Tuesday, September 15, 2015


To serve :16.
Time taken:
For the tamarind sauce: 75 minutes, the garnish:10 minutes, the rice:30 minutes and to put everything together about 30 minutes depending on the quantity being made.

You will need:

For the tamarind reduction:
½ kilo tamarind.
2 litres water
2 tablespoons  Red Chilly powder
2 tablespoons salt
10 dried red chillies
1 teaspoon asafoetida/hing
½  cup sesame oil
1 tsp turmeric powder

For making the tamarind rice/puliyodare:
5 cups raw (uncooked rice)
10 cups water
¼ kilo dry roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons chana dal
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
3 tablespoons sesame oil
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp hing/asafoetida
5 grams curry leaves
Salt to taste

For the garnish:
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
4 dried red chillies
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

The tamarind reduction:
1.       Soak the tamarind in two glasses of water for about 5 minutes or till the tamarind becomes soft and mushy.
2.       Crush the tamarind with your fingers and squeeze out the juice. Add water and extract tamarind juice in this manner till you have a thick and pulpy water. You would have used the rest of the two litres of water in this process. Keep aside.
3.       Heat the oil in a large kadai/wok.  Add the mustard seeds. When they start to splutter, add the red chillies after removing their stem. Reduce flame. Now gently add the tamarind water, turmeric powder, chilli powder, hing and salt.
4.       Boil this liquid till it reduces to about a fifth of its original quantity. The oil will surface to the reduction and form a thick layer. This signals that the sauce is done.  This process will take about 45 minutes to an hour.
5.       Cool. Store in a glass vessel with a lid.

Note 1: The shelf life of this reduction/sauce is about two weeks if stored in a refrigerator.  In the freezer it can last longer. It is important to use a dry spoon to scoop the paste from its container. It is also important to ensure that no water droplets fall in it. This will cause fungal growth.

The Garnish:

1.       Heat kadai. Dry roast the coriander seeds, chilly pods and fenugreek seeds till they brown.
2.       Cool. Dry grind to a coarse powder.
3.       Store in an airtight container.

Note 2:  This powder has a long shelf life of a month  or can remain good for six months in a freezer. The powder can be used to garnish vegetables and sundals too.

The Puliyodare:

Retrieve the tamarind sauce and garnish which is in storage in the fridge.

1.       Wash the rice add the ten cups of water and either pressure cook it or cook it in an electric rice cooker. You may need a cup or two of water more, depending on whether you like your rice to be cooked softer.
2.       On a large plate, spread the rice so the grains remain separate. Cool.
3.       Heat oil in a kadai. Add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the red chillies, sauté for 10 seconds, add the chana dal, sauté till the dal turns golden brown, add the curry leaves, peanuts, hing, turmeric powder and chilli powder. Turn off flame.
4.       Tip the mixture in the kadai on the rice and  steadily work the oil dal and peanuts  mixture into the  rice taking care not to mash the rice.
5.       Add half the tamarind sauce to the rice.  Use a flat spatula to steadily work the paste into the rice.
6.       Add a tablespoon of the garnish on top of the rice and work this in also.
7.       Taste for balance. Add more of the tamarind sauce if you feel the need for a bit more of tartness.
8.       Add more of the garnish and salt to taste.
9.       Puliyodare is ready.
10.   Serve with fried vathals/vadams/fryuums/potato chips.

Note3: Puliyodare grows tastier as it a stands for a while.  This is the reason why it has been made in South India, traditionally, for picnics and long haul journeys. However, like all rice items, this too can spoil. If it is left over, of course!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The gym Diaries-1.

