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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Monday, 31 May 2010

The Fairy Queen

It is not often that you can say I was able to give my husband the best birthday present ever and it was called the Fairy Queen. All sorts of images might come to mind but actually she was old, as all the best things are, elegant and smutty and here she is:
She was built in 1855 and she is the oldest working steam engine in the world so this weekend we boarded her and headed off to Rajastan where the average temperature was approximately 45 C but were we worried about this - not in the least we were so excited to be part of this historic event because it is not everyday that opportunities like these present themselves. She is  a locomotive steam train, pulling a passenger coach,whistling and hooting all the way with people greeting her enthousiastically everywhere we travelled. Indian railways had planned this so well that even when she broke down on the way down, there was a diesel engine behind to help us complete the journey, the kind of foward planning you don't often expect here !!
She was fixed and on the way back she even picked up speeds of some 60 kms an hour which is pretty impressive for someone 145 years old with hubby firmly on the plate watching eagerly and accumulating so much smut that all his clothes will have to be binned.

She is in the Guinness Book of Records and a great favourite of all steam train afectionados everywhere. This was a trip organised by Indian Railways one of the largest employers in the world and it was wonderful from the lovely service on board the train and the catering to the enthousiasm of all those who help the Fairy Queen to stay in prime condition to the excellent and clean toilet facilities on board !

This is a steamy kind of happiness
Hot work shovelling the coal into the furnace
And after the hot work some hot food to get you into the spirit of it all.

One of the 16000 trains a day on the Indian Rail System with faces of such complexity and diversity that you never tire of gazing out the window.

One of the many families who greeted us along the way.

The journey was picturesque travelling through the most primitive rural villages with smooth mud huts and courtyards where water buffalo grazed and lazed. Camel carts pulled loads along the roads and tea shops offered much needed refreshements. The women toiled in the baking sun, the countryside was dry and at one point there was an enormous dust storm that covered the sun and everything in sight. We arrived at Alwar station to a paparazzi welcome with photographers jostling for position and flashlights popping. I looked around expecting to see that one of us was the mystery celeb but found that we all were.
What a welcome fit for royalty and what a day for the boys.
More on the safari side soon.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

I heard about this on the grapevine as with all the good things in life and finding it was a bit of an adventure but I did find it and was so excited that I want to tell you all about it.

This is the first private Museum of Art in Delhi. It is owned by Kiran Nadar, the wife of Shiv Nadar of HCL fame. The man who brought computers to India. She has been collecting art, mainly Indian, but not exclusively, for about 25 years and she has had the generosity of spirit and the foresight to share this with us all. KNMA is housed at the moment on the HCL Campus in Noida and its address is Plot 3A Sector 126 Noida. It has been open to the public since January and its opening hours are 10.00 am to 1830 pm all days except Mondays.

The building is modern and cool, elegant and streamlined.

Its the contents that sent me overboard. Indian art as I have never seen it before.Beautifully represented and totally inspirational. I have my moments with modern art and when I visit the Tate Modern I dont always go away feeling satisfied. Today I can honestly say I was satiated, largely due to the wonderful in-depth and fascinating accounts of the artists and their works given to us by Chandrima Nandi the Deputy Manager of the Museum. She brought it all alive, she pointed out the art work that went into individual paintings and told us snippets about the artists and their lives. It was like being part of a show you didnt want to end though our backs hurt and we were starving.

She talked about Peter Jung's beautiful vessels from China, Anjolie Ela Menon's Woman on a Threshold -is she about to enter or exit from her life ? Rashid Rana's exquisite minatures of pictures put so artfully together to create an illusion of a very different form. NS Harsha's Nations in 2007 depicting stencilled sewing machines and the flags of the whole world.The old age splendour of Raji Ravi Varma, the first commercial artist who was painting for aristocratic families using western influences as far back as 1894. That contrasted with the splendid works of M F Husain and the stellar forms of Anish Kapoor.

