Archive for October, 2007

The Rules of Flying

In retrospect travelling just short of 8,000 miles to go on holiday to a place with a nine and a half hour time difference and a reputation for chronic cases of diarrhoea was not the most thoroughly thought-through decision that I’ve ever made. And neither was the twenty-hour “express” train from Jaisalmer to Delhi, nor was the lugging back of several steel cooking pans in my suitcase, nor was the going back to work with minimal recovery time, nor was the thinking that I’d get a good burger from room service on my last night in a country that doesn’t eat beef. But above all – the absolute worst decision that I made on the entire trip was eating the plane food on my journey home.

I have three straightforward rules when flying, which maintain my sanity and wellbeing despite frequently having the opposite affect on my travelling companion. The rules are as follows:

1/ Early is happy. Departure to the airport takes place at the designated time having taken into account all possible delays, distractions, disasters and pit stops that could theoretically take place en route. As a child I ran to catch far too many a plane for my always-in-a-rush-father and the resulting later-life trauma has made me a stickler for punctuality.

2/ Try for an upgrade whenever appropriate- and it generally always is. Or in the worst case scenario make sure that you find a seat, which has an empty one next door.

3/ Never eat the plane food. Unless of course the first part of rule number two is deemed a success, as it is well known that food in the front of the plane is far superior to that in Piggery class.
Continue reading ‘The Rules of Flying’

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A Recipe: Roasted butternut squash & mango salad

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Mango and Red Onion

It is most definitely pumpkin time in New York City and with Halloween around the corner they are more than readily available. I have always found the shift from summer to autumn quite an abrupt one when it comes to food- one week the peaches are perfect, the next they are tasteless mush and you’re back to buying apples again. My policy is to overdose on summer gems like tomatoes and peaches in order to make the transition from summer to autumn a welcome one and this year has been no exception.

The weather, however, has not been complying with my usual autumnal food associations which conjure up images of a warm fire and piping hot roasted squash with a roast chicken or butternut squash and bacon soup. On Monday last week, it was cold and dreary- perfect for sipping soup wrapped in a blanket. Of course, I didn’t have time to make the soup on Monday or Tuesday and by Wednesday it was 70 degrees again, my apartment windows were open wide and soup and blankets were not on my wish list. I was, however determined to use the butternut squash I had bought and my boyfriend reminded me of this salad that I had styled for my portfolio with photographer Jemma Watts in London. This salad is perfect for this lead up for this not quite ready to say goodbye to summer weather and from a health point-of-view I particularly love that it’s delicious even without a salad dressing.

You can roast the squash with any combination of herbs or spices that you like- or even just in oil with salt and pepper. If you like roasted pumpkin seeds then try roasting the squash seeds, seasoned with salt and pepper in a little oil and then sprinkle over the salad to serve.

Roasted butternut squash & mango salad

Serves 4

1 medium Butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed and sliced 1 cm thick
2-3 tbsp olive oil (or a few squirts of olive oil spray), plus extra to serve
¼ tsp chili flakes (crushed red pepper flakes), optional
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, optional
1 mango, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
Box of mixed leaf greens
200g/7 oz feta cheese, cut into chunks, optional

1/ Heat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. Toss the squash with the oil, chilli, seasoning and herbs and place in a roasting tin in a single layer. Roast in the oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until tender, beginning to caramelise on the bottom of the pan. Turn squash pieces a couple of times during cooking.

2/ Toss together all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl and serve with a drizzle of oil.

The London foodie eats india and okra take two

When you make it known that you’re going to India- everyone that you tell manages to dig up a trying-to-be-helpful (but not) horror story, which they proceed to recount in all its gory detail. All of these stories revolve around illness- and 90% of them focus on the stomach and its inability to correctly digest. Being one who was blessed at birth with a greedy but incredibly temperamental stomach, I have to admit that I was a little anxious. But here I am safely back in New York with nothing more than a few sniffles from the plane air vents and with cravings for raw food, beef and tap water. I must just be one of the lucky few who manages to return with their Imodium still neatly packed in away in it’s box- and having witnessed the hygiene India, I’m guessing that I was not just lucky- but very lucky.

