Category Archives: Flow

Don’t Get Caught In A Pickle

Caught in a pickle

Every family has their secrets. Some are the pink elephants of traumas, tragedies or other unspeakable tales. Some are the revered ones, such as traditional knowledge or crafts, that are guarded like the family jewels, passed carefully from one generation to the next. In the rich depository of such ancestral inheritance, what I considered exceptionally valuable, was a recipe for mango pickle.

Sounds innocuous, but if you had ever tasted this delicious sun-dried, spicy mango delight at my grandmother’s, you would understand. It seemed unlikely that any other preparation could ever match that taste.  After her demise, my uncle took over. As he got older, the preparation became my sister’s responsibility. An essential requirement is the stark, dry heat of Nagpur or Nasik. In my mind, this is how I rationalized the difference in taste from the other Maharashtrian pickles available in Mumbai. That and of course, the exceptional ‘family recipe‘. To me it was as precious as the traditional medicine for jaundice that is passed on in a cousin’s family. Or as notable as the anecdotes about another ancestor’s medical prowess. It was unique, and our own special inheritance.

A couple of years ago, I happened to be in Hyderabad for some work. Our hosts were kind enough to take us out for a sampling of the local thali meal.  I cannot describe my shock at finding ‘my’ pickle in my plate.  I was even more stunned to discover that this was the popular Aavakaya pickle.  Every Andhra household prepares this and my friends were confused and surprised at my excited reaction.  A couple of them offered to bring me homemade bottles, as most of them had it at their homes.  I was humbled and delighted, all at the same time.  I now had easy and limitless access to this delicacy.

But the irony was not lost on me. Despite having a liking for spicy food and having sampled many pickles, I had not ‘discovered’ that what the younger family had assumed ownership over was actually a given in a far larger collective. The rich variety and diversity of food and culture in India does make familiarity with all foods near impossible to the lay person.  (I have no idea how a South Indian recipe became a staple part of my centrally located grandmother’s recipes.)

But how easily we become proud and possessive of something that actually belongs to the whole world.
Just because of our ignorance.  Because of our limited knowledge and experience.

When one applies this across other subjects, the gravity of the repercussion is self evident and significant.  We debate over ideas and beliefs, one region against another, one religion against another, one nation against another.  Vociferously, righteously clinging to our claim over what are often universal truths and planetary gifts that we mistakenly believe we own exclusively.  Only because we view them from some historical, blinkered perspective, often relying on mythical memories to back our version of things. Makes me wonder, how much of the rigidity and conflict would dissolve – if we began to respect how much we all have in common and that  we have simply failed to see – nothing is ours alone.

The same also applies to what we consider our unique failings and challenges. In Marathi, we have a saying, “Gharo Ghari matichya chuli“.  What it implies is that every household that you visit, essentially faces the same challenges.

In a conversation about plagiarism,  I heard that some people deliberately do not attribute credit to the original source whose quotes or teaching they share.  Because if they have subsequently lived it,  they feel that they can now ‘own’ it.

Perhaps eventually, we will come to realize that all roads lead home and far enough down these roads – all paths are one.

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Too Much Of A Good Thing + Recipe Apple Crumble

With all the emphasis on optimism, manifestation, happiness and positivity, we tend to focus our attention and desires on all that we deem to be ‘good’.  However, is it possible that there is something like too much of a good thing?

As a young child, my nephew was exceedingly fond of Gulab Jamuns.  On one occasion, he declared that he would skip the entire meal and eat only the dessert.  His insistence was indulged, because no one really expected him to eat as many as he did.  At the end of the meal, his relationship with his favorite dessert was forever transformed.  He did not eat another Gulab Jamun for the next ten years or so.

Food offers us a great lesson in diversity, balance and wholesomeness.  The success of any meal lies in finding the right blend of various flavors such that we enjoy a rounded, rich and savory experience.  If you happen to like spicy food, try adding too much chilly and you will soon see how a potentially wonderful dish quickly turns into a disaster.  Or add too much sugar to your dessert and you will find it makes you feel sick.

Yet, we often fail to apply this mindful balance to the happenings of life.  What if we recognized that it is the contrasts in our experience that lend such a rich texture and depth to our life?  That our habitual labeling of events as good or bad, and the consequent desire and rejection of the same lead to a never ending sense of insecurity, imbalance and incompletion?

What would it be like to welcome all of life, in it’s various colors and hues, without insisting on just one color, or disowning particular shades?