Neither words, nor pictures can capture the true essence of the artwork which is varied, stunning and inspirational. Go and savour this Indian gem for yourselves.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Fresh Fruit

There are definitely some rewards to being here in this hot hot season and one of them is all the lovely fruit on the market, from the mangoes to the pineapples, the apples and the pears, the lychees and the grapes and now the cherries and the peaches. Check them out and gobble them up

And wait to see my peach of a discovery tomorrow !

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Moment worth capturing

Emma Horne who is a Travel Advisor of Nexxtop India Tours (A Division of Himalayan River Runners)
Mobile: + 91 (0) 9810579143 sent the following picture on email today about her recent adventures in some of our favourite tiger parks. Contact her if you want to arrange a safari but this picture she sent along with the details of her itineraries was priceless. Even the tigers feel the heat !!

Saturday, 22 May 2010


If there is such a word it means the joy of seeing and tasting foods in the right season. In my youth we would await the arrival of baby cucumbers to signal the arrival of spring, crunchy and firm like kakari, or the first watermelon when the summer months were approaching. Fresh artichokes in the autumn and the unmistakable taste of tangerines picked fresh off a tree as winter settles. Now of course with air freight and deliveries, grapes seem to be available all year round, and strawberries appear in the oddest months. I am not a fan of this globalization - much happier to see what comes up with the seasons and the weather and India is a joy in that respect. You travel along the road and you know what is new on the market instantly as it is all around you, by the roadside, on the barrows and in the markets.
This week's discovery is lychees.

This is a fruit which to me was always something that came in tins and was the perfect end to any Chinese meal. But when you see them fresh what a different picture they present. The vibrancy of their skins, the way you can peel them and pop them in your mouth, the smoothness of the pip which you never see in the tinned variety, the delicacy of the real flavour, delectable and delicious.

So to tempt you even more here is a recipe with Lychees !
A raspberry and lychee cake

125 gms flour
1sachet of Baking Powder/ 1 tsp of BP
125 gms of butter ( melted )
100 gms of sugar
3 eggs
1 small tin of lychees in syrup
1 pannet of raspberries ( yes I know not widely available here but use your indian imagination and substitute, strawberries or frozen ones)
Whipped cream

Heat oven to 150C. gas mark 5 Beat the three yolks with the sugar and add 4 tlbs of the syrup of the lychees. Add the flour and the BP, the melted butter , 15 lychees chopped roughly and half the pannet of raspberries.

Beat the whites of the eggs to form a meringue and add a pinch of salt. Add the whites to the mixture and fold in carefully. Place in a buttered cake tin and cook for thirty five to forty minutes or until cooked. When cool decorate with whipped cream and the rest of the raspberries.

Untested as yet so feeback welcome !!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Hot water and geezers

You say the word "geyser" pronounced "geezer" and you think of Iceland again, this time spouting hot water, and not ash,  naturally. You say the word again in the east of London and you get the image of an old man with odd ways.
In Europe you turn the tap on and hot water comes out. Here you have a strange tank perched precariously over your head and you flick a switch and then in due course you get hot water which these days is almost scalding. This is an Indian geezer.

