Food and recipe

The art of making chapatis

A typical South-Indian, I always believed that chapatis are best made by our excellent North Indian neighbours. It was only after marriage and setting up our home, that I realised we could do it as well.

First , take some aata (aata, not maida), say about 6-7 scoops. Of course some of it falls on the table, and you need to mop it up, while swearing at it. Add a little salt, half a cup of hot water, and start mixing the dough. Then, since the water is not enough, add another cup, and keep mixing. Suddenly you realise that the dough seems way too watery, so you add scoop after scoop of aata until the dough becomes a little manageable. Experiment spooning some curd, thinking it will make the dough soft. Since the entire dough is now a sticky, gooey mess, just add more aata and finally, you will end up with the perfect dough, not too soft and not too hard. The litmus test is to put stick your finger (the fore-finger please) into the dough, and removing it, finding none of the dough sticking to it.

Then, place a tava (preferably non-stick) on the burner, and start rolling out the chapatis. First take a ball of dough, and press it down, then sprinkle some aata on it, and keep rolling. When you lift it, to roll in the other direction, you will find that it sticks to the base (of the table or the “kallu” on which you roll). That’s all a part of the game..just tear it off the base, and when it rips, roll it up again into a ball, and re-start the rolling process.

Now is the interesting part – you will realise that you have indeed learnt something from your school days. “Geography”. You will find that the chapatis morph into maps of various countries (my all-time favourite is Australia), some which you are familiar with, and some countries that you have never seen before. Never mind. Just keep up the good work. In the interim, a smell of something burning will gently waft through and hit your nose, when you will realise that it is the empty chapati tava. Then you hurriedly dump the chapati on it (don’t worry if the map changes shape slightly, global warming is always causing this).

An attempt at multi-tasking at this stage may lead to a conical chapati being rolled out, while the Australia map develops black craters. Anyway, make the best of the situation, by positioning the cone as a “heart-shaped chapati” to woo your spouse who returns tired and stressed from work. The craters may be scraped off.

Oh, with regard to the chapati on the tava, once bubbles appear on one side, turn it on the other side and wait for more bubbles. Once they appear (ignore bubbles that escape through the well-ventilated chapatis), press the chapati with a cloth to force it to “puff-up”. In case it still doesn’t puff, sprinkle finely chopped onions and tomatoes, and a little pepper and offer your very own ‘masala papad’ as a starter.

Phew, now that all the maps, chapatis and papads are ready to be served, fold the really unrecognizably-shaped chapatis in such a way that they appear as neat semi-circles. After all, presentation does impact appetite. Bon appetito!

By the way, this method of making chapatis will surely lead to weight-loss. Nobody will ask for a second serving, and your family can lose weight without having to exercise 🙂

P.S: For critics – the subject of this blog is only “the art of making chapatis” and not “the art of making Perfect chapatis”. So, you can’t really blame me for the above patented recipies and method, can you ?!

Movie Review

Kya Story Hai !

Baby went to sleep early today, so I switched on the TV – Star Gold channel, and I am regretting it ever since. The movie: Kya Love Story Hai. The same old story…boy, girl, another boy, and a love triangle. Unfortunately, I can’t specify if it was a love triangle or a quadrangle (depending on the number of people who joined the circus), as I just couldn’t watch beyond the first 20 minutes. The names.. OMG.. HOW can somebody’s name be “Rocky” ?! And all that these kids do, is party and bail each other out of their love tangles !! Oh, the co-hero by the way, delivers a lecture in Hindi, to a group of foreign students ! The only saving grace however, is that the comedy ends in 3 hours time. BTW, Ayesha Takia is really cute, despite her hairstyle reminding me of a pet pup.

What goes beyond all tolerance is Ekta Kapoor’s endless soaps, that are so full of crap. I find it so difficult to digest, how the characters wallow in their self-created problems for years together. The men are like Knights at the round table..almost always seated and worried about the misfortune that has befallen the “parivaar”. And the women, how do they manage to wear bejewelled saris, matching chandelier earrings, and perfect make-up even in the saddest of moments ?! Their only goal in life seems to be to beat each other at the complicated games they create to waste the audience’s time. I think the entire Balaji team needs to spend a month in an average middle-class family, to really see what goes on… how people struggle to make ends meet, how hard the parents work, how competitive the children are at school, and in a nutshell, how an average “parivaar” combats each day at a time. Of course its entertaining to watch a beautifully decked “Parvati bhabhi” (who should actually be “Parvati dadi”) or a self-sacrificing “Tulsi Ma” rectify the faults in the members of their family. What we need to see, is real problems faced by real people, and how they overcome them. We need to see the simple joys that people have in their daily life.. like reaching the bus-stop just in time to catch an empty bus. I guess this will touch the heart of the common man.