As I look back at this eventful year, I am sincerely grateful for all that it has brought.  For me, it has been a landmark  year in personal growth and evolution.  And no growth has ever come without it’s growing pains.  However, it has revealed within me a greater love and peace.  The ‘Sparkling Stillness‘ as I like to call it, seems deeper than ever before. So I am grateful.  For all that has happened, and for all the souls who made it what it was.

This Apple Crumble is rather representative of the wholesome balance I feel right now.  Richly textured, nourishing and nutritious, with just the right amount of tart, spice, sweetness, comfort and fulfilling satiation that comes from having fully lived all shades of life 🙂

Wishing you all a de-lightful New Year of enriching experiences!

Apple Crumble

Ingredients

3 Large Apples, cored, peeled and cut into small chunks
Little Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Cinnamon powder
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/3 rd cup Raisins, soaked in water and then dried

2 cups Swiss Muesli
80-100 grams melted (salted) butter
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar

Method

Toss the apple chunks in the sugar, lemon juice and spices.  Flatten into a buttered pie dish.  Sprinkle raisins over this layer.  Mix the Muesli, melted butter and brown sugar until it looks like bread crumbs.  Flatten this layer on top of the apples and raisins.

Bake in a preheated 180 C oven for about 25 minutes.

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Lessons from Collaborative Cooking + Recipe Veg Stew and Homemade Bread

What’s even more fun than friends bringing home-cooked delicacies over for a pot luck?  When done in the right spirit… cooking together!

Perhaps Diwali is the one time that we still gather together in large numbers and find ourselves cooking together with friends and family.  Nuclear households have lessened our ability to adapt and co-operate, with each one having developed their own style and tastes.  There is a saying in Marathi that roughly translates to mean that “Pots and pans are bound to clash noisily in the kitchen”.  This implies that sharing a household/work space is bound to lead to some disagreements.   However, when we are more conscious of our stubbornness, limitations and insecurities that lead to such clashes, we can be mindful. We can choose to focus on individual strengths and see how they can be combined in a complementary and synergistic manner.

Hence, here lies a beautiful opportunity to rise above all differences, co-operate and co-create.  I have learned extensively about relationships and working together from my co-facilitation experience and shared that here.  As I wrote in ‘A Stich in Time‘, “If we can open our mind to the possibilities of seeing things differently, we allow new magic to emerge.  Respecting our own identity, as well as that of the others – we can create new artistry together.

This is what my multi-talented friend Mitalee Joshi and I prepared together last week.  Because there is such ease and mutual respect, we work well together.  Sometimes we prepare individual dishes, sometimes one does all the preparatory work and at other times the idea is developed together.  The point being, there are no fixed rules or roles. I think that the flexibility and the loving interest that we take together in preparing the meal, makes all the difference.  

Here is what we made:

Ingredients

2 Large Potatoes
2 Medium Red Onions
1/2 Broccoli
8 button mushrooms
12 Baby Corn pieces
1 Carrot
1 Tomato
1/2 cup shelled Peas
1 Red Bell Pepper
12  cloves Garlic
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 pats butter
Salt to taste
Parsley

Method:

  1. Chop all vegetables into large chunks, including the onions
  2. Heat oil and butter in large vessel.  Add garlic and onions, cook on slow fire without browning.
  3. Add Potatoes and cover with hot water.  When semi cooked, add carrots.  After that broccoli and then the other vegetables.  Add salt to taste. Keep adding enough hot water to keep it all covered.  All the vegetables should be cooked, but still firm.
  4. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and paprika if you like.

(This stew has a thin consistency.  For those who prefer it thicker, use vegetable stock instead of hot water.  Ready pasta sauce is another option.)

Fresh Walnut – Sesame Bread

Ingredients

4 cups Whole Wheat Flour (Atta)
Salt
Olive Oil
1 packet active dry yeast
Little sugar
3/4th cup Warm water

Method

  1. Add a little sugar and warm water to the yeast and leave covered for about 10 minutes.
  2. Knead the flour with salt, oil and the dissolved yeast, adding water if required.
  3. Add chopped walnuts and pound the dough well.
  4. Cover with damp cloth and leave for about 25 minutes.
  5. Place in a buttered tray.
  6. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 F or in a microwave with a grill setting at 450 W for about 25 minutes.

Soak the bread in the stew and enjoy the aromatic, simple and healthy meal!

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Adapting to the flow + Recipe Spinach Mushrooms

You can never step into the same river twice…

A fundamental error we often make is in trying to recreate a peak experience.  Everything keeps changing and it is impossible to relive the exact same emotions again.