The concept however is a reasonable one. Only have it on if you need it and so thumbs up for this system of Indian resource management. It is however, like a lot of things here, subject to fits and starts of working well and also the butt of many an amusing expat story. Expat sitting on loo, bemoaning her fate as bath had sprung a leak when geezer bursts on top of her head. Expat switching on switch to find faulty electrics playing a game of life and death-Geysers on fire ! I dare say it happens to Indians as well we just dont seem to hear so much about it.
So when ours stopped working it was a question of can it be salvaged or binned. Everything is worth repairing in this country - well almost everything......
Judge for yourself. Furried up pipes, dubious insulation, rusted parts and wiring that leaves my hairs standing on edge. The white deposits are calcium from the hardness of the water. Just think what this water does to your teeth and your insides but that is worthy of a separate post! Still, all in a good day's efforts of the roller coaster of India's daily surprises.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Barrows are a memory of my childhood. I used to go to the big fruit and vegetable market in the old part of  Nicosia with my mother and dotted around the big market place were barrows selling fresh produce. They are gone now- eclipsed by the shops with neon lights, the supermakets which sell everything and the slicker merchants of today.
In India, a bygone era still holds on and these vendors with  their beautifully arranged fruit and vegetables is what I have decided to write and show you today. The barrows are ubiquitous and versatile- They can be parked anywhere and travel where necessary. No rents are demanded and they sometimes offer the venue for a vendor's rest and repose. Comradeship is possible and competition fairly distributed. A means of earning a livelihood that is movable, attractive and hopefully lucrative.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Mmm mustard

Have you looked out on to the fields in India and found comfort in that blanket of yellow which paints the horizon and adds colour to the sky?

Mustard is very special and so I am going to tell you a little bit about it. There are three types of mustard yellow, brown and oriental. Mustard seeds have been used for thousands of years and are even mentioned in the Bible. It is considered to be the third most important spice after salt and pepper.

It is an unlikely hero but it is so widespread and useful, whether as a spice or an oil or eaten as a vegetable. The leaves which are apparently not everyone’s culinary treat are considered as an important supplement for the future.They contain a cocktail of anti cancer ingredients including vitamins and have three times more calcium, potassium and iron than is found in ordinary vegetables. Have a look at today 's article on this very matter.
Closer to home however there is another moment which I want to share with you and that is harvesting.
When all the mustard plants were cut, the pods slightly yellowing and full they were all laid out on the road outside the house. They were beaten and the plant part was extracted leaving the seed pods.The next day this was the sight that greeted me in the morning. Separating the mustard seeds from the chaff with a little modern air power.

This field worth yielded this mound on the ground and hopefully supplemented someone's income preferably not the landlords !

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Have wheels will travel

In Parmesan's case this was a ten kilometre round trip on his bike every day. It is a tall order for anyone and I would like to believe that it is the reason he is so slim and so well turned out.
So to make life a little easier we have acquired wheels for him and hope that he will not become an overweight Indian as a consequence but rather see it as a way to save time and make more money perhaps and also allow himself a little more time with his family.
So it was quite a family outing when we went out on a Saturday to buy the scooter and the process though bureacratic was bareble and before the end of a couple of hours this was the result.

He did a puja for the scooter like a good Hindu and came with Rhas Malai for the whole household the next day.It is dusted and cleaned and decorated with garlands. Ahh boys with their toys.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Daily Dump

Yes there is a lot of that going on here in India but this is one with a difference and one well worth talking about. We have been doing it for years and at this point don't you all want to fall about laughing.Actually I am talking about a slightly different dump and this involves the creation of compost from you organic waste.
When you have peeled your potatoes and your onions and carefully cleaned your pineapple dont just bin everything - keep this waste in a separate container and start the process of turning it into compost.

I came across the first organised example of this in India on Saturday and I was very impressed. The Daily Dump tells you how to organise your waste and has several products which assist in the process which are particularly useful to people who live in apartments and do not have much room to put waste outside.
The Leave- it- pot and the Kambha are both versatile ceramic pots which can be used to serve as a storage and maturation chamber for the waste.

Basically the message is that in this country where there is no organized waste collection except for the rag pickers this is the way society can start taking responsibility for converting waste into something useful and introducing the concept widely to builders and planners so that this becomes a part of every apartment block and organised community.

Even this small separation actually helps the rag pickers who are likely to make a few rupees more by recycling cardboard and plastic which is not soiled by rotting fruit and other food products.
If you do it already spread the word
If you dont start today

Dr Jaya Deshpande
email drjayadeshpande@yahoo.co.in
mob 9810886949
or go to http://www.dailydump.org/
email dailydumpcompost@gmail.com