UBC7: Feels like home

Since I left Bangalore, I’ve been on a break from kitchen duties and I’ve realized that as much as I enjoy my role as head chef; deciding the Foodmenu and looking up recipes, having my mother and mother-in-law make their specialties while I played chief taster, was a great change…

Back in the kitchen, I made crumb-coated chicken with mashed potatoes and broccoli.

When my husband, who had been living on his own till I joined him, smiled a big old smile when he saw what was for lunch, I had to ask, “It does feel like home, doesn’t it?”

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Written for Write Tribes 100 Words on Saturday as well as part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

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O-man! What a country!

First Picture

When you open an atlas and find the Sultanate of Oman, the first reaction is usually, “Small isn’t it?” But it’s quickly replaced with, “You can’t seriously mean that we can do and see all of that there???”

After thinking about it, doing a  Kaun Banega Crorepati move by phoning a friend, doing research online (the Ministry of Tourism has a very visually appealing website), I’ve come to believe that I will probably need more than just a few days there to truly take it all in; from miles and miles of endless golden sand to pristine beaches to a seemingly perfect blend of the old and the new. Oman seems to have it all and these are some things that I don’t want to miss when I’m there:

The Royal Opera House from the outside

First up, I’ve got to confess that I’m a sucker for romantic movies and “Pretty Woman” has been high on my list of favourites since I first saw it years ago. There’s a scene in the movie in which Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to the opera and looks tenderly at her while the performers evoke emotions so powerful that she has tears in her eyes. Imagine my joy when I learnt that Oman has it’s very own Royal Opera House in Muscat, its capital city! If I close my eyes, I can almost see myself walking into the spectacular building. admiring the Arabian inlay work before making my way up to plush seats waiting with bated breath to be treated to a performance of a lifetime with my very own salt and pepper haired Richard Gere. Maybe my Pretty Woman moment will come sooner than expected! So for romantic ol’ me, the Royal Opera House is a must-see.

Stunning Interiors

Arabian inlay work inside

Plush red seats I want to use!

That’s where I picture myself sitting…

I want to go to Wadi Darbat, just outside Salalah city.

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Wadi Darbat – It exists in a desert!!

It’s probably the most naturally scenic place in the country and being able to spend a day there would be perfect. It’s the sort of place that in pleasant dreams, I end up living in some day. Like the stills from a nature documentary the sheer beauty of this place would take my breath away. It’s almost unbelievable that something so picturesque exists in a country that is a desert. I think a trip there would be just what I need…a break from the hustle and bustle of my everyday life, rejuvenating and relaxing. It would leave me refreshed and ready to get back to life as I know it. Wadi Darbat, here I come!

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Dhow building yard

When I was younger, going through the motions of having a different career choice every few days, there was a time when I saw myself as an explorer, sailing away to foreign lands. I was quite disappointed when I learnt that all the “new lands” had already been discovered and I had been born a century or two too late. In the olden days, dhows were used as vessels of trade. If I am able to go to a dhow building yard and watch the locals at work making one, it will be special experience and if I’m allowed to take a ride on one of them, it would be like, if only for a little while, I turned into the explorer I once dreamed I would be. So a visit to a dhow building yard and a dhow ride would be the next thing on my agenda.

A dhow ride to feel live my dream!

A dhow ride to live my dream!

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Camels in Wahiba Sands

You can’t go to the desert and not go on a dune safari. I want to visit the Wahiba Sands and feel the thrills of going up an apparently impossibly high dune only to come plummeting down the other side at break-neck speeds while my stomach drops! Perhaps a camel ride, swaying back and forth on the animals back looking out at the almost never-ending expanse of golden sand will follow. The perfect end to a day like that would be a traditional Omani dinner under the canvas of a colourful tent perhaps watching the hypnotic moves of a belly dancer. Learning the dance form has been on my bucket list forever and where better to learn than in the Arabian desert? Dune safari and belly dancing in Wahiba Sands…I can’t wait!

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Amouage – the scent of the desert

To carry back the scent of the desert, I want to visit the Amouage store where I’ve been told I’ll be able to watch the masters themselves as they create the various unusual alluring arresting fragrances that go into their many perfumes. Honestly, I think it would be most interesting to see something like that being created before my very eyes and not just hope to have a similar experience when I get the rare opportunity to travel across the world.

The (absolutely) Grand Mosque

The (absolutely) Grand Mosque

I find that apart from being in beautiful surroundings outdoors, being in places of worship calms my soul and eases my mind. Where better to attain that inner solace than at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque? Opened in 2001 this grand mosque has the most exquisite architecture not to mention the most amazing interiors. No expense seems to have been spared in its making. Even the prayer mat that covers the floor of the prayer hall is hand-woven and the second largest in the world. Grand Mosque; spiritual and architectural wonder, I am ready to be amazed!

