All posts by weirdgalsays

About weirdgalsays

I belong to the superhero clan. I am a mother, a wife, a daughter and a sister. Words are my passion...lovely words, dark ones, mournful words, happy words. Words are magical! Words have power!! This blog is all about my life, a life of words.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Just finished reading My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing. And let me tell you, whatever kind of books you might love, you will gobble this book. I finished it in a day, would have finished it in half if people would have left me alone 😑 Coming to the book, is it a thriller, a really weird love story, a domestic suspense? Heck, I don’t care. I loved it. I wish I could erase it from my mind so that I could have the delicious, wicked fun of reading it all over again! The story revolves around Millicent and her husband, who is incidentally the narrator of the story. The couple is happily married and still in love after 15 years of togetherness. They have two great kids and a lovely home. But something is missing. The spark has gone out of their romance. Most couples experience this at some point of their relationships but I can bet nobody would have tried what this couple does to reignite their relationship. They do something together, something huge, something unspeakable, they murder young woman. Why? Umm..read the story. The way Downing has weaved the story, the couple’s reasoning seems completely acceptable. Help, am I turning into a psychopath! Bet you feel the same way when you read this book.

The narrator loves his wife madly, even after so many years of marriage she remains something of a mystery, a woman he shouldn’t have got. He would do anything for her. Isn’t that what is every woman’s dream. From helping her cook, to picking up the kids from school to stalking prospective women to kill, the guy does it all. But surprisingly, the way Downing has drawn him, you do not hate him; he is actually endearing, he is human. 

As the story progresses, the narrator along with the readers slowly discovers who his wife really is. And what a ride it is! If I tell you about Millicent, it would rob you of the dark fun of finding out for yourself. Suffice it to say, you will not regret it. And you will start looking at everyday, common things which your partner does with new eyes. Oh, and your neighbours. Almost everyone you meet! You just have to read this book! 

The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones

These days thanks to the Corona virus, I am on a reading spree. Am currently devouring all Diana Wynne gems. Really, if there is one writer whose mind I would like to visit, even for an hour then that would be Diana Jones. If you have any of her books in your hand, you are bound to find it interesting, funny, gripping, somehow realistic, uplifting and the book will definitely enter the list of your all time favourite books. How does she do it? I wish I knew. And the plots of her books are absolutely delicious.

Take The Ogre Downstairs for instance. If you go by the cover, you would think the book is about a real ogre. But the ogre in this book is a man but when you hear the kids in the story talking about him, you start to fervently agree with them. The man is definitely an ogre. The ogre is Caspar, Johnny and Gwinny’s step dad. He has two kids of his own, Douglas and Malcolm. Together, with Sally, their mother, they all live in a house which is simply too small to accommodate them all. Caspar and Co hate the ogre and his snobby kids. Sally tries her best with them but they are always polite, nothing more. One month into their new life, things suddenly change. The ogre gifts a chemistry set to Johnny and Malcolm. Ooh, I really really wish I had one of those. Because you see these sets are magic. Johnny and Malcolm, both with an inquiring set of mind get experimenting with surprising and disastrous results. There is a lot of rivalry and secrecy is the key. Both set of kinds mix up a formula which makes them fly. Caspar somehow turns his finger invisible. Malcolm becomes a boy chameleon. Gwinny’s dolls come alive and demand food. And don’t get me started on the chocolate bars and the radiator. And the bucket! Jones weaves a magical tale and slowly things between the two set of kids start improving. They go from hating each other’s guts to understanding and defending one another from the ogre. But one day, their mother disappears. Johnny and Gwinny both try to kill the ogre with disastrous consequences. Of course, Sally returns and they all live happily ever after. But what happens to the ogre? Does he die or simply vanish? Want to find out. Read this book right now.

