Saturday, 28 August, 2010

Love these colours....

Was making a salad for dinner few weeks back when I noticed how pretty the spinach and tomatoes looked next to each other.

Thursday, 26 August, 2010

Caramel Pudding....

I have grown up eating this pudding. My mother makes this  often. She has learnt it from my pipi (eldest aunt) who had learnt it from her mother-in-law. So this recipe has been going around in the family for quiet some years. Many years ago I had helped pipi making it once. But I never tried making it on my own before this. In my new avatar as a cook tried it out and it came out perfectly!
Eating this took me back to my childhood and right  into my mother and pipi's kitchen.

Blenheim Palace

Last month we went on a day trip to Blenheim Palace which is situated in the historic town of Woodstock, 8 miles from Oxford. If you want to know more about the palace click here

Set in 2100 acres of beautiful parkland landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown, the magnificent Palace is surrounded by sweeping lawns, formal gardens and a lake. They do not allow photography inside the palace. Some photographs from the trip.

Blenheim Palace  was created to celebrate victory over the French during the Wars of the Spanish Succession. In particular it was a gift to the First Duke of Marlborough. He was the military commander who skilfully led the Allied forces into battle on 13th August 1704 at Blindheim (Blenheim). After the Battle Marlborough personally received the surrender of Marshall Talland, leader of the French forces.

The Duke also ensured that the Palace became a monument to Queen Anne. It was the Queen and a grateful nation who granted to the Marlboroughs, the Manor of Woodstock and the promise of the funds needed to build such a house.
The gardens

The cascade....

The Grand Bridge
The Column of Victory far away
Miniature Winston Churchill locomotive train which takes visitors from the Palace to the Pleasure Gardens 
Check out the name of the engine
I loved these toy houses...
Marlborough  Maze which is said to be the world's second largest hedge maze
Now for some food, we ate in the cafe. 
And a slice of walnut cake
It was a lovely visit and we enjoyed the day throughly. The best thing is if you buy the ticket, they convert your day ticket to an annual one.  I am definitely planning to revisit soon.

Sunday, 22 August, 2010

Chaal er payash

I had a lot of milk at home which neither of us had any intention of drinking. I hate milk and my husband has his once in a while with cereals. So with that much milk to spare it was time to use it for some dessert.

 I made chal er payesh in Bengali style which in Hindi you call kheer but without the coconut bits and the closest in English would be rice pudding. For Bengalis this is a very auspicious sweet dish. Traditionally it is a must for birthdays. You can say it plays the role of a cake in our culture. So a house celebrating a birthday will at the very least have this payesh. This is also part of the aiburobhaat or the last bachelor meal of both the bride and the groom and many other occasions. This competes with the misti doi in importance!

This was the first time I made this so a call to my mother to note down the recipe. Below is my mother's simple recipe.

First you need to boil and reduce two litres of milk to about one. You have to continuously stir otherwise the milk may come to a boil and fall off the pan. Add three/four crushed choti elaichi/cardamom into the milk, this will give out a nice smell. Separately soak half a cup or four/five table spoons of rice in water for half an hour. Wash the rice throughly and when the milk is thick add the rice while stirring continuously. The rice will take about 10 to 15 minutes to cook. Once the rice cooks add three/four table spoons of sugar, if you want to make it rich you can also add half a tin of condensed milk. Voila your payesh is ready.

Pour it in a serving dish and sprinkle some raisins and nuts. I sprinkled slivers of almond, my mother usually gives broken cashew nuts. You can either serve it hot or cool it before serving. I love it both hot and cold.

Tip: Sugar/condensed milk has to be added at the very end otherwise the rice will not cook. Also add the sugar according to your taste. If you are adding condensed milk, then you may not want to add a lot of sugar. Unlike salt taste of sugar fades when it cools down so if your payesh does not taste sweet keep adding sugar.

Banger & mash....

Lovely are the evenings when I come home to a hot dinner made by husband dear. We both love sausages and have been trying to get the gravy right. My husband followed a Jamie Oliver recipe and made lovely gravy. The sausages are also Jamie Oliver. These were the Cumberland sausages, though these were good, we enjoyed the stuffed Italian sausages more which we tried last month. It had more herbs and spices to suit our Indian taste buds.


Ever since we moved to the UK, I have been eying the lavender bunches in flower shops wanting to buy them. But I did not know how to preserve them hence was hesitating.

I told this to my manager J, who it turned out has more lavender in her garden that she knows what to do with. So she promised to get me some. She told me to shake the lavenders from the stems and to put them in small bags which then can be kept with clothes. So this is what I did with the lavender bunch. After stuffing four bags, I still had some lavender left, so made two small pot pourris for our two rooms. The one in the sitting room does not smell much, but the one in the bed room smells heavenly and yesterday during my bed time read I could smell the lavender. It felt really nice.

