Sunday, 22 April 2012

Apple Crumble

I don't have an oven partly because i have never used one and secondly i need to find one which will suit my cooking needs and i don't know which one will. I will also have to create space for an oven in my kitchen which itself is a task. So ,though i love baking i have only managed to get around it now. My mom first did the tikdum [experimentation usually without a clue !] of baking cake on tawa on stove. Though it used to cook well, the bottom part used to be crusty and butter paper invariably stuck to it.

Anyone who has eaten cakes with butter/oil and not vanapati baked at home will know how heavenly those cakes are.So, i went about experimenting and finally hit upon making cakes in cooker. Fortunately Google came to my rescue and there were lot of home made recipes of cakes baked in a cooker. I adapted, run trials and have come up with my way of baking a cake in the cooker. My cakes using my mom's basic recipe are different all the time. I have used all sorts of permutations and combinations. I used plain cocoa for i like slight bitter chocolate flavour in my chocolate cake. I have used homemade cinnamon powder generously.Now i'm on my way to making vanilla extract . I have used table butter, white butter ,pure ghee, mix of ghee and oil and most recently olive oil. My sugar too has changed forms and my effort to minimise cooking with white sugar. I usually make dessert with jaggery, powdered jaggery, molasses based jaggery and cakes with brownsugar, cane sugar and demerrara.
The cakes therefore change their texture and nature each time.
While learning how to bake i came across crumble. A simple no fuss dessert. A lightbulb struck on somewhere in my brain and i decided to make it in the cooker. For those who have oven please go ahead use your oven.

My apple crumble recipe: [use only khaaliss[pure] ingredients and NOT ever vanaspati- it'll clog your hearts with trans-fats which only a surgeon can remove]

50gm butter
100gm plain flour
50 gm oats
Sugar -1/2 cup or more
1tsp cinnamon powder
2-3 large apples [a little underripe will also do]
1tbsp lemon juice

1. Slice apples with skin on[ you can peel the skins if you want].Drizzle lemon juice and keep it in the fridge
2. Melt the butter and add to the mixed flour and oats and 3 pinches of salt if using white butter or ghee. Mix and rub the flour between your palms till its nice and crumbly.You can add some more butter if the desired crumb effect is not achieved.Then add sugar. Keep in fridge for 15 mins.
3. Grease your baking tin and arrange the apple slices ,sprinke the cinnamon powder over the apples.Sprinkle 2 tsp of sugar and then layer the flour mixture.Do not  mix. Just cover the apple slices with flour mixture.
4. Meanwhile pour sand in your dry cooker [ i use the large 7 ltr one and the aluminium container which came with it] .
4. heat it on low flame ,when the sand becomes hot put your cake tin on it ,cover with foil if you want. i just put a lid on it.
5. Shut the cooker without gasketor whistle and cook for 15 minutes on medium flame and then 15 mins on very low flame. For people with oven i have found this info over the net: Preheat at 180'C, bake for 30-35 mins.

That's it....after half an hour of cooking time open the cooker and check if the flour layer has turned golden brown. If it has remove the tin and let it cool.

I like it warm just as it is.. but you can drizzle custard or cream or even vanilla icecream over it !

Apple crumble is a yummy filling dessert perfect for rainy cloudy days ,quickly made to cheer up a sick worried parent or friend or sibling !

Friday, 20 April 2012

I can't go on. i must go on.

'I can't go on. I must go on. I'll go on.'
-Samuel Beckett's novel 'The Unnameable.' 

When my mom breathed her last , cancer in the brain had overpowered her entire body. She was paralysed by the tumour acting on the essential neural processes of the brain. She lost her voice too among other things. I know she knew her death was imminent but since she had lost her voice she couldn't have said what she wanted to tell and bid me to behave after her. You know how Moms are..all the time whenever she talked about death she told me to be strong and most importantly don't let grief spillover your psyche. Of course she said this quoting a Urdu couplet . The following poem essentially sums up  what she would have said in English.
So why now ..after 1 year and 5 months after her death?..........because i had not found the words which she would have said had she been able to speak !

