I'm back

Life changes so much after a long break. Suddenly it is like I had to manage a new job, new house, new resposibilities and it took time to settle down with the new old things. I haven't been doing much apart from work, cook, gym and meeting friends. All the painting and sketching kit was packed away in the darkest and the least accessed drawer in the study, until last week. 
My parents visited me and my dad got me a 1980's news paper supplement which had a big frame of a heroine of those days, he wanted me to sketch her. I immediately started off the sketch and here it is.

When we left to Brussels a year ago, we had left our tulsi pot at one of our relatives house and after returning we got it back but during this shifting business the edges of the pot was damaged. recently mom fixed it with some left over white cement. I had some left over pot paints and redecorated the tulsi pot. This coming monday is Tulsi vivah and the pot is all decked up like a bride before the wedding. 

And why did I have some left over pot paints?
I had been to a handicraft exhibition in Malleshwaram 2 years ago and had liked a pair of painted clay dolls there. After having spent on lot of junk items at the exhibition I had very limited cash and with that I could not have bought these dolls no matter how well I bargained. But I had no intention of leaving these adorable dolls. So I bargained with the vendor to sell me the similar pair of dolls which was freshly made and was yet to be painted. He agreed easily and I hand painted them at home.


After having cribbed endlessly about the weather , expenses and language problems faced during my stay in Brussels , now all of a sudden there is a change in the outlook since I'm counting down the last few hours to take off.   Seeing everything with 'graduation goggles' has definitely erupted a blast of mixed emotions about this place.

Brussels's love for a clean and green environment and save biodiversity is a thing to remember. There was this bird counting activity on one weekend, initiated by Brussels municipal council. we are supposed to keep munchies for birds outside the window and keep a watch and count the types of birds that visit. The collective statistics on this will be the approximate birds in Brussels. Coming from a country whose population is 17 % of the total world population it was hard to accept the fact that some countries do invest in activities such as bird counting. I cannot imagine doing the count of crows or pigeons in India. Reckon sparrows would be easier due to its depleting count.

Every year beginning of spring, a pair of peregrine falcons visit Brussels and nest on a tower of the Brussels cathedral. There a webcam has been setup so that the locals can get a glimpse of this rare birds raising the chicks. From the time the falcons are first sighted you can watch online live and follow the number  of eggs laid that year, hatching, feeding until the final take off. There are screens put up at the base of the cathedral for visitors to see this event. If a dog is run over on the road, the bloody body will be  left untouched and by the end of the day, the remains would have be bulldozed along the road with no traces.  Sadly this happens in my native country.

Most of the museums here have free entry on the first wednesday of every month. On one winter wednesday afternoon, after a museum visit, I was strolling by the open area near the museum   and was on a photo clicking spree, just like the group of fairer narrrow eyed Asians. An old man with a grocery bag was crossing this area and I watched him as he went near the asian group and stopped over to tell  them something and then started walking towards me. In my head all I could think was " Gosh!!Am I not supposed to click photos here?",        "Will he give a piece of his mind now? ", " does he hate Asians for crowding his walk area ? ". He came over and pointed at the museum building and  said " Today museum is free. it is good. go now".  And just like that I started to like Belgians and Belgium museums.

In the second week after arriving here, I had gone grocery shopping and was totally confused with all the products since everything was in dutch and french.  I wanted to pick up chicken and I knew it was called 'poulet'. But when I looked in the freezer section , it was stacked with different types of poulet. 'Cuisse de poulet' , 'poulet kip' etc. There came an old couple, aged in 80s,  who picked up some sort of poulet from the same section. With no staff in sight, I decided to ask this old couple to help me out. I greeted them in english and asked if the pack I had picked up  was actually of chicken leg pieces. Unfortunately they did not speak english and they stared blank into my face. I realized that and thanked them anyway and started searching for the staff. The old couple wanted to help me anyway and they  came over to me and tried to say that it was chicken. I knew it was chicken but was not sure as to which part of chicken and I could not tell them that anyway . seeing my confusion the old lady  handed over the basket she was carrying to the old man, bent her frail knees , flapped her outstretched arms while making the noise "Caca Cacaawww Cacaaawwww...." made a quick walk hither tither.  And I could not help but admire them. I was so overwhelmed by their gesture I smiled and nodded to show that I understood and thanked them profusely.  A lovely charade it was.

All the weather cribs are long forgotten and I surely have lots of good memories of my stay in Belgium and the travel trips to the nearby countries. 'Loss of pay' comes to an end as I write this and am so eager to get back to my home , work , friends, coconut based gravies, mangoes , jackfruits........  .. ... ..... 