Come September 7th,  I’d have completed  5 months at the gym. That is something, I assure you. 
Okay, here is the story if you’d like to know my story.  I got plump when I visited my uncle soon after I finished college more than 30 years ago. Uncle and his wife were very anxious to  feed my sister and me with all kinds of lovely food.  I will never forget the Lassi that uncle personally made.  That and loads of lovely lovely food, such as the deep fired auberigines, those deep fried spicy berhempur appalams and many such mouth watering delicacies. I guess I would have put on something like 3 kilos in that single month that we stayed there. Now, although I did participate in a lot of games and sports in school and for a while I played cricket for my college cricket team,  I didn’t really continue with sports and games.  I was the book worm of the family. No singing, dancing and sports for me.  It was all books, books and more books and newspapers,too.  In those days, there was not much awareness about walking for health and all.  So here I was, already at a period in my life where physical activity reduces, eating rises or stays the same and the end result is putting on a few kilos every now and then till suddenly, from a 48 kilo I am  'suddenly' 52, 55 and 58. The worst part of the whole thing is that I didn't even realise it.  From being thin, to becoming slightly plump was highly welcomed in those days. People liked girls to be nice and curvy and rounded, and I guess I was that. Or became that.  All my upsetness and heartburn that nobody-ever-told-me is really all in retrospect.  Then came marriage. We were told there will be hormonal changes, and marriage will cause you to put on weight. I swallowed that whole. Believed that was the reason why the weight was creeping on. But wait; I wasn’t worried about that remember? Then came the children. Another phase in life when a woman will put on weight. And so I did. Grew to 67 kilos full term and was thrilled to come down to 62 soon after childbirth.  That 62 became 69 with the second child, to come down again to 62.  It was around this time that I consciously became conscious of the fact that there was a lot of fat on me. And I remember walking maniacally in the garden of my house in Guwahati and losing so much weight as to come down to a nice 56 kilos.  Well. We are living and growing things, how did I ever think that I can take the body to a certain weight and leave it there and it will take care of itself and keep itself at that level without my having to work at it? And thus began a life of yo-yo dieting and obsessing about eating-food-exercising.  God! I am so filled with mortification at my stupidity! Here I am more than averagely intelligent, well read, with access to any and every kind of information I would have needed to maintain  good health, fitness and appear good too... and all I ever did was think about it and eat. Too bad.

How do they do it, these thin people, I have often asked myself. They eat all they like and look at them, not an ounce of extra fat on them.  All I have to do is look at food and I bloat like a balloon filled with air.  I could go on and on like this. There is no end to this kind of self flagellation.
I am a working woman and have always had an office of my own. From small cubicles to really large ‘chambers’.  During the lunch hour I would go out to walk for a few minutes, and in the city where it got progressively polluted, I stopped going out and started walking inside my office room.  Well, obviously the walk would neither be fast nor as good as it could have been out in the open on the road or in a park, but it certainly kept me moving , and made sure I did not sit all the time.  That went well for a time and I managed to stay at 62.

Then came the Trichy posting. So stressful, so hard, that all I could do at the end of the day was fall asleep.  My blood pressure started touching 130/80. The doctors told me its okay, that is consistent with age. My triglyceride levels went up.  The doctors prescribed statins. Six months of statins, one night I got up with such a severe leg pain, that the next morning I told the doc, this is it, I am stopping statins and will take life as it comes. This is a bit extreme, I admit, but I felt that I'd rather die of a heart attack than live a life where I am unable to walk. For, walking is an activity which though I was not doing temporarily, I was sure would take me back to my good health. My knees were starting to pain. Like I was having arthritis or something.  I went for a bone density test, and came out with flying colours   Another doctor told me to take metformin, even though I had no diabetes as a preventive measure. Preventing what I don’t know, but I didn’t take that. The job had taken a toll on me and I just hoped that I was in a position to reverse the effects. 

Transferred to Chennai, with a job of high responsibility but far less stressful, I just suddenly decided that I would go to the nearest gym to do some weight training during the lunch hour and walk in the beach every evening for half an hour. This would make me thinner and would maybe help the knee pain, which after stopping the statins had reduced considerably, but still existed.  Watching what I am eating would complete the plan.  Sounded good to me and I ran it by my husband and my son. The latter put his foot down to the gym I had selected.  He insisted that I went to his gym, a high end one, which I thought was for sportspeople and not ordinary women like me.  My son told me this. “Amma,”he said, “you have worked more on your weight loss than I have on my Cricket, why don’t you just stop thinking for some time, give this six months time and then, if things don’t work out, then we’ll see.” Well of course it was a manner of speaking, for, I cannot think of another person who has worked so hard and so earnestly as he has at his chosen profession.  Be that as it may, what he said made sense to me. The cost of the gym bothered me a little, but he said he would take care of it. My husband has a knack of putting things in perspective for me.  He said, “why are you worried about the cost? Think of it as a fraction of your monthly salary. Is that too much to pay for what you want?” And of course I was convinced.  I so badly wanted to enroll in a gym, and there was no way I was going to a place my son said no to... so I wanted to be convinced, right. And thus I enrolled.

