Monday 23 October 2017

How I brought my 'Gharwali' Diwali in Vancouver!

And just like that, as quickly it had arrived, its gone! Diwali 2017 and my first one in Canada was a bitter sweet experience. Bitter for all the pangs of homesickness and sweet for all the new experiences and memories. Like most Indians, Diwali is my favourite festival too! During my growing up years in Mumbai, it was my favourite time of the year as this festival of lights literally illuminates the whole country with the radiance of joy and hope. Everyone's happy and cheerful; for some its the excitement and thrill of the holiday season, for some its the anticipation of buying new clothes and dressing up in finery, for most people like me its about the sheer joy of gorging on the variety of sweets and savouries prepared for the festive occasion. As much as I like Diwali for these superficial reasons, I also enjoy the customs and rituals attached to it. Every year I enthusiastically partook in all the diwali related activities at home, right from cleaning the house, to decorating it, making rangolis, helping mom make diwali treats, buying last minute presents and so on. It was a time of the year when I spent quality and fun time with my family. Being away from home on diwali feels sad and although I have been through this experience a couple of times before (while I was studying in London), I can never really get used to it.
Diwali fever hits mumbaikars a month in advance, but here in Vancouver there was no sign of Diwali at all. I was already dreading the thought of a dull diwali this year. I comprehended that I would be extremely homesick, if I don't have the diwali feels around me. To make myself feel like home during my favourite festival, I decided to bring my 'gharwali' Diwali here in Canada. Let me show you my small attempt at bringing the diwali feels in Canada.

Home is where the heart is: 
Although not a house owner yet, the rented apartment that I currently live in Vancouver is my favourite place in the city. Its where I spend most of my time and for someone who knows me very well knows that my home is my temple. Its typical to get paranoid about Diwali cleaning,  and with only weekends on my hand to do some real cleaning, I started it a few weeks in advance. I made a list of things I needed to decorate my house and ordered them online. Most of the stuff was ordered from Mumbai, my mum and sister picked up a few things along with my Diwali outfit. Just a couple of days before Diwali I received a box full of Diwali presents and goodies from home.

Truly a festival of lights!

Some ethnic decor

My feeble attempt at making rangoli

Diwali treats that came all the way from home

Diwali dinner on Lakshmi Pujan

Diwali at work:

Diwali fell on a weekday this year and as you can guess it was not a holiday in Canada. However, I decided to go to work instead of staying home and sulking over being away from family. Since I am the only Indian in my office in Vancouver, not many people were aware of this festival or its significance. I took this as an opportunity to share some Diwali gyan with my peeps at work. I dressed up in a traditional outfit and brought in some traditional sweets and savouries to work, and to my surprise everyone liked it. At the end of the day, although I worked on Diwali day it felt like a mini celebration with my colleagues. 

The celebration:

Diwali calls for a big celebration and get-together, so I decided to host a Diwali party at my apartment for my close friends in Vancouver. After all what's a Diwali celebration without sharing traditional sweets and food with your loved ones. I tried my best to cook an authentic Indian meal for dinner. Instead of playing the traditional card game, we played Uno :), took random pictures, chatted, laughed and had a really great time. This was my favourite part of Diwali.

So, as opposed to my fear and dread of not being able to celebrate my 'gharwali' Diwali away from home, this experience taught me that no matter in which part of the world you are or how far away from family you are, you'll always find light in darkness.

 For So-Saree Canada 

Sunday 15 October 2017

HEMA MALINI - When Dreams Transcend and Reality Confounds

As clichéd as it sounds, She really is the one and only “Dream Girl” who has graced Indian cinema, 
ever. Gorgeous ladies have always dominated the Hindi film industry, but it is difficult to think of anyone who has enamoured us – males and females alike, for so many decades.
The lyricist who penned down the immortal Dream girl song, just about managed to capture the beauty of this mesmerising diva - She really is like poetry in human form! Add to that those absolute mouth watering sarees, her natural charm and aura of sophistication and you have the perfect package!
And just like perfectly aged whisky (I really am full of clichés today!), Hema Malini has not
disappointed us with the passage of time. Maybe it is enviable genes, her strict dancing routine or decades of hard work in perfecting perfection, she really shows no signs of aging or losing any of her impeccable fashion sense!
Whether it is a dance show or an award function, a photo shoot or her daughters’ weddings, Hema Malini manages to effortlessly pull off any saree and always end up looking like someone’s dream taking human form.
Here are just a few pictures I managed to put together of my saree idol; hope you enjoy them as much I did.


-Gouri Patwardhan
 For So-Saree

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Diwali Special **Prawn Biryani Recipe** for Beginners

Biryani is a classic South Asian rice dish often cooked on special occasions. Although I love cooking variety of Indian cuisines, I always refrained from cooking biryani because of its lengthy and elaborate cooking procedure. It’s a known fact that cooking the finest biryani needs a certain finesse to bring out the perfect flavour and taste which I believe only seasoned cooks can accomplish.