Dee-lightful Doodhi Halwa or Bottle Gourd Sweet

I adore halwas, especially those made at home. Sitting down with a bowl of piping hot halwa with a good book to read..bliss! Doodhi halwa is yummy and healthy being full of the good old bottle gourd. Its the easiest and most delicious way to have doodhi, if you ask me. Of course, it is very rich and oozing with calories but that is the way it should be. And you can always climb the stairs or go for a walk or something. But this beauty deserves to be made…and devoured! Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

2 bottle gourd, grated

2 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter

1 1/2 cup full fat milk

200 gms condensed milk

1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

Sugar, as per taste

Raisins, chopped almonds and pistachios

Green food color, optional

Method:

Firstly and most importantly, before you begin to grate your bottle gourd taste and check for bitterness. If it is, scrap the halwa plan. If it isn’t, full steam ahead! In a deep bottomed pan, heat the ghee and then add the grated doodhi to it. Then stir it patiently, on and off, till the gourd starts to shrivel. Now this takes time, a lot of time because the gourd has lots of moisture in it. I would suggest you make this halwa when you are anyhow going to be stuck in the kitchen for some time. So, after patiently stirring for about 15-20 minutes, you can now add the milk and start stirring again. 5-10 minutes later, add the condensed milk. Go on stirring off and on, till all the moisture evaporates. Add the green cardamom powder. Check for sweetness. If required, add sugar and keep stirring on slow flame till the water from the sugar evaporates. Add some raisins and chopped nuts. Give it once last stir and DIG IN. I can challenge you, it is impossible to stop with one helping. Don’t believe me? Cook up this scrumptious halwa and see for yourself.

Tangy Quinoa Fried Rice

Sometimes, it seems you can’t make anything nice without using rice! And rice is so white, so fluffy, so yummy, soo fattening 😦 I can do without rice all right but I do love all the lovely rice delicacies.. fried rice, pulao, biriyani!!! Recently, I have discovered that I quite like quinoa and that it lends itself wonderfully for making any kind of dish which needs rice. So, here is my recipe for my favorite quinoa fried rice.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, grated

1 green capsicum, cut into long thin strips

1/2 cup green peas and corn

1/2 cup spring onion, chopped

 1 green chilli, slit diagonally

2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste

1 tablespoon schezwan sauce

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

Oil

Salt as per taste

Method:

Wash the quinoa in water till the water runs clear, about three times. Soak the quinoa in water for 5-10 minutes. Now in a pan pour 1 cup water and the half cup quinoa. Cook on high flame till the water begins to boil. Then lower the flame, cover and cook till all the water soaks into the quinoa and the quinoa becomes transparent. Let it remain covered for a couple of minutes and then fluff it with a fork. Keep aside.

In a seperate pan, drizzle some oil. Once oil turns hot, add the green chilli and onion. When the onion turns pink, add all the vegetables, season with salt, cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add all spices and sauces and let it simmer for another couple of minutes. Then add the quinoa, mix everything together and cook for about 5 mins. Yummy yet healthy fried rice is ready!

Tough Little Kids

Man, we were all such tough little kids. Kids have to be tough.. to take leaps of faith every single day. First time in a bath with hot soapy water scalding you, soaking you from head to toe but still being brave enough to endure it.. and learn to enjoy it. First step of walking on your fat, little legs.. stumbling, falling, crying…but still getting up until you learned to walk like a good little biped. First day in school.. ooh this one is really scary. All alone without mommy or daddy in a sea of strangers, snivelling with tears running down your face! Learning to ride a bicycle or swimming. What is it that makes kids so stoic? Acceptance. I have no way out from this bath, might as well just grit my teeth and go through with it, thinks the baby. Belief. Mommy says school will make me a big girl like her and Mommy is always right. Trust. Daddy has promised he will not let me fall of the bike and I know he won’t.

I look at my daughter when she faces something new, something challenging for her. I worry as parents are wont to do. I can see the confusion, the fear in her eyes, the set of her little shoulders. Sometimes she fails, sometimes she gets it right the very first time but the moment passes, she forgets all about it.. she laughs, she plays, she makes an absolute nuisance of herself and angelically goes to sleep. No new challenge keeps her awake the entire night, dreading tomorrow. I look at her and marvel what strength of character she has! But weren’t we all little kids once? Didn’t we all battle insurmountable (for us kids) difficulties every other day and emerged triumphant? What happened along the way?? We grew up, nay, we aged.. in our minds. But when I look at my daughter or any kid for that matter, it gives me hope. Hope that I can be kinder, braver, smarter and my most perfect self. Because, as they say, ‘Once you choose hope, anything is possible’.