Possibly, the best thing the two men I love did for me. 

Coming soon:  The First Few Weeks At The Gym.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

About Watching TV

Here is one of the light bulb moments of my life. For a person who is constantly and lifelong on a diet with a view to reducing body weight which btw doesn’t seem to budge (witness those people who see you after a long time and tell you, you haven’t changed one bit, you look just the same. And you go uh? Is that right? Then how come I now have 12 kilos, always, always to lose?), its a bad bad idea to be so fond of watching food channels. I always thought of it as gaining knowledge. Well, yes, a bit, why not.  But in reality what all this food watching on TV does is keep food constantly in mind. If you opened my head and picked stuff out of the top of it one by one, what will come out? Food Topic. Food Ideas. Menus. Calories. What to eat next.   Here I am watching my favourite Nigella, or those cute Masterchef juniors, how on earth do they cook these complicated dishes at that age? 8 years old? seeshhh!! And all the time I am concocting recipes in my mind. No sugar? Well... what can I use to make my Falooda sweet without adding sugar or sugared rose water or roohafza? how to get crunch in a dish without deep frying the stuff? You get the picture. So I decided I would stop watching food channels. Full stop. Instead, I would switch to sports channels. This light bulb moment happened as I watched Nigella's Bites yesterday. The program that was being aired was from 2000. That I didn't know at the outset. I thought, what! Nigella? Has she lost that much weight? And then this little doubt crept in... is that an old programme? I waited till the programme came to an end and I saw MMI. Aha. 2001. That explains it. Fifteen years on, she has put on as much weight as I have in the same period.  At least, she's done eating all those fabulous desserts of hers, and I've managed the same fete by doing all sorts of awful things- yo yo dieting, bad eating, no exercising......Seeing her, I thought, well!
I had quit watching sports a long time ago. Which is a bit shocking, now I think of it, for I love Sports. I do believe I am a sporting person, if not a sportsperson! I thought about it. Why did I stop watching sports? Coz at home, the men are constantly watching Cricket. And even though I love cricket for more reasons than one, there is only so much of it that one can watch....Okay, okay, here I go as usual off tangent. So. I decided I will switch to watching sports channels and see all those wonderful things that these young uns are doing in the field, on the track and so forth. And be inspired to get fit and stay fit. Instead of cakes and pastries, I should watch rippling muscles, peak performance. Instead of thinking of eating, I should think of working out. Sit up if you are lying down. Stand up if you are sitting down. Walk if you are standing. Run if you are Walking. Keep moving. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Millet and Lentil Crepes.


·           0.50 cup, Millet, raw
·         100.00 gm, Green Gram Sprouts
·         0.50 Cup, Chana Dal
·         50.00 gm, Urad Whole
·         15.00 g, Red Chillies
·         1.00 teaspoon, Asafoetida
·         2.00 tsp, Salt, table
·         5.00 gm, Curry Leaves
·         12.00 tsp, Oil - Sesame


Wash and soak the millet and dal together for an hour.  Grind using enough water to make a thick batter of pouring consistency. Add the salt, asafetida, curry leaves, mix well. Keep aside.
Heat a flat pan. Pour a ladleful of the batter in the middle of the pan, use the back of the ladle to spread the batter into a thin crepe.  Add half a spoon of oil around the edges of the crepe.
Cook till the steam vapor that rises vanishes; this would take about a minute. Flip the crepe over and cook for half the time.
Remove. Serve hot with peanut or coconut chutney.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Lauki (Bottle Gourd) ki subji.