Punting in Oxford....Three Men in a Boat style....:)

Yesterday we went punting in River Cherwell in true Oxford style. If you want to know more about punting check here.
We have been planning to do this for a long time, but somehow plans kept getting cancelled. So finally yesterday we decided before course ended and everyone dispersed, it was time to go punting. Our friend C booked a slot in his college. We walked to Merton College sports ground in St Cross Road and there were 5/6 punts floating lazily in the water. First we had a tough time trying to unlock our punt. Some idiot had changed the locks. Finally punt unlocked and time to float.
So what happens when three people with no experience of sailing whatsoever and one person with partial experience try to punt? Well the result is hilarious at the best and scary at the worst. It quickly became a gendered activity with the men taking charge, while we women S and me clung on for dear life and screamed our heads off. The first fifteen minutes C and ID mastered the punt, doing crazy 360 degree rounds, hitting the banks and going off into the shrubs and similar such activity. Thank God Merton College had the foresight to park their punts in a deserted stretch of Cherwell, far away from the madding crowds and leering tourists. So we i.e. these two men lumbered on in relative privacy, encouraged on by us women in none so polite manner.
Tip of the punts floating lazily in the water. The idea is that you are supposed to drink cider while punting and many a cheap drink which the students can lay their hands on....after getting drunk a lot of accidents happen. One of the most common one is to keep clinging to the pole while the punt floats away. C and ID were looking for cider but thankfully found none Merton Bar being closed. So we went punting stone sober.
The initial learning and experiments!
Into the shrubs we go....merry ho!
C, the man with the partial experience, who saved the day, and again and yet again and some more times and every time he mentioned it!!!
ID turned out to be surprisingly steady with the pole!
Us ladies enjoying the ride! Good work men....
Slowly we went towards the University Parks....but the problem was that there were people around!
We had a rendezvous on the banks of the University Park, our friend A was supposed to join us there....C alights and acts as the traffic police no water police.....
 The world was peacefully floating by, ducks, other punters...when others punt it seems so easy and effortless....
A joins...that red bit is the tip of our punt as we moor on the banks of University Park....
A joins us in the boat....oppps that must have hurt!
Off we go again and promptly got tangled with some shrubs.....
Can a boatfull of people get scared of a swan? Yes we did cos this swan thought we had bread, which we did not and he kept coming towards us and since we knew how badly swans can bite.....we were on the verge of toppling into the water in our effort to shoo away the swan....
S takes up paddling....
While she was busy posing for picture...the punt decided to glide into yet another shrub....this one had thorns and A sailed right into them.....
Be careful of your head....
C posing before ducking to enter the bridge....
Woke A up with some cold water from the river! He was admiring two lovely girls on the bridge and dreaming away!
View on the bank....
Safely towards mooring....just one more hanging branch to dodge....and we reached safely without capsizing or falling into the river. What an achievement! 
End the evening with a nice glass of Pimms at the University Club and some coffee for S and A....
We had a great time, some tired muscles, and we sure made our audience laugh. In case you are wondering about my contribution, to be fair to self I did try paddling but either I was doing it too hard and kept moving the boat or not doing it at all. So I gave up and instead concentrated on documenting the experience for posterity's sake!

Some sights of London....

Last week we went to London. After living in the UK for the last ten months and transiting through Heathrow since 2005, finally went into the city.

 The day was full of adventures. First both me and my husband, we thought our train ticket was for 11 a.m. from Oxford. At 10.19 my husband discovered that it was actually for 10.31 a.m. The railway station is just next door to our house but we have to take the long route which takes about 15 minutes. At that point my husband wanted to go online and check why the ticket was earlier. I decided to make a run for it. Thankfully we were both ready and so out we dashed. During our half run/half walk we saw the train coming to the platform, people getting up....we entered the station 2 minutes to spare and somehow pushed our way through. The ticket checker waved us in and urged us to make 'a go for it'. The signal sounded. Thankfully the train was in platform number one. Rather than risking finding our compartment, we got up on the first compartment . It was as if the train was waiting for us to get up, it started immediately afterwards. What a relief it was to have caught the train!

Alighting in Paddington Station after an hour I was back in the hustle and bustle of a huge city after 10 months. I realized that in these ten months I have got used to the easy pace of Oxford, its meadows and parks and suddenly in the middle of a busy railway station I felt completely lost and non-pulsed. I was clinging onto my husband's hands for dear life. No longer will I look down upon the gaiya/dehati (rural) women who clutch their husband's arms while walking in Kolkata or Delhi.

Moving onto London's underground my feeling of being lost continued.After being pushed and then our queue broken, suddenly my latent aggressive competitive urban self woke up and I squared my shoulders and decided to fight for my rights and be firm about my place in the queue.  While standing in the queue heard a cacophony of different sounds, people talking in multitude of languages. It felt like I have landed up in the different world and it is really unbelievable that the distance between the two worlds is just an hour.

It was a cloudy day with little spattering of rains on and off and pretty windy. A good day to walk around, except for the rains.

Our first stop was the Buckingham Palace. Did not go inside, for that day our plan was to walk in London. Some of the photographs from our walking tour.

The Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace in the background. This somehow reminded me of Victoria Memorial back home in Kolkata. Both were built to show off the greatness of the same queen. Also the road (the Mall) looked completely like our Red Road/ Pranabananda Sarani. In fact British had built the Kolkata one in model of the London one. It was a deja vu moment when the two cities coincided and turned into one in my mind. We sat on the steps for a long time discussing the history of our nation. Finally decided to move on and let go of history.
The Horse Gaurd, Whitehall.
Big Ben
Cruising on River Thames
On the Queen's Walkway.
I know there are not enough photographs. I was too engrossed to take photos. These were just a few that I did remember to take.