Fashion illustrations

SilverRidgeStudio on etsy is one of my favourite shops. Love the way Cate has dabbled with water colours to depict fashion and I too tried my hand at some of them and it is definitely going to be hung on my wall at home.
Indian Bride

Ellen Von Unwerth is Cate Parr's favourite photographer and when I saw some of the photographs and  I too was enthused to make some quick sketches. 

More watercolour

Even after having cribbed a lot about Belgium and its language problems I still can't get enough. Our friend's daughter is a year old and they wanted to start teaching English alphabets to her. After carefully searching the english book store here found a chart of alphabets but all the 'is for' were weird unknown reference and definitely not the ones what we studied in India.  It was not  B is for Beer and C is for chocolate, since Belgium is famous for it, but surely not something that was easy for Indians. 
So I decided to make one for the little one, myself.  I had some A4 sheets and painted them with watercolour and coloured pencils.All I have to do now is to  stitch and hand bind it to make a handmade alphabet learning book. 
water colour on A4 plain sheet was a baaaaad idea and the paper crumpled. Let's see how long this lasts in her hands..:)

our garden backyard  


Puranpoli / Holige / Stuffed sweet bread

VR recently mentioned that I would be returning to India as a better cook. And to think of it, yes, I have tried so many new recipes and I know what I'm good at and definitely know what VR likes. I recently got the craving to have some hot puran polis and immediately called up mom for recipe. Initially when I started to cook whenever I asked her for recipe I specifically ask for the detailed step as I would find a very simple seasoning very complicated. So even till date she explains me the same way but I hurry her up by completing her sentences and she gets angry ..."I will not tell you, you go search on your internet" ... ! And so I listen to her as she tells me the exact measurement, temperature,  colour changes, textures etc. And all I do is listen attentively. You can do multitasking and mom can do multitasking but when mom is telling  you something then you cannot to do multitasking. 

So here is the recipe: 

For the outer dough
all purpose flour /Maida :  1/2 cup
Wheat flour : 1/4 cup
Cream of wheat : 1/4 cup 
Oil: 3/4 cup
turmeric - 1 tea spoon
salt - 1/2 tea spoon
Sugar - 1 table spoon
water - 2/3 cup+

For the filling  
Chana dal / split chickpeas  -2/3 Cup
Toor dal   / Split yellow lentils -1/3 cup 
Sugar - 1.5 cups  
cardamom powder - 1/2 tea spoon

Procedure :
Cook the pulses together in a pressure cooker.

Dissolve salt, sugar and turmeric in water . 
Wheat flour is optional and the quantity can be replaced by more of all purpose flour. Knead into a soft ball same like  that of chapathi. Add 1/4 oil and again knead again for another 5 minutes. add the rest of oil on top and let it sit for half an hour.

Drain the water from the pulses and save the stock for making tomato rasam. Add sugar to the dry mixture in a heavy bottomed pan and heat it on low flame until all the moisture evaporates and the whole thing comes together like a sticky mass. The stuff actually loosens itself from the sides  and this is the indication to take it off heat. Add cardamom powder and mix well.

At this stage mom generally grinds the stuffing(without adding water) to get an even mixture. These days she uses the murukku press mold rather than the mixer to blend the stuffing. 

Make medium sized round balls of the stuffing and keep aside. apply oil on your palms and pinch out the outer dough, half the size of  the stuffing. Flatten it lightly and then place the stuffing inside and pull the sides all around it towards the centre. Press down slightly and then roll it flat with a rolling pin. Apply wheat flour/ maida while flattening. 

Transfer the rolled poli on to a hot griddle. once it gets golden brown spots then flip it. each side will not take more than 3 minutes. This should be dry roasted. 
A dollop of ghee on hot poli.!!! ahaaaa

Work area 

Roasting the poli

Serve Ubatti with ghee / sweet milk
1. You could add fresh grated coconut to the stuffing for a softer texture. add it while heating the cooked pulses. 
2. Toor dal is optional and can be replaced by chana dal. but toor dal makes the poli softer. 
3. The insides of the chana dal should be cooked well.  Mine did not cook very well and so the inner most part of the chana dal was still a bit hard. and since I do not have a mold or a mixer,  after heating the stuffing, I tried to mash it with a spoon. So I pressed it anyway and it cracked out of the outer covering in some places. 
4. The griddle should be medium hot. 

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