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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Product Review: Borges Farfalle Pasta

Borges Farfalle Pasta[/caption]
(Photo Credits: http://cynublog.blogspot.in/2012/06/new-pasta-brand-and-freebies.html)


Price:

Rs.145 for a pack of 500 gms.

Description:

Perenially a Macaroni and Penne Pasta fan, I was surprised to discover that the partner preferred Fettucine and Farfalle more. Though hesitant, I decided to buy Borges Wheat Farfalle Pasta.  This came with a very intriguing "Mediterranean starter kit", which contained:

  • One Recipe book.

  • Extra virgin olive oil, 37 ml.

  • Pasta Seasoning, 100 gm - Containing Oregano, Paprika, Onion, Basil, Garlic, Thyme, Lemon Peel, Black Pepper, Lemon Oil.

  • Cheese and Italian Herb Seasoning, 100 gm - Containing Cheese Powder, Garlic, Oregano, Thyme, Salt, Rosemary, Basil, Black Pepper, Red Chilly, Lemon Peel.


Review:

  1. Farfalle: It definitely has a lot of things going for itself. Considering that it is a wheat pasta, the price is not too steep. Though they take a longer time to cook than their counterparts,  Borges' Pasta did not break easily or stick together. I found them to be a bit thick and chewy, but maybe that is how Farfalle is supposed to be (It is my first time after all).

  2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: What’s not to love? :)

  3. Pasta Seasoning: I did not expect to like it, since I have already used a herb mix which failed to stimulate our taste buds. However, this seasoning has a very pleasant smell, and adds a nice and mild flavour to the dish. It seems to get lost in the red sauce, but a spoon with the white sauce works wonders.

  4. Cheese and Italian Herb Seasoning: This is quickly turning out to be my go-to-spice mix when I run out of options. Be it pasta or fried rice, the seasoning adds an interesting and not-too-subtle flavour. The smell of cheese is an added advantage!


Verdict:

Very strongly recommended.

Two Fates - Judy Balan

Synopsis:
Two Fates
ISBN: 9381626006
First Published In: 2011
A parody of “Two States", this book takes us through an unexpected and funny struggle of a couple to get a divorce.

Category:
Words-Wordy, Witty

Genre: 
Fiction


Language:
Profane.

Favorite Quote:
Sometimes we both cared more for the institute of marriage than we did for each other.

Review
The review has a very high potential to be biased since I am a diligent follower of the author, Judy Balan’s blog. In fact, I came to know about the book through one of her posts; which is as well, for the cover of the book is nothing to write home about. Though I like minimalism/caricatures/ cartoons, this was borderline immature, and not in a good way. The designer seems to have lost interest midway through the rope-loop drawings. The fact that the book is still doing well “despite” a bad cover is a testimonial in itself.
I was however, surprised to find that most reviewers have mis-read(!) the book so thoroughly. Looks like Balan was too, as her post suggests

To summarise: The book is about an IIM-couple Deepika, a Tamilian and Rishabh, a Punjabi. Their families seem to have overcome their basic differences and are bonding well, much to the chagrin of the couple who want to have a divorce. Through London, Scotland, Chennai and Punjab, this incompatible-yet-wanting to be together couple stumble through relatives and various issues leading to a lot of situational comedies and emotional drama.

The book is primarily a parody of the Chetan Bhagat novel, Two States. I can imagine the author rolling her eyes at its corniness, and deciding to write Two Fates just to bring it out in sharp relief. Hence, as a parody, it is bang on. There are a lot of tongue-in-cheek references – to the original book as well to the author. For instance, Balan has coined the term “Gandhi complex” for the male protagonist, defining it as “a delusional condition that the future of the nation rests squarely on his shoulders”. – A not too subtle nod to the lofty ambitions of Bhagat himself.
The coup-de-grace was this exchange between Deepika and Rish:
“Winning is about strategy as much as it is about choice of words”, he gloated. 
“And that’s precisely why I think you’re not meant to be a writer”, I said. He remained silent. 
To me, writing was an art form. It was as much about beauty, form and style as it was about content. But Rish could never get that. For him, the story was everything. 
“If the story is good and the language simple, people will read”, he often said. 
But my point wasn’t about people reading as much as it was creating art. He argued that if I wanted to create art I should paint or write poetry, making me want to shoot him down for landing on my turf and lecturing me on what I was obviously better equipped to do. 
“I am going to make India read” He finally announced getting up from him seat with a dreamy look, as if he were the Mahatma and he had just made up him mind about ahimsa. 
“Drama King”, I said, “You’d do so much better in Bollywood”. 
“Yes maybe, I should make a movie about the fateful day I married you” he said, taking his seat again. 
“You could call it Two Idiots”, I grinned