Remember Me

Do not shed tears when I have gone
but smile instead because I have lived.

Do not shut your eyes and pray to God that I’ll come back
but open your eyes and see all that I have left behind.

I know your heart will be empty because you cannot see me
but still I want you to be full of the love we shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live only for yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of what happened
between us yesterday.

You can remember me and grieve that I have gone
or you can cherish my memory and let it live on.

You can cry and lose yourself become distraught
and turn your back on the world
or you can do what I want - smile, wipe away the tears,
learn to love again and go on.


David Harkins


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Tampering of products

When we got our freedom, history says India was poor with millions of starving souls,displaced and homeless and a huge divide between rich and poor. One of the concern was food. The rich baniyas usually made money by adulterating pulses and grains,oils and other fooodstuff.Soon ,India was brought to some order by the then politicians who followed Gandhian policies and brought in systematic distribution of food, committees to trample greedy baniyas ,to stop food adulteration. It must have been a tough battle because i think tampering, adulteration is hard wired in Indians.if you disagree with me,please check the news - everyday you will still find various foodstuff adulterated beyond our knowledge !

Cosmetics,deos and soaps were a luxury once.Now, we have malls flooded with cosmetic counters and rows and rows of  toiletries with so much to choose from.Yet,suckers that we are we don't demand better tamper proof packaging. I have been trawling various makeup blogs ,some balanced and conscience while others unmentionable. However, i have seen not one raising a voice against tampering of products. Earlier, when i was unaware how rampant this problem was  i was just like any other trusting shopper. But 2 incidents opened my eyes:

1. Once at my grocery shopping at Big Bazaar, i was strolling at deos section. While i was going through the products i found various containers open. Testers were not marked boldly as 'Testers'. Of course, i know most companies have poor packaging of these toiletries- there is no clear seal ! Suddenly, the Big Bazaar employee came out picked up a bottle went to a small side room sprayed the deos under his shirt and quickly came out and placed the bottle at the shelf.Needless to say, i have never bought a deo from big bazaar or any of these supermarkets again. Earlier at same Big Bazaar, my sister had seen the salesgirl picking up a costly facewash [ Neutrogena tube], remove some facewash on her palm [obviously to wash her face] and disappear. My sister brought it to the notice of customer service manager who then tried to find the said salesgirl through their cameras and also asked my sister to help identifying her. Apparently, nothing has been done anything about that !

2. Another incident is at Westside Streetwear counter where i got duped.I have been always wary of SA's  and counters where SAs say ' madam, you can try this [ a brand new item] a little because i don't have tester for it'. Apparently, there are no testers for nailpolishes. So obviously the brightly painted nails of all these girls at cosmetic counters comes from the actual new product which gullible people like you and me then buy at exorbitant MRPs. Anyway, i wanted top coat and i saw this botttle at streetwear counter which seemed too runny ..i didn't know then what i know now .So i bought it. Within a month, the 10 ml polish disappeared....rather evaporated ! On a totally unrelated counter at a different mall, i saw a SA adding nailpolish remover to the nailpolish. She was sitting there and topping all the polishes with nail paint remover ! I was aghast ! So now when i see too runny polishes, i know what these wretched salesgirls have done !

I have been keeping an eagle eye on these SAs while swatching and i openly ask them if they have tampered with eyeliner and i ask them to open and show me.Their facial expressions are enough for me to find out if they lie .Only and when i am satisfied do i buy it. I have seen eyeliners being sharpened, new lipsticks,foundations and blushes opened and shown to the eager customer because no testers are available. Its daylight robbery especially when these stuff are sold at Rs, 500 and above.

I mean , is the concept of seal and tamper-proof packaging so alien to these companies ? Why are not all the deos,moisturizers and facewashes sold with the visible seal ?

I now buy only from those brands which come sealed especially in those products where those options are available. However, in deos,nailpolishes,facewashes i just have to nitpick,probe and then still come home with the products with lingering doubts.Only a strong collective voice can make these companies become stringent and active complaining at malls will stop these SAs from misusing the costly products !Please keep a vigilante eye and do register your complaint when you find those careless SAs tampering.If nothing else, it will set a precedent !

