Turning 30: Camping and Outdoor Cooking. Recipe: Garam Masala Hobo Packets

I turned 30 on Monday. All my life, I had thought of 30 as being the magical number that suddenly makes you old. Of course, nothing is farther from the truth. I am healthier than I’ve ever been, really enjoying life and feeling great. So bring on the aging! I look forward to it!

To celebrate, we went camping at Lake Cuyamaca with some friends. I love the idea of camping but have only ever done it once before.

Tandoori Paneer Pizza

Tandoori Paneer Pizza by Indiaphile.info

Steve and I have been on a serious pizza kick lately. In the last three weeks, I’ve made 4 pizzas from scratch, eaten countless frozen Trader Joe’s pizzas, been to Oggi’s twice for pizza and beer, had Round Table at my in-law’s and had Little Caesars for a lazy dinner. Wow! I’m a little shocked at my pizza consumption after seeing it all together in one sentence. This is what happens when I try to avoid cheese for a while!

Semolina Crepes with Pear Compote, Mascarpone and Coconut Rum Caramel Sauce (Sweet Rava Dosa)

A savory semolina crepe, better known as a rava dosa is one of my standard quick fix meals. Rava dosa are the instant version of the South Indian classic dosa.

The classic dosa is a lot of work and not easy to do for people like me who do don’t plan dinner 3 days in advance. It is made by soaking rice and lentils overnight, then grinding the mixture into a batter, and then letting the batter ferment overnight. Semolina (rava) makes instant dosa batter in under 10 minutes, and frankly tastes even better than the original.

5 Things I miss about living in India

When I was living in India, I couldn’t wait to get back to the US.  Now that I’ve been here a while, without being able to visit India in several years, there are some things that I really miss.

1.  Food.  Specifically, STREET FOOD!

There is something magical about street food in India.  It tastes about a 1000 times better than regular food. And it’s everywhere. All along the streets near train stations, near schools and colleges, near residential complexes pretty much anywhere there is a large collection of people.  And that is literally Everywhere!

There are so many varieties of street food.  There is dosas, pani puri, pav bhaji, Chinese (Indian-Chinese fusion), samosas, vada pav, the list goes on forever. I am planning a more detailed post on street foods soon. But bhel is one of my all time favorites.

Narcopolis – Sex, Drugs, and Religion in Mumbai’s Underbelly

When I heard about Narcopolis, I was immediately intrigued. Even though the author was talking about the same city I’d grown up in, Jeet Thayil’s Bombay was much darker, insidious and frankly more interesting than the extremely sheltered suburban life I was exposed to while living there.

When I read the book it did not disappoint. Thayil, who was himself an opium addict haunting the streets of Bombay in the 70s and 80s, tells the story of the old Bombay as it transitions into Mumbai through the eyes of a handful of opium addicts. The evolution of the city runs parallel to the evolution of the drug industry as it shifts from being dominated by laid back, relatively benign opium to dark and terrifying heroin.

As the lives of the addicts descend into heroin induced chaos, so does the city with Hindu-Muslim riots. In Thayil’s book, the city of Bombay is as much a lead character as any of the people. I found myself completely hooked on the story and evolution of the city.

Cardamom Semolina Shortbread Cookies

Cardamom Semolina Shortbread Cookies by Indiaphile.info

Cardamom is the Indian vanilla. It basically functions as a vanilla substitute in Indian cuisine. We use it in pretty much any sweet dish ranging from rice pudding to nut fudge to masala chai.

I love the flavor so much, I chew on cardamom pods in place of mints…I know I’m weird.  Don’t judge!  I have a method. I pop a whole pod into my mouth and enjoy the flavor and texture of the skin for a while. Then, I put a small crack in the pod and start to pull out the seeds one at a time. They are the prize! I love the spicy, minty, intense flavor that you get when chomping down on one of the little black seeds.

Reflections on Indian Independence Day

It’s Indian Independence day today. All day, I’ve been thinking about the difference between how August 15th is celebrated in India and how July 4th is celebrated here.

My usual Independence Day routine while in India consisted of my mom waking us up extra early, even though it was a holiday, so that we could show up on time to a flag hoisting ceremony either at our local elementary school or the grounds of our residential complex.  A significant crowd always gathered for these ceremonies.

Somehow every person ended up with a miniature Indian flag – although I don’t remember my parents ever buying one. The little kids would run around waving the flag until someone with a very stern voice called everyone’s attention.  The flag would be hoisted as the national anthem was sung; everyone stood pin straight at military attention (the proper way to show respect for your country).

When I was younger someone who had participated in the Freedom Struggle against the British, would then give a speech about the glory of India and it’s hard won freedom from the British Empire.

Our resident Freedom Fighter, Mr. S, was widely known as not actually having ever been involved in the freedom struggle at all.  As the story goes, he was out to get milk when the British were doing rounds and arrested him with a pail of milk.  After serving time in a British jail he was hailed by friends and family as a de facto freedom fighter…after all he had been to jail!