I always wondered how the Lauki ki subji made by some of my  North Indian friends, which they uniformly say is simple and nothing to it, was so tasty. No masala, just a little jeera and laal mirch and dhaniya powder that's all. Finally decided to try it out. And yes, indeed it is simple, there's nothing to it, and yes, even if I say so myself, the subji I made was tasty! Now, Why Did I Wait This Long To Try This Out?

Here's the recipe:

You need:

Lauki/bottle gourd : 1/2 kilo
Dhaniya powder/Coriander Powder: 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli Powder : 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder: a pinch
Hing/Asafoetida:  a pinch
Cumin Seeds/jeera : 1/4 tsp
Oil : 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste.

This is how you make it:

Peel the lauki, cut into medium sized cubes. Cook till tender with  turmeric and half the salt. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a Kadai (circular, deep cooking pot). Add Jeera, allow to brown, add the Hing, Dhaniya powder, and Chilli powder. Add the cooked lauki, remainder salt, allow to cook for about two minutes. Remove to serving dish. Serve hot with chapatis/phulkas.

Simple, Right?


Growing up in Chennai, my siblings and I spent quite a lot of time, mostly the weekends,   in the “studios”, those magical places where movies were made. In those days, all the Telugu movies were made in Madras, as Chennai used to be called then. Both my parents were in the movie business, father, the famous ‘Sri Sri’ was a poet, writer, screenplay and dialogue writer, lyricist and my mother, Saroja Sri Sri,  was his assistant, the dubbing and music director. What an amazing world it was. In those days there were no gizmos, the high technology that exists now and which perhaps makes movie making easier? Definitely more technically perfect. I remember going to the studios for the song recording, the orchestra in their sound proof room, the play back singers in theirs, the music director sometimes with the orchestra, sometimes with the singers or sometimes in the recording room. I remember the big panel with its moving knobs, the recordist moving them to adjust the bass, the tenor and what not. By the end of the recording the song became so familiar as to be my favourite.  It was such a wonderful experience, what a marvelous time I had!! Similarly, during the dubbing of movies, my parents mostly handled Tamil to Telugu, the scene would go in a loop and the dubbing artistes would stand before the mike in front of the huge screen and speak the dialogues, while mother watched like a hawk for the ‘lip-sync’. My maternal aunt was a dubbing artiste and a chorus play back singer herself. One time, when I was with her and my parents who were working on a movie, there was this scene where there is supposed to be a crowd which says something like” long live the king, or hail the king” in Telugu. There was another little girl like me, the niece of another dubbing artiste who was in the studio with us on that day. It was decided that we children would also speak the dialogues, since there were some kids also in the scene. The ladies pushed us in front of the mike and said we would have to shout a bit because the mikes were high up and we were so small. I was scared and a bit shy. I didn’t want to do the ‘dubbing’. Nevertheless I got pushed in front along with the other girl. When the time came for us to shout the dialogues, I found myself bereft of voice and the other pint size hollered at the top of her voice while all the ladies were silent. It was a trick! The other girl got wholesome praise while I got roundly ticked off for being shy.  Even today, this is one of my fondest memories.  One time, this very famous lady playback singer who was equally famous for singing religious songs and raunchy numbers, arrived for a song recording. She was wearing a finger ring which actually was a miniature watch. Now, none of us had seen anything like that before. The grownups pretended like they always knew that such a piece of jewellery existed. Well, naturally, I was a child and never had I even imagined it. So I gushed at it with my eyes round and large.  Later, both mom and aunt gave me a tongue lashing like anything!! Again, in retrospect, this is one of my fondest memories.  We had to maintain pin drop silence when we went to the floor and the red light was on indicating a “take” or a recording was in progress.  Lunch would be served in the sheds separately for the junior artistes. The seniors or the main artistes got their food from home.  Like my uncle who was then the leading comedy artiste and my aunt used to send a couple of huge tiffin carriers to the sets. I used to wonder how a single man could eat so much; it turned out that others ate the food that came from his home while he ate someone else’s.  And it used to surprise me that he would eat seafood, and prawns. My father was a non vegetarian himself, but he always went to a couple of hotels nearby to eat non-veg food, my mother a super cook refused to cook non-veg food in the house. You couldn’t even order it. Whereas my aunt used to cook it at home all the time. I used to wonder how that was possible. The thing is you have these fundamental questions but were too scared to ask then.  Then again, I imagine had we asked also, we would have been asked to shut up, or would be told you will know when you grow up, or that’s how it is..... My mother is an awesome woman. She used to edit movies too. I remember her sitting in front of what used to be called the movieola, or some such name, my memories are of movieola only, with a white marker chalk and marking out the loops on the negative.  In the dubbing of movies, the entire movie is actually cut into small manageable sections, a white film attached to the section and run in a loop. the projectionist would then go start the projection, first with the tamil dialogue. the dubbing artiste would hear the dialogue, look at the picture, get the 'lip' as he/she read the telugu dialogues along. and when they got the hang of it, the sound would be cut and the artiste would speak to the dumb film and finally a "take'. And my mum was the editor who cut the loops after judging which would be a manageable length, and then was on the floor managing the dubbing. My mother went to 6th standard for three years. My grandfather, her father, the headmaster in the local boys high school would not send his daughter for 'higher studies' to a neighbouring place because it would entail 'traveling'and so she went to the same class over and over again. This lady went on to be a music and dubbing director, an editor, and has written a four volume  autobiograhy of her life with my father!! Proud as proud can be of her!!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Reaching a Plateau in Relationships....

