Food Fiesta at my Kitchen

It was another sunny day in my city by the shore and I was getting prepared for my daily cooking after having a breakfast of brown bread and a lentil curry. It was my hubby’s birthday and I was thinking what to cook for him. I know that his only favourite dish is any item of chicken!!. So I wanted to make a new preparation of chicken in my kitchenette which I had never made before. I decided to try my hands in making chicken tikka butter masala. It sounds yummy nah!. But the real ordeal starts once you start the process. So many ingredients, spices, oil, butter–really a celebration of colours!!

I surfed through the internet and there were so many different kinds of recipes for this particular dish that I just got puzzled. So I decided to follow the recipe I once watched in the Living Foodz channel and of course with a bit of my own twist to it!

First one needs to marinade the chicken for minimum two hours,( keeping it overnight is the best). Marination allows all the spices and salt to get perfectly into your chicken and makes it more succulent. After washing the chicken pieces properly when I was mixing it up with various spices, curd, oil, kasauri methi powder, salt, ginger-garlic paste and a bit of lime juice, the colour that developed was a real feast to the eyes. The aroma was just heavenly!

What I found was that this particular preparation is very delicate and the tikka that is to be made first has to be done in a very proper way. It should neither be very hard nor should it be watery. Just grill it or pan sear it delicately after squeezing out all the excess masala it was dipped into for hours or so. What a smell it spread!

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Another tiring job was making the gravy. You have to be prepared with tomato puree, cashew nut paste-(a teaspoon for half a kilo chicken), garam masala paste-(a must for almost all Indian-mughlai originated food perhaps), ginger garlic paste..(1 teaspoon)  and of course cream! But I generally try to avoid cream. So I used milky almond paste instead.

The aroma that spread out from the gravy made my mouth to water. And when I put in the tikka pieces into the gravy with a dash of sugar, nut pastes and garam masala I was thrilled to see the colour was just perfect as I had wanted it to be! A spoon of butter at the end completes the journey of this recipe.

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I have developed a close bonding with cooking over the few years. I personally feel that one has to put one’s heart into it to bring out the soul of any dish.

I read in many articles about the debates regarding the origin of this particular dish. Whether it originated in Punjab, Britain or in Mughal rasoi, I have no clue! But what I can guarantee is that it is a true food from heaven. While the world continues with the argument about the origin of this beauty, I may ask you to try it out in your own kitchen to continue with the traditional richness of the Indian cooking.

 

Memories of Meghalaya (The Close)

Next was our day to explore Shillong. We visited the Shillong peak to get a view of the city from the highest point of the town.  We had a plate of hot momos and bought Naga shawls as a memoir.

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Cloud kissed Shillong City as seen from the Shillong Peak

It was drizzling and the driver informed us that the weather was perfect for potato and cauliflower /cabbage plantations. We were lucky as we could see such plantations along our way towards Laitlum village. It was an experience of a lifetime. We saw little school children cleaning the school premises with broomsticks. We stood at the verge of the canyon and down the hilly road we could see a few farmers working and singing a lovely tune. Such mountain tunes are soothing to one’s ears and a rare experience in all.

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Lailum Canyon
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Potato plantations
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Cabbage plantations

Standing on that mountain edge, as I looked on, the greenery, the deep ridges and the gorges of the canyon took over my mind and I felt a Saudade-(a Portuguese term for a longing for someone you love but have lost, it is the love that remains).

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A mountain Gorge-Laitlum
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At Laitlum

Next destination was the Elephant Falls or the Three Step Waterfalls–another marvelous creation of Nature.

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The 1st and 2nd falls of the Elephant Falls
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The 3rd fall of the Elephant Falls

Lastly, we chose to visit the Don Bosco Museum, a part of Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Culture showcasing the origin and the culture of the seven north eastern states of India. It is a seven storey building with a sky walk at the top to get a view of the city of Shillong. The hard work that has been put into it is really a feast to the eyes and a store-house of knowledge. After the visit of the museum, we were taken to a hall to show a music video of the North-East, the “Mist and Magic”, whose content co-incidentally summed up our tour of Meghalaya in short.

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The Umiam Lake

All good things must come to an end. Next morning on our way back towards Guwahati Airport, as we were leaving the city behind and passing by the Umiam Lake-I felt as if I was leaving a part of me behind. A deep melancholy encompassed my mind as I lost myself in some strange thoughts-broken friendship, lost love, unfulfillment and my mother(do not know why mom!). I read somewhere ” Melancholy is such a state that gets served with a side of nostalgia and reflection”.

But I thank Almighty for this Life and of course for adorning Nature with such pristine Beauty which is beyond my limits to express in words!

Khublei….

Memories of Meghalaya (part 3)

Next day was another memorable day as we were heading towards Cherrapunji. Meghalaya has been compared to Scotland in various articles and the real reason can be understood or felt if one takes the elegant road towards Sohra..(local name for Cherrapunji).

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A meadow on the way towards Sohra

Mesmerizing valleys, ridges, ancient caves, streams, gorging waterfall and above all those green meadows with a sudden tiny bridge–describe Sohra in short.

Here you can feel as if you are embraced by the clouds in one place  and the next moment you get a clear sky. Truly an abode of clouds!

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Cloud kissed Hills

Nohkalikai Falls- the longest plunge waterfall in India provides a majestic view. One has to be really lucky to get a glimpse of this beauty as the clouds can be a spoil sport and we count ourselves lucky among the few. The other giant fall is the Seven Sisters Waterfalls.