Intricate exquisite interiors

Intricate exquisite interiors

 

This is the prayer mat I mentioned

This is the prayer mat I mentioned

Mutrah Souq!

Mutrah Souq!

I’d love to come back with a little bit of Oman in my bags as souvenirs of a wonderful trip as well as to gift others so they make a visit to the diverse country as well. Mutrah Souq in Muscat seems to be the place to go. I believe you haven’t fully enjoyed a city unless you’ve been to its market place and the experience is enhanced when you are in one which has historical significance. (Also I think the souq is worth a visit because I am a girl and shopping makes me happy). Renovated and redecorated, It’s supposed to be a shoppers paradise where not only can you buy the run-of-the mill things but authentic Omani trinkets and outfits too, while being treated to the intoxicating fragrance of frankincense, jasmines and spices. Mutrah Souq…beware the arrival of me!

Oman! I wish I could get on a plane right now to explore all that you have to offer. It’s true what they say…tiny things do pack a punch!

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This post has been written for Indiblogger in association with the Ministry of Tourism Oman (www.omantourism.gov.om)

She put springtime on a plate

She tucked in the pallu of her saree, took out her glass gourmet cook & serve and put it on the stove. She opened a bottle of ghee and generously dolloped the molten magic into the vessel. She spread it around, tracing the golden pattern it made with her eyes, unconsciously licking her lips. She broke a stick of cinnamon into two and inhaled the enticing scent, smiling as she traveled to a cassia tree plantation in picturesque Sri Lanka in her mind’s eye. She laid the sticks on the bed of warm ghee. She added a handful of other spices; green cardamom, black coarsely crushed pepper corns, cloves and star anise watching as the condiments jumped and danced while the ghee splashed about looking like a party of children playing in the rain. She tossed in some finely chopped pink onions drawing in a giddy delicious breath as the onions and the spiced ghee mingled creating a mouth-watering aroma. She added firm red juicy bits of tomatoes and watched as they slowly yielded to the power of the ghee becoming soft, forming an almost hypnotic pattern of red and pearly white. But it dissolved as she mixed in a dash of turmeric powder. In almost no time, all the ingredients took on as many complex and beautiful hues as a sunset. She crumbled in a stock cube before adding diced sausages to the already tantalizing vessel and as the smell of sizzling sausages permeated the room, it was all she could do to fight the urge to pop a piece into her mouth. She turned her attention to the rice instead and gently teased every last one of the bright white long grained Basmati out of its soaking bowl into the vessel. She stirred it lightly, almost caressing the contents of the vessel, marveling at how the grains of rice slowly separated and each blended with the spices and sausages individually, slowly taking on some of the bright yellow. She poured in water and then put her fingers into the salt jar to take out a pinch, letting the salt fall into the water like the first snow falling on the ground.

All that was left to do now was wait.

Before long the most titillating fragrance reached her and drew her, nose first, to the kitchen. Looking through the glass vessel, she could see sausages appearing here and there between the soft rice. It was ready.

Happily, she took out her serving dish and put spoons of the pulav lovingly onto it. Each one she lifted sent a wave of scrumptiously heady aroma her way. For finishing touches, she added some green to the saffron by carelessly throwing chopped mint and coriander leaves on the top. The plated pulav looked like spring time, bright yellow and orange flowers, their leaves a lush green, almost completely covering the rich brown ground.

Unable to resist the temptation any longer, she took a small spoonful. The party that was so far going on in her nose and eyes extended to her mouth. The combination of the fried spices, ghee, sausages and rice was a completely flawless confluence of flavours.

Grateful for Borosil and it’s many offerings to make her cooking experience more enjoyable, she completed setting the table by lighting diyas. Just then, the doorbell rang. She grinned. It was now her family’s turn to go on a culinary adventure.

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This post is part of IndiBlogger‘s “My Beautiful Food” contest in association with Borosil. (www.myborosil.com)

Of Legacy and Inheritance

Not too long ago, while engaged in the pleasant task of spring cleaning the book shelves, I found my mother’s old cookbook. It has a wonderful collection of old recipes that she had written out from magazines or learnt at family lunches when she was around my age. As I was thumbing through the pages trying to remember when she had last made some of those delicious dishes and thinking that maybe it is time for me to start making them myself, I found an old letter from my grandmother with a recipe in it. That letter has been preserved in the old hand written cookbook for almost four decades.

I think that cookbooks, much like other legacies, should be passed down from one generation of women to the next. The delectable dishes described in those books should not be lost as time goes by. The wisdom of making food with love ought to be passed on from mother to daughter.

The old letter, with its faded ink and my possession of my mother’s book of yummies, made me think that it’s time for me to start keeping my own cookbook, filled with recipes I love and little bits of information and advice passed on from my mother to me, to be given to my child when she takes her first steps in a kitchen of her own.