In any case- I successfully managed to challenge my taste buds and set my mouth on fire at each opportune moment despite sticking to a mainly vegetarian (and a cautious one at that) diet. And whilst the break from meat still gave me savoury satisfaction, I’m rather pleased to be back in a country where cows don’t wear halos and the pigs don’t eat the street rubbish. Continue reading ‘The London foodie eats india and okra take two’

The london foodie in india

“This is India, Madam” my driver keeps reminding me, as I cover my face with my hands again as we face off yet another cargo truck on a rocky mountain road.

“Are there no rules?!” I squeal as we swerve back over to the left (the correct) side of the road, my stomach churning.

My driver chuckles “yes madam, but nobody follow- me and my car we are complete, no accidents” he attempts to assure me.

Driving in India is like one big game of chicken, who will hold out the longest before swerving back to their side of the road. And I thought driving in New York was crazy. But New York doesn’t have to battle with 330km of unfinished road or those worn away to form giant potholes from the recent monsoon. Indian taxis and cars share the road with cows, sheep, wild pigs, camels pulling carts piled high with grains and passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, tuk tuks and whole unhelmeted families on single motorbikes, the mother sitting side saddle in a beautiful sari clutching her baby! Jeeps are packed so full with people that you could never accurately guess how many there are- personal space issues are not something that Indian people and I have in common. I might add that these are main roads connecting the major cities of Rajastan.

In the opening pages of my Rough Guide to India it says “…an incomprehensible and bewildering continent. But for all its jarring juxtaposition, intractable paradoxes and frustrtions, India remains an utterly compelling destination.”  How better can I describe India that that?

My sister and I have been spending a lot of time in the car on this trip to India and whilst it has reduced me to endless bouts of car sickness, I am yet to be sick of what you can witness on the drives themselves. It is the only way to see the small Indian villages and though you will be stared and waved at, it’s worth it. I only wish that I somehow blended in and could watch the people carrying out their village life all day- sadly my white skin and Birkenstocks seem to give me away. Though it is a blessing that we have been spared the  words ‘TOURIST’ across our car, like many others.

In order to survive the roads in Rajastan, it is imperative to have a flexible thumb to honk your horn with. If you want somebody out of your way- honk. If you want to overtake somebody- honk. When you are facing off oncoming traffic- honk like your life depends on it, because it does.  I am certain that in later life, our driver will suffer from repetitive strain syndrome with honking as the cause. What surprises me more that the driving itself though, is the fact that despite the cow dodging and games of chicken, we have not witnessed one accident. The driving seems reason alone to get to temple.

Despite the road chaos- India has become for me ‘utterly compelling.’

“We are here, Madam” my driver says.  “Time to get fresh and we see sights. yes.”

“Yes.”

Lalmas

(Lamb Curry)

We stayed in a guesthouse called Devra in Udaipur, which I could not recommend enough to future travellers.  With only four rooms, and being set back from the hustle and bustle of the town, it makes for a magnificent retreat from the days tiring activities.  Here Joti, gave me a Rajistani heritage cooking lesson- her recipes handed down from her mother and very special.  This recipe is only a guess at the ingredient quantities, she did not have real meaurements- just a spoonful of this and two spoonfuls of that. All of her recipes use the four spices chilli, turmeric, coriander and salt.

500g stewing lamb

1/2 cup full fat yogurt (curd)

2 Tbsp crushed garlic

1 tsp chilli powder

3 tsp ground coriander

salt to taste

1 tsp turmeric

1/4 cup fresh cream

Mix together all of the ingredients and let marinate for an hour or over night. Place in a pressure cooker for ten minutes (or sit in on a low heat for about an hour- add a splash of water if necessary, but this is meant to be rather a dry curry).


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