When you follow precise cooking instructions to the T, it may seem like the outcome is consistent.  That is what chefs and restaurants rely upon.  However, your interpretation and experience will never be the same, albeit you may notice only the grosser differences.

A lesson learned from attempting to recreate the stuffed mushrooms I had prepared some weeks back.  They had been rich and satisfyingly filling.  But this time, I scooped out the stem, dabbed them lightly with oil and put them in for partial grilling… and promptly forgot about it! I was distracted and by the time I went back, the mushrooms had shrivelled in size.

My first reaction was dismay.  In comparison to what I had been looking forward to, this looked liked a perfectly wasted opportunity.  For a minute I considered tossing them away.  But my innate persistence and resilience showed up.  I thought of putting them into a curry, but that would not do it justice.

What else was possible?  I looked again.  A touch of melted cheese would do nicely.  And the spinach stuffing I had planned could be changed into an interesting base.  It actually didn’t take too much time or effort to implement the new recipe, once I had accepted the change.  I knew the dish would be a reduced portion now.  So concurrently I prepared a small serving of macaroni in béchamel sauce.

Voila!  Instead of the original stuffed mushrooms, we now had macaroni and a side dish – attractive, tasty, filling and completely new!

Who says unexpected change can’t be for the better?

Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach

Ingredients

8 Portabella Mushrooms (stems removed and scooped)
Touch of Olive Oil
Sprinkling of Cheddar/Mozzarella grated Cheese

½  large bunch of Spinach leaves
10 cloves Garlic
1 medium Red Onion
2 Red chillies
Olive Oil

Soya Sauce (to taste)
Salt
Method:

1. Dab oil on scooped mushrooms and top grill with scooped side down for a couple of minutes only!
2. Turn them around, sprinkle a little cheese and grill again for a minute or two, just until the cheese melts.
3. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan,  add red chillies (whole), then garlic, onion and spinach, all finely chopped. Stir around until cooked, don’t add any water.  Sprinkle the soya sauce and salt, mix.
4. Serve as a bed of spinach mixture with mushrooms on top.

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Hoarding v/s Flowing + Recipe for Veg Fried Rice

Should we keep holding on to yesterday’s meals?

In my childhood, my uncle repeatedly told me that it is important to have food ready because the Goddess Laxmi may arrive unannounced, in the form of an unexpected guest. Food must be on offer!  While it made sense to be hospitable, it seemed a shame to let food turn stale.  Perhaps relevant in older times, but today, it is rare for a guest to turn up unannounced!

This really brings up the question of whether it is prudent to hoard up for unforeseen events(a thought rooted in scarcity thinking) or to allow flow. Starting from giving away books, I now consistently review and minimize my own possessions. Life has rewarded my growing trust and I have seen that what you need, will reach you just in time.

However, letting go of even our excess items is considered difficult.  It is not unusual to see people’s fridges overflowing with leftovers that are saved up for later use, but finally goes waste.  With experience, I know that clearing out unnecessary stuff clears our energies and lifts our spirits.  Try cleaning out your fridge/larder  and you will see what I mean!

So instead of holding on to leftovers, I either reinvent them, or give them away, preferably within the day.

I retain small quantities of raw vegetables, fruit, nuts, etc. as well as different sauces, pestos, masalas, etc.  This way, different combinations can be quickly prepared if so required.  Any cooked vegetables/sprouts go into toasted sandwiches, Rotis  into convenient wraps and cooked rice lends itself to endless combinations the next day.  Or it is shared with someone else.

In the spirit of keeping my fridge clean, energies flowing and transforming potential waste into something delicious, here’s what I did with yesterday’s leftover rice:

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup cooked rice
1 Cucumber
8-10 French Beans
8 spring onions (without greens in this case)
2 Portabella Mushrooms
1 Tomato
1 Red Bell Pepper
2 Green Chillies
6 cloves garlic
3/4th teaspoon sugar

Soya Sauce
Vinegar
Salt
(last 3 to taste)
Drizzle of cooking oil

Method:

  1. Slice everything long and thin.
  2. Heat a large wok or kadhai adding a drizzle of oil
  3. Add in the following order:  Garlic, Chillies, Spring Onion, Salt, Soya Sauce, Sugar and Vinegar, French Beans, Bell Pepper, Mushrooms, Cucumber.  Keep stirring as you add them one by one, with a longer pause after the french beans.
  4. Add the Rice quickly after the cucumber and toss around.
  5. Add the tomatoes. Stir a bit and remove from heat.

Done!  You can substitute the vegetables with almost any other ones you happen to have.

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