Chicken Tikka Biryani

I lovvve biriyani! The fragrant, colorful rice, the tangy, spicy sauce, the succulent pieces of meat. What’s not to love. And chicken tikka biriyani is my absolute favourite. You get good biriyani in restaurants for sure but nothing beats the scrumptiousness of good old homemade biriyani. Biriyani is really not difficult to make, it is just a lengthy process. So, go for it when you are really in the mood to cook. Onward to the recipe.

Ingredients:

1/2 kg boneless chicken, cut into small chunks
2 cups basmati rice
2 big onions, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cup curd
1 cup birista or thinly sliced, fried onion
10-12 peppercorns
8-10 cloves
5-6 cardamom
2 bayleafs
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 cup chopped coriander
1 cup chopped mint leaves
2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
3 teaspoon tandoori chicken masala
20-25 cashewnuts
3 tablespoons raisins
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
2 green chillies, slit
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin and coriander seeds powder
2 tablespoons butter
Pinch of cardamom powder
Salt, as per taste
Oil
Yellow, red and green food color


Method:


Phew! That is a long list of ingredients all right. But nothing worth doing is easy, right? Start with the chicken. Marinate the chicken in half of the curd, half of the ginger garlic paste and red chilli powder and the tandoori chicken masala. Let it Marinate for at least an hour. Just before grilling the chicken, add some red food color. I have used a grill pan to make my chicken tikka. It takes very little oil and is quite quick. You can also use an oven or tandoor to make your tikka. Moving on to the rice. In a big, deep pan bring to boil about 6 cups of water. To the water add cardamom powder, oil, bay leafs and half of the cardamom, cloves and peppercorn. When the water is nicely boiling, add the rice. Cook till almost done. Strain and set aside. Lightly fluff the rice with a fork after a few minutes, add yellow color on part of the rice and green on the other and gently mix it so that about a fifth of the rice gets colored.

Now, for the masala. In a pan, heat oil and some butter. Add the remaining whole condiments. Once they emit fragrance, about 2-3 minutes, add the chopped onions. Once the onions are pinkish brown, add the chopped tomatoes and salt, cover and let simmer for about 5-7 minutes. In a mixie, grind half of the cashewnuts with some water. Now, add the curd, tomato puree, cashew paste, all remaining spices, one cup water, cover and cook till the oil separates from the sauce, about 7-10 minutes. Add your chicken and let it all simmer together for another 10 minutes. Open add a tablespoon of birista, 1/2 tablespoon butter, third of the raisins and sprinkle with coriander and mint leaves. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

Now, for the assembling. In a big, deep bottomed pan heat some butter and fry the remaining cashews for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cashews on a plate. To the pan, add a thin layer of rice. Sprinkle the rice with some birista. Now add a layer of the chicken tikka masala. Now another player of rice. Top it with birista, butter, coriander and mint. To this, add all the remaining chicken masala. Top with remaining rice, butter, fried cashews, raisins, birista, mint leaves and coriander. Cover with a plate and place something heavy on the lid so that the flavours remain inside. You can also seal the lid and vessel together with some wheat dough. Let it cook on slow flame for 10-15 minutes. Open the lid, take a moment to swoon, pat yourself on the back and dig in!

Mothers-The Unsung Superheroes

Had taken my kid to the park the other day. She did an entire circuit of all the swings and slides available and quickly became fascinated by a rock climbing thingy which led to a slide. She tried and failed to climb it twice, thrice… Then she somehow got the knack of doing it. When I saw her climb up her last rock up to the slide, I whooped louder than she did 🙂

So, anyway, she was manically climbing and sliding when along came a mother-son duo. The boy was older and taller than my daughter but he seemed to be differently abled. He clung to his mother and cried. He could not get up the rocks. The mother cajoled and instructed him how to climb. She showed him my daughter nonchalantlytly clambering up. But the boy only shook his head and cried. And he really wanted to go on that slide. Then the mother climbed the rock thingy with her son clinging on to her like a limpet and all the time, she cheerfully and patiently placed his feet on the rocks till he made it to the top. I felt so happy and humbled all at the same time. The lady climbed down and stood looking at her son giggling madly as he came down the slide. Really, mothers! The word says it all!!!

Samosa Chaat

I love samosas. The crunchy exterior and the yummy potato filling inside..what’s not to like! But some times you are left with a few samosas lying around..everyone simply refuses to have just have another one. So, what do you do? Throw them away or give it to your maid? There is a third delicious alternative. You can turn it into a scrumptious chaat. That is exactly what I did the other day and the chaat turned out really well. Onward to the recipe then.