What do you think? Do you as a customer unmindful,  encourage tampering ?

Our purpose of Life !


Who could have said it better than Hobbes !

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Multitasking lipstick

Crazy as it sounds, it was out of sheer ignorance that my poor lipsticks started to multitask ! You know how it is are young , you go to your neighborhood vanity shoppee , he pulls out trays of lipstick, no testers ,you open the lipstick case ,turn it around ,maybe dab a little if Uncle allows you to to see the shade. If he has allowed you to dab a little so have others ....anyway i digress.
The point is I made the best out of my lipsticks. Its hard to believe but just ten years ago only Lakme, Revlon  and Maybelline were reachable to the masses. Revlon has always been overpriced , Maybelline was priced higher than Lakme. So Lakme was invariably the highest selling brand...therefore most sold at the neighbourhood shoppee.

I have used dark lipsticks as blush , light pastels frosty creamy ones as eyeshadows and once upon a time i had gold colored lipstick [ yep, bad choice!]  which i used as e/s a couple odd times.I was just dumb or maybe i didn't know eyeshadows existed . You see there were no malls, goods were not on display and under scrutiny.So unless you had makeup loving cousin there was no way to know much. Since nail paints and lipstick were placed on the counter  i knew about them and therefore bought more of.

I  wash my hands with soap, dab lipstick with fingertips on my lips and then dab some on cheeks as blush. I have NYX blush cream and Lakme earth rose trio but in hurry i still use lipsticks as blush. i have only recently been using blush more earlier it was only party/wedding thing and i had no idea about makeup at all.
However , now i have stopped using lipsticks as e/s mainly because it travels everywhere  around the eyes and because i have invested in e/s.

However, i love using it as blush because of 2 reasons: 1] There is no way one can go overboard with the colour ,blending is easier with creamy lipsticks and 2] It makes matching the blush with lipstick shade easier atleast for me because i have dark pigmented lips so no way it looks same on lips as well as cheeks.
There are some shades which , let's face it , were bought when i probably was not thinking/zoned out/ transfixed by the SA  and many such reasons so those i use only as stains or to mix match with other shades or as blushes.

Another use of lipstick I have discovered is as stain which i think many of you may already know of. Since i use only fingers to apply lipstick, i can quickly mix and match ,powder it a bit/blot it and apply gloss.

Do you do all the tikdum which i do? Do let me know what you think.                                                                     

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

My hair wash recipe

Come summer  and i begin to hate those creamy shampoos which seem to do a good job in winters. To tell you the truth,I have a love hate relationship with shampoos !
I was introduced to shikakai and ritha as a fancy of my mom who had grown up washing her hair with rithas which fell from the tree in her backyard.
My sisters too tried it in early teens where it was mostly mom who made the liquid and gave us. However, i think i always had that DIY and herbal gene in me because i am still stuck to it while my sisters promptly abandoned it once my mom asked them to soak and mash the rithas for their use.Well, i suspect  they also abandoned it because it burns the eyes and makes them red for some time

Shampoos came in picture i think during my 12th std where i didn't have pre-planning time to soak the aritha, shikakai and amla in water the night before and then boil and mash them ,separate the liquid and then sit to wash my hair. While my mom shifted to Swastik Shikakai soap [all of us had been using that earlier for in hurry days] ,we shifted to Nyle, Ayur. For me using shampoos has always been about convenience , just open the bottle ,wash and go. After i started working i started using Ultra doux - i use to get those 400ml huge bottles. I remember Garnier was pretty expensive that time. I especially loved Olive shampoo of Ultra doux range. I think that's been the best shampoo i have used till date. And i think Garnier should bring back Ultra doux shampoos.
Once i finished my last bottle of Ultra Doux i  had to choose something else now......and since then its been a mess. The so called creamy and gentle ones make my hair oily in 2 days and itchy. I have tried the popular ones, the expensive ones and the not so expensive ones but its been the same -no dandruff but itchy scalp in 2 days. So , i have abandoned all of them in last 2 years and i use Biotique soap [ yes those Biotique soaps- and they are great for hair too] followed by  vinegar/lemon rinse in hurry and shikakai mix when i have time.