“The first thing our research shows is that everything hits a plateau,” says Bob Sullivan, co-author of The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success. “Every good idea, diet program, marriage and professional athlete eventually stops working,” says Sullivan.
I came across the above quote as I was busy browsing something else. I got immediately attracted to the marriage part of it which got me thinking that yes, he is right, this plateau business truly is not only applicable to weight loss, but also to relationships- not just marriage, but any kind of relationship. Got me thinking...yeaaah... well, that is true, right?  Then, what do you do?  There are tricks and tips that fitness gurus give to get over the weight loss plateau- reset goals, step up activity, drink more water and so forth. What of life and this plateau in relationships? Reset goals? Step up activity? I don’t know... maybe let things be for a little while? Introspect? Go with the flow for a while? Thinking back on the 32 years of my marriage, there have indeed been a couple of grim occasions when life seemed to be going nowhere. No, that’s not true. Both the Plateau and downhill part, I mean. Life certainly seemed to go downhill. And I know how we handled those times, those situations, my husband and I.  We rode the storm, in silence. Really sad we were too. Just a leetlle bit ego... why else would we cold shoulder each other even as we could see that not talking to each us was engulfing us with sadness.  We let things be for a while. The first time, over twenty years ago it was I who broke the silence. We talked. Like, look, this is what is bothering me, this is not right, what is bothering you, let’s talk this over.  The second time, it was my husband. What is the matter, why are you giving me the silent treatment, what’s wrong? Well, something like that.  And we spoke and talked and cleared the air.  These occasions are good occasions you know, to get things out of one’s system too; you really can be monstrously frank. Somehow, it is okay to be so brutally frank. I guess because we are just grateful we have “made up”. The other person gets to know what really really is bothering you. Which is all very good only.

What then is The bottom line? Well, ride the storm. It will not last forever. Look inside and watch for that moment when you are ready. It will happen. Wait. Watch. And never forget that you love him and he loves you Or you love her and she loves you. You really have to be committed to each other and to sustaining what you have. Twice in 32 years seems okay, right?  Not that that is a bench mark, but if you seem to be quarreling all the time, not able to find a solution, and the same issues keep surfacing over and over again, then maybe you ask why the same thing over and over again. Why aren’t we able to work this out? Aren’t we talking about this totally frankly? The very Same issues? Then it has to be the mother of all talks.  Life is too short to fritter away. But then again, relationships aren’t easy. You have to work at them. The best results are those that come from the hardest work.