram to hold his horses and not meet or talk to Nondita while he is away, as she still belongs to the BOTH of them. Bikram agrees. Bala leaves.

priyanka-cabaret

Haaaave you met Nondita? Can a hot-blooded man ever wait?

Umm, no. So during Durga pujo, they do aarti together.

Gunday Movie HD Wallpapers

Because the purohit moshai was taking a luchi-aloo dom break. Because during Durga pujo, like Ekta Kapoor’s serials, men and women coochie-coo over aarti ki thali. 

Now, a double crossing henchman sees all this noshtami-foshtami (colloquial Bengali for ‘fucking around’) and rides to Dhanbad and informs Bala.

Bala is pissed.

gunday9-nov22

Very pissed.

gunday9-nov22

Very very pissed.

gunday9-nov22

Ok. His expressions don’t change. Moving on…

Bala comes back to Calcutta during the final day of Durga pujo and is about to shoot Bikram point blank when Nondita comes in between and gets shot.

Oh. My. God. Ladki dead?

Does it matter? That was the first half of the film. Do you REALLY wanna know what happens after that?

Gunday gets it all wrong. The homage that it meant to be to the melodramatic potboilers of the seventies to the nineties becomes nothing but a forced mockery. The storyline is meh. The performances bleh. The music hummable. The cinematography crackles in places but tends to be self-indulgent. And whoever decided to place the film in Calcutta had NO FUCKIN’ IDEA what the city was in the 90s. Arjun Kapoor has a long way to go. Priyanka breezes through as the role was hardly a challenge. Ranveer Singh proves that he needs a good director reining him. Irrfan Khan is forgettable. 

By the way, those who still haven’t seen the film will thank me for not spilling all the beans. Kahaani ki twists toh maine bataaya hi nahi!

Photo courtesy: Google Images

 

Better Lazy Than Never: Not-So-Lovely and a Soupy Deol Affair

miss_lovely_4c MissLovelyEDIT

Miss Lovely

I think anticipation killeth a film. It is like living in Andheri and craving for Kyani’s Chicken Cheese Bhurji. You describe it as orgasm to people who have never had it, curse them for being snooty burbies, tell them that it is the best thing their mouths will ever have in them, crib about how long it has been since you had a plate, how ages-eons-eras have passed since you last sat on one of those rickety Kyani chairs gobbling CCB with bun maska, waiting for those lazy waiters to pay attention to your waving hand for a cup of chai. And then, when you accidentally find yourself near Metro one fine afternoon, you rush to K and breathlessly order a plate of CCB. You wait with bated breath and gush about what is about to arrive to your colleague-date-boyfriend-BFF. And then it does. You shovel a spoonful into your mouth. You try dumping some of K’s liquid-y ketchup or salt or pepper but your memories do not quite transfer themselves to your tongue. You feel cheated…a little sad…grossly disappointed. You do not tip the waiter. He scowls.

In a recent interview with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, we spoke extensively about how he is excitedly waiting for Miss Lovely to release. He was a little disappointed by how it did not have a huge promotion budget but ‘der aaye durust aaye’, he said. Better late than never. It was his first film as the lead and he holds the film very close to his heart. The film released a week after I met him. I missed the premiere because of a trip to Goa, but the moment I was back, tickets were bought for an evening show.

At the heart of the film lies a love story that fails to stand the test of ambition, greed and practicality. Based in the C-grade film industry of Mumbai, two lovers share a doomed relationship that suffers disastrous consequences. Therefore, the basic storyline has nothing new to offer. When the climax arrives, you are not shocked or outraged because it is not something you have not seen before. The performances are not laudable. Nawaz has given much better performances and Miss Lovely is definitely his weakest till date (I have erased The Lunchbox from my memory). The supporting cast is mediocre.

But, there is one big fat reason why you will keep watching Miss Lovely till the very end. The cinematography is so addictive, the colours have such a drug-like quality, that you will find it very difficult to not be enamoured by the scenes. Like the opening titles, there is a psychedelic and kaleidoscopic flavor to the colour, the mise-en-scene, and the sequencing of shots. Horror and pornography is presented in a kitsch-y package, shot extensively in neon and warm tones, making filth and ugly look alluring and sensual. The repulsive looks attractive – such paradoxical visual narrative must be applauded.

Have you seen Steve McQueen’s Shame, starring Michael Fassbender as an incorrigible sex addict? In one of the most important scenes in the film, Fassbender is fucking two women at the same time and the camera zooms in on his face – we see sexual pleasure and sheer helplessness. A man who is enjoying what he is doing but also wants to stop doing it. But just can’t. In Miss Lovely, the camera makes a similar statement when it zooms in on Nawaz’s face when he sees his girlfriend as an established performer – he hates her and he loves her. He wants to stop loving her but just can’t.

The cinematography captures the helplessness of our times – when we want to stop destroying ourselves, but just can’t.

miss_lovely_4c

one-by-two-poster_139037792010

One By Two

The film enjoys an interesting premise – the lead characters never meet each other till the very end. We see two independent lives, their independent ups-downs-loves-hates-frustrations-fuck-ups, and how they play a role in each other’s lives without an actual mulaqaat. Funnily, nothing goes wrong with One By Two. The performances are fine. The technical department is fine (the oft-opted for split-screen narrative is even interesting at times). The music is fine too. But the film fails to wow. I won’t say I didn’t enjoy the film. I won’t say I loved it either.

The film does make a statement about how no generation is perfect. I do appreciate how mainstream Indian films have started seamlessly including subjects like illegitimacy, single parenthood, live-in relationships without making a big deal about them. The characters are flawed, like all of us. Why do we never find a way to get over someone even after having our self-respects beaten to mulsh? I don’t know. Why do we just walk away from our loved ones for ambition-fame-success? I don’t know. And it is not my place to judge. One By Two does not judge either. It simply projects the society we live in.

Would I recommend a watch? Yes. Would I watch it again? No.

 

Photo Courtesy: Google Images