Here s my shikakai recipe:

I use whole shikakai, ritha and amla and powder of jatamansi, jaswand, maka and brahmi.I use these powders in random quantities depending on what i have at home at that time. I have used just ritha to wash my hair  when i had nothing else and that has been fine too. So, don't rush to the market and hoard all these powders !
You can either powder the whole herbs or buy the powder. mix them and keep in dry container which has a decent lid.Use dry spoons to remove the powders.

There is no rocket science to this. Oil your hair the night before [ this is not an hard and fast rule- i have this habit - the moment i don't oil my hair at least once in ten days prior to hair wash - i feel something is missing]

Soak whole rithas, shikakai and bits of amla- the amounts will depend on your hair length, the kind of aritha you are using. There are 2 varieties the big brown berries and the small black ones. You'll need less of the big ones and more of the small ones. i get my reetha from my baniya - they are really good large sized berries. I have tried reetha from many places and from gujarat too but i think the variety i found from my baniya i'll stick to that.And yeah, i bought 2 kilos which should last me atleast 3-4 years.

Many a times i just use reetha alone  about 2-3 and a tsp of methi seeds and pressure cook with 2 cups water.once it cools down mash and strain and repeat with a little more water.The methi gives gelatinous feel and on cooling thickens the reetha liquid too. This is quick and easy. And i also use this as body and face wash.

Remember, both shikakai and ritha clean so for every 3 ritha berries throw in 2-3 shikakai pods, 2-3 bits of amla for a single wash.Soak it in 1 cup water[ 200ml] approx.

Next morning, boil it away merrily till your patience lasts and then cool and mash ,strain pour it in a squirt bottle.There your shampoo is ready. If you are using other herbs / herb powders soak them too along with your soapnuts !
On dry hair, drizzle this liquid and rub your scalp gently. I usually prepare a thick concentrate, coat my scalp and keep for 15 mins while I go about doing my chores. All i do is rinse it out later.

I mostly prepare for 2 uses. if you prepare for 3-4 uses or more don't forget to add sodium benzoate [ 1/4 tsp should be ok for 1 litre of ritha-shikakai liquid]and keep it in the fridge.You could also freeze it in the freezer in the same bottle .I also dry the strained ritha and shikakai pieces and reuse them the next time the same way.

You won't need a conditioner - even with just reetha ! I strongly recommend using this because - no itchy scalp, hair dries up super fast, it helps with dandruff too. I have never had dandruff [ Touch wood !] because i keep using herbs in one way or another and i have been using shikakai and ritha pretty much my whole life.
I still use a shampoo on days when i simply have no time for anything. But its limited to 10-15 times a year and while travelling !  

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Blue collar vs white collar

I think poor and low middle class hate the middle class, the upper middle class and the rich.While they have reasons to hate them they do so only for money and good homes and things. I have never heard the domestic maids, or grunge workers or blue collar workers hating the rich and middle class for education ,culture[ saleeka], pramanik and suljah hua nature.Infact , i have come to to the conclusion that they don't care for it nor aspir for it. Earlier the blue collar workers may not have had money for mobiles but they have always eaten well [though may be with less oil and ghee] they usually had values, good work ethic and were mostly loyal and appreciative and aspired for better education.

Just yesterday i heard about domestic maid locked in while her employers were on vacation and she was thirteen. While the employers are to blame to keep her like that, the first thing that came to my mind was why did the 13 yr old's parents also not held responsible. Weren't they equally responsible ? Instead of school,why was she working ? People are quick to blame the well to do people for all this but the fact is there are always 2 sides of every coin.I have never seen maids daughters or sons interested in studies or even their parent's interested in sending them to school. They want quick money and the one maid we had produced more children for a boy whom she didn't even educate.