Ingredients:

2 samosas, broken into small chunks

200 gms curd

1 1/2  cup sev

1 onion, chopped

2 tbsp tamarind

2 dates

2 tbsp jaggery

Red chilli powder, as per taste

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon chaat masala

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1 tbsp sugar

Salt, as per taste

1/2 cup chopped coriander

Method:

Soak together dates, tamarind and jaggery in some water. Keep aside. In a bowl, whisk together 150 gms curd along with all the condimentss, sugar and salt. Dilute it with a little water and whisk again. You need to thin out the curd because chaat has the tendency to become dry really fast. Now add the samosa chunks, the chopped onions and half of the pomegranate. Using your hand, squeeze out the juice from the tamarind mixture and discard the used tamarind. Now, add half of this chutney to the bowl with the curd and samosas. Sprinkle half cup sev and gently mix everything together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining curd along with some salt and sugar. Pour this curd over the samosa mixture. Pour the remaining tamarind chutney, sev and pomegranate seeds. Garnish with chopped coriander. Let it sit in the fridge for 10 minutes and dig in!

Of nobodies and somebodies..

Know those times when you do not have the energy even to cry? Anything and everything seems determined to go against you. Partner, family, job… Seeing some friend’s smiling profile on FB, hearing about your second cousin’s latest bundle of joy, seeing a relatives status update posted holidaying in some exotic place… Everything slowly and exquisitely drags you towards the realisation of your absolute failure in… Failure in everything, of course. Thoughts of ending one life suddenly stop terrifying you and become more tempting everyday. Nothing seems to matter because you are obviously a non-entity. Why bother about putting in some extra time at work, why bother to cook when you can grab a burger, why bother to walk when you can take a cab??? Know this feeling?
And the mind boggling fact is, your life if seen by an outsider would seem exactly the same to him now and before. Why then the puffy eyes, anger fits, morose lethargy, he would wonder. All that has changed is that you have stopped fighting. Giving up seems much less work than working to make things work. When you find yourself spiralling down, ever down, into depression… Step back and take a deep breath. Step out from your daily routine and do something, anything new. Go and meet some old friend who makes you laugh. Go to the beauty shop and get a new haircut. Catch a bus to a place whose streets you have never explored before. But it has to be a new experience. And it has to be something simple and inexpensive. Also stuffing your face with doughnuts and fries when you do this, automatically disqualifies you 🙂
Right, take your time, give yourself time and think about what you mean to do next only after you have smiled and laughed with your lips, your eyes and your heart. Then decide, what next. Sometimes one teeny change is all it takes.

The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

This book is for the days when you feel you have read everything. No plot, no character seems to hold your attention and you keep on impatiently hopping from book to book. At such a time… read The Ladies of Missalonghi. Colleen McCullogh’s writing flows along gently and almost before you know it, you are hooked. Another of her books, The Thorn Birds is more critically acclaimed. Now, I have read them both and I much prefer this one. I must have read it atleast ten times.

Nothing really spectacular happens in the book. The heroine of the book, a thirty three year old spinster called Missy is somebody you would never give a second glance to. She is plain, dark and always attired in brown, poor but respectable. She lives with her overbearing mother and aunt in a house called Missalonghi. Incidentally that is her name! The three ladies live an extremely dull and uneventful life. Our Missy yearns to have a life, to go out alone and walk in the “valley”, to own a cat, to get married. 

And then along comes Una, a spirited, gorgeous widow who minds the library owned by one of Missy’s distant aunts. She lends Missy love stories wrapped in brown paper. Because even at thirty three Missy is not allowed to read that kind of books. Talk about stagnation! The two become fast friends. Una’s sparkling personality rubs off on dull, brown Missy. She tricks John Smith, the man she adores, into marrying her. She sheds her brown uniform and attires herself in sparkly, indecent red, like one of those scarlet women of Caroline Lamb Palace. She gives her wealthy, snobbish relatives who frankly never even knew she existed a piece of her mind sending the ladies into hysterics! She dyes Alicia’s (the clans darling young lady who is incidentally the same age as Missy) gorgeous hand me down apricot dress brown and she does it with cowdung 🙂 Go Missy! This book is a real gem. And it has a startling climax. Want to know what? Read the book…NOW!!!