I plead to Ekta, to watch movies like ‘Mozhi’ and ‘Taare Zameen Par’. Please give the audience something that will touch their heart… something that they can really take home !

Thought and Reason

No for the Have-nots ? (A parallel between Nuclear NPT and Tata Nano)

Stench-filled, crowded buses, dusty auto rickshaws, two-wheelers driving like Siamese twins in the overcrowded roads of India…if this makes you feel nostalgic (not to mention, nauseatic), then the new Tata Nano (the Rs. One-Lakh Car) appears to be the manna sought after, by the rising Indian bourgeois.

While hopeful masses have welcomed the idea with open arms, several others are sceptical about the Nano, which they say, will only add to the over-crowded roads of India, increase pollution and congestion, and clog the already choked road network.

This interestingly, is similar to nuclear non-proliferation – The five states that are already nuclear states (US, UK, China, Russia and France) are the ones that push the rest of the world to not develop/acquire nuclear weapons. They do not seem to disarm themselves, but want developing countries to stem their plans to go nuclear. Similarly, existing car-owners and the more affluent of society are the ones who are critical of the Nano being so accessible to the common man. The Haves continue to sit in the lap of luxury, while preaching abstinence to the Have-Nots !

Be it the nuclear NPT or reducing road pollution, it calls for a solution by everyone, especially the Haves, and not just the Have-nots.

Interestingly, we can thus draw a parallel between nuclear non-proliferation and the road congestion scenario in India:

1- NON-PROLIFERATION: Non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) agree to not acquire/manufacture/seek assistance in acquiring nuclear weapons. Nuclear states agree to not use their nuclear energy towards making weapons, to not assist non-nuclear weapon states to acquire nuclear weapons, and to not use their nuclear weapons against NNWS except in response to an attack. Similarly, those individuals who already own vehicles (cars/motorbikes/etc.) must consciously abstain from using their private vehicles for daily commute. And those who do not own a vehicle must try to avoid acquiring/using one.

2- As the above may seem unfair to the common man who is waiting to taste luxury himself, we embark on adopting the second pillar of the NPT – DISARMAMENT. As nuclear states must disarm themselves of nuclear and other weapons, so also should individuals who possess private vehicles, disarm themselves of this luxury in their daily life. This is of course, on the premise that India has a world-class public transport system. People must use the public transport system for their daily commute, and restrict usage of private vehicles (cars/bikes) to the weekends. Importantly, commuters need to develop civic sense, not pull/push one another in a hurry to get into or out of the vehicle, and not use the vehicle as a dustbin for their unimaginable garbage.

3- PEACEFUL USE OF ENERGY: While the world must cruise towards using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and not for weapons/distruction, the Indian government must also use resources to develop a robust, convenient and world-class Public transport system that is accessible to everyone in the country. Take the London Underground railway system for instance..with all its deficiencies, it is still the lifeline of the working class. Trains arrive on time, and they are indeed crowded during peak hours, but the network does not halt for trivial reasons. The Mumbai train system could be a good local example. Public transport vehicles (buses/trains) must be refurbished, made clean and safe to use, and the government must increase the number/frequency of buses, to cater to a wider working-population. And for heaven’s sake, they must be “p-u-n-c-t-u-a-l”.

Another action point by the Government, could be to introduce motoring taxation for privately owned vehicles plying on central roads of urban areas during peak hours, for example, by levying a congestion charge. This, with the dual objective of generating revenue and to stemming the usage of private vehicles, thereby minimising congestion.

To summarise, while the world drives towards peace, individuals like us must walk towards building a less-congested road network in India. I hope we all get to own Tata Nano(s) and still use MRTS in our daily life. Let’s hope that 2008 heralds personal disarmament and national progress.