Out of all maids we had, all of them complained about their husbands' drinking. So they have money to drink and when employers don't feed them they raise hue and cry ! Why ? Why not fight your battles and start at from your home? I have worked for people and nobody has fed me free of cost as yet ! Yet, i have seen numerous households where they are fed everyday and then there is tea free of cost especially those who work full time.There is television to watch and then to sleep in the afternoons. Actually, i have a sneaking suspicion that maids make up this story of drinking no good husband to garner sympathy and off days with pay ! Of course, i don't empathize or encourage sob stories now.

During festivals they arm twist the employers to give not only new clothes and sweets but also bonus !Most people give happily and some grudgingly ! The last maid i had saw my mom bed ridden semi comatose, and all us in pain and worried yet she pestered me to give her money for Diwali and i was so angry that i refused her more for lack of sensitivity than anything else.She disappeared on diwali taking a chutti and the next day she told me unknowingly [ baaton - baaton mein] that she to went to work on that day for extra money ! so much for her pretence of diwali enjoyment  and instead of coming to work at my house she went somewhere else.

Gone are the days when been given old clothes was seen as an extra incentive..most maids scoff and we have stop giving them practically new clothes which don't fit us. I am seriously looking around for a used clothes flea market where i can sell off clothes which are in good condition but can't wear them since i have put on weight !

I have seen blue collar workers make money off the record.. case in point people who deliver gas cylinders at your home. They demand 10 bucks extra always from me,each and every time they deliver. People pay up because they don't want to take panga and not have their gas cylinders delivered.And i am not even counting the money they might be making in selling cylinders in black ! There is a whole syndicate which then creates artificial shortage ! We have a baksheesh culture and now corruption culture where the blue collar worker makes more money which is totally unaccounted for than the poor white collar sod who gets the salary with TDS ! and the blue collar worker doesn't have to spend on degrees ! I have worked at junior and middle levels and i have never made money on the side, never been paid diwali bonus or overtime ! i think corruption benefits only blue collar worker, government officials ,politicians and  huge business men !

For everyone there is quota and reservation system in government jobs ,in colleges and we have more and more castes fighting to get into reservation category.Nowadays, so many ngos and charitable organizations are dedicated to get free education to the poor but there has to be equal or more effort from the poor and low middle class too ! Instead, we find them running after latest gadgets and clothes for that they are ready to snatch gold chains and use whatever shortcuts they can use. For the lack of work ethic the blue collar workers cannot blame the okay doing folks. I have seen more middle class people and rich people work harder than i have seen blue collar worker.

The moment your driver does extra hours or maid does extra work they demand more money .I have not seen any white collar worker been paid more money to stay back and work late, or as they put it ' stretch themselves',work the week ends except perhaps in call centers [ there too they are paid in compensatory offs not money].And yet people scream and shout about how workers are treated badly ! White collar workers have no work life balance, can't take leaves when they need to ,have to and yet nobody is thinking about regularizing and restoring sanity to their jobs and lives.
And maids, shop boys ,drivers never come on time, lie and take uninformed leaves yet most rich and upper middle class people don't say anything to them for the fear of losing the helper ! Who is to say who tolerates more.

We have more gruesome murders plotted by helpers, maids and other staff in an average month than collective harassment of rich/middle class of the poor maids !The small robberies at homes go unreported because most people don't have evidences. Not everyone has CCTV cameras at home !

I have been always been treated by salespeople rudely ,mis-sold and generally looked down upon, not helped at malls.I have never been served in India cordially by blue collar workers or even adequately and i have kept my patience all the time.Rickshaw drivers always overcharge and they take special advantage once its after 10 pm[ though officially they are supposed to charge extra after midnight ], PMt bus drivers are dangerous and rude. I am tired of being taken for a ride, and treated rudely everywhere by the receptionist, bank clerks ,hospital staff ,government officials ,misinformed by carpenters, plumbers, electricians and tired of paying for poor jobs they do and they not coming on time to repair and then overcharge me too.

Whose going to change this scenario and professionalize these areas of work- or are we going to have to live with this and only have doctors,mbas and engineers by next century ?
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