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Nohkalikai Waterfalls
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Seven Sisters Waterfall

We ended our journey of Cherrapunji with the visit of the Mawsmai Caves. I must say that it will give one the feeling of an early man’s cave as one has to literally crawl at certain entrances. It is a limestone cave with water dripping in several places from the top of the cave. The stalactites and stalagmites stand there with full grandeur.

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Inside Mawsmai Cave

As we were leaving the beautiful town of Sohra, an unknown melancholy overtook me and I wished the road never ended.

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A mountain bend

Memories of Meghalaya (part 2)

About 78 Km south of Shillong lies the small picturesque village, Mawlynnong. The terrain from Shillong towards Mawlynnong provides some gorgeous view of mountain valleys, deep gorges, hilly flowers, smooth road, a sudden waterfall or two, clear blue sky and obviously bamboo groves. It brings an inner peace while driving along this road by the cloud-kissed valley.

Mawlynnong was awarded the prestigious tag of ‘Cleanest Village in Asia’ in 2003 by Discover India Magazine as I learnt from Wikipedia. It is literally very clean and the villagers take every care to keep the surroundings prim and proper. There are only countable houses here made from bamboo and straw . They use bamboo-made dustbins. Usage of plastic is prohibited and they follow rainwater harvesting. There are several tree houses from where one can get a glimpse of the neighbouring country-Bangladesh. It is a fascinating view- how the bamboo and betel nut grove (of Indian side) intermingled with the sylvan plains of Bangladesh! Because of its surreal beauty, greenery and cleanliness the village is also known as “God’s own Garden”.

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Mawlynnong–God’s Own Garden
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A village shop

 

 

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View of Bangladesh in the horizon from the tree house

 

Our next halt was at Riwai. Here, deep within the forest , over a small mountain stream lies another natural architecture(if I might say)—The Living Root Bridge. Actually the War-Khasi tribes had exploited a certain feature of Ficus elastica tree to make a natural bridge with the aid of betel nut tree trunks. The construction is a well kept secret and the tribals boast that the bridge is about 300 years old and with time it is getting stronger. Whatever may be the secret, it is a pleasure to the eyes that one wants to behold for a lifetime.

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Living root bridge, Riwai

We finally proceeded towards Dawki. The road meandered through bamboo groves with intense sound of certain insects in the backdrop which created an eerie atmosphere much to our excitement though. The car passed along various check posts where military trucks of Assam Rifles could be seen now and then. One would have never known which part belongs to India and which part falls in Bangladesh but for a white flag and certain stones with “India” engraved on them. One of the jawans of BSF told us that the stream beyond the betel nut grove is a part of Sylhet in Bangladesh. He allowed us to take a few photographs of the area. I could feel that it is a friendly border.

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The stream behind falls in Bangladesh

Finally when we reached the border town of Dawki, we were welcomed by the gorgeous Umngot river. There is a single span suspension bridge over this river which connects Ri Pnar of Jaintia Hills with Hima Khyrim of Khasi Hills and is the only way to reach the Bangladesh border of Tamabil. It was constructed by the British.

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The suspension bridge connecting Khasi and Jaintia hills

We took a boat ride down the river. The water was perfectly green and was so clear that the river bed rocks were clearly visible. The uncanny beauty of the place can almost transport one into some imaginary world. The Jaintia hills that stand on the other bank have certain deep crevices along the side from where water trickled down slowly. There were snakes perched on the rocky terrains of the hills.

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a part of the Jaintia hills

A small stretch of sand and pebbles in the middle of the river forms a part of the famous Radcliffe’s Line. Does Nature really follow such demarcation? I wonder! The pathos of partition flashed upon my mind fresh from the pages of the history.

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Umngot River

After a short visit to the Dawki-Tamabil border we started our 3-hour long drive back towards Shillong.

Memories of Meghalaya (part 1)

Love for the mountains has always beckoned me since the days of my childhood. This distant but unknown desire to get lost among the mountain woods has been instilled in me by the imagery created in the stories of Ruskin Bond.

My thirst to visit the North Eastern states of India landed me in the state of Meghalaya. I along with my husband chose to stay at the Cafe Shillong Bed and Breakfast, a landmark heritage hotel in Lower Lachumiere, about 1 Km from Police Bazaar. There are only 7  well furnished rooms, a kitchen and a living room with a lawn in front. The interiors are a tasteful medley of woodwork, light and space. It was like a home away from home.

Shillong is a peaceful town and in the early morning after a light shower when the sun peeped in I felt I were in a different world altogether amidst the chirping of the mountain birds and fresh wind.

Sitting in the lawn, I felt a sense of WaldeinSamkeit, a German concept that translates approximately into the solitude one feels while walking through a forest.

2 Km down the hilly road from our hotel, there is the Ward’s Lake- a man made beauty. As I walked down to reach my destination, I must say , I fell in love with the city and specially those hilly road bends. I saw school children walking their way to the school and sensed a deep pang inside me—I can no more go to school!!!

The climate is really unpredictable in this city. In the morning, it rained and an hour or two later the warm rays of the sun made the flowers bloom and finally I could experience a rainbow that I longed to witness for almost two decades or more.

In the evening, I walked down to Police Bazaar to buy souvenirs and most importantly to get a vibe of the Shillongites, their culture, Khasi traditional dresses and food. Next I visited St. Cathedral’s Church and then to Shillong Cafe– a mountain cafe with authentic Naga and Tibetan food and obviously hosting weekly musical performances.

With Shillong, one gets the hills, music, rhythmic waterfalls, rain, rainbows, and simplicity–an amazing collage that could easily trigger Eudaimonia-the Greek concept that refers to the content feeling of happiness when you are travelling.

 

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Ward’s Lake
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Cafe Shillong Bed and Breakfast