Not that I’ve lived away from home before, but finding the perfect biryani in Vancouver that pleased my taste buds seemed difficult. Therefore, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention or rather trial and error in my case , I finally decided to take up the challenging task in my own hands. Ever since I moved to Vancouver I have not only started cooking more often than I’ve ever cooked in my life but I also cooked that one dish which I thought wasn’t my cup of tea. My sister in Mumbai makes a mean biryani so she was my go-to person for the recipe. However, to make my job simple for the first time at cooking biryani, she modified the recipe to make it as simple and easy for me. I can’t thank her enough for sharing this simple yet delicious recipe with me that I can easily cook whenever I crave a Biryani. In the past 3 months, I have already cooked it thrice and each time it turned out better than before. Since it has also been approved by a couple of friends here it might make its way to my Diwali party menu this year.

Today I’m going to share a simple, quick and tasty Shrimp/Prawn Biryani Recipe. It is inspired by the Hyderabadi style of cooking biryani in India. This recipe is highly recommended to beginners like me who have occasionally or never cooked biryani and also for all those veteran cooks out there who might want to try something different and simple. 
With the Diwali festival around the corner I hope this recipe can find its place in your menu this festive season. 
Here’s the step by step process of making this delicious rice dish. 

Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 30 to 45 mins
Serves: 4
For Marinating Prawns:
Prawns/Shrimps – 15 to 20 medium size
Chili powder – 2 tbsp.
Turmeric powder – 1 tbsp.
*Biryani masala – 2 tbsp.
Coriander powder – 2 tbsp. 
Ginger Garlic paste – 1 tbsp.
Salt – 1 tbsp.
1 Large Onion thinly sliced and fried
½ Cup chopped fresh mint leaves
¾ Cup Plain Curd/Yogurt
Green Chilies – 1 slit (Depending on how hot/spicy you like)
Optional: Lemon juice – ½ tbsp., Saffron - a pinch, Warm Milk – 4 tbsp. 

*Any Biryani masala works. I used Shan’s chicken biryani masala, since it was handy. My sister makes her biryani masala from scratch at home. Recipe to be shared some other time.

For Boiling Rice:
Basmati Rice – 2 cups
Oil/Ghee – 1 tbsp.
Bay leaves – 2
Cinnamon sticks – 3
Cloves – 5
Green Cardamom – 3
Shahi Jeera – ½ tbsp.
Salt – 1 tbsp.
Mint leaves – ¼ cup
Optional: Fennel seeds – ½ tbsp. Star anise – 2, Black Cardamom – 2, Mace or Javitri – 2, Black Pepper – 5

Step 1: Start with soaking basmati rice for 20 to 30 mins. Do this first, so while you’re done with the other preparations the rice is ready to be cooked. 

Step 2:
Chop the onions into thin slices and deep fry until dark brown and crisp.

Once done, set aside and let cool.

Step 3: Marinate the Shrimp/Prawns. Add all the spices, crushed fried onions, mint leaves and yogurt to the prawns and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.  

Final product for marination. 

Step 4: Boil water in a vessel and add whole spices, mint leaves, oil and salt. The spices and mint leaves give a nice flavour to the rice. Don’t add the rice yet. Let the water boil with the spices and mint leaves.

I personally don’t like bits or whole spices in my food unless they are clearly visible and easy to take out. I hate the idea of accidently biting a whole clove or cardamom while eating my biryani. So, I tied all the whole spices except for the bay leaves into a clean handkerchief (muslin cloth). By doing this the rice still gets the flavour and fragrance of the spices and you don’t have to worry about biting into a whole spice while enjoying your biryani.

Step 5: While the water is boiling on the side, take a thick bottom pan to cook biryani and heat 1tbsp. ghee in it. Add the marinated prawns to the pan and spread evenly. Add sliced green chillies on top depending on how spicy you like it. Keep the heat low until rice is added.

Step 6: In the boiling water add the soaked basmati rice and cook the rice for 5 minutes on high heat. Don’t let the rice boil completely. Leave it 3/4th cooked and strain out the water immediately.

Step 7: Spread the half-cooked basmati rice over the marinated prawns that’s been cooking on low heat for 5 minutes. Add some fried onions and mint leaves on the top. Optional - Add Saffron milk for colour and fragrance. (Soak Saffron milk in warm milk for a few minutes before adding to the rice)

Step 8: Cover the pan with a tight lid and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Turn the heat low and cook for another 15 to 17 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it rest for another 20 minutes before opening the lid.

Toss the rice gently to mix with the prawns and gravy before serving.

Serve hot with onion raita and enjoy.

Let us know in the comments if you try this recipe and like it. 

 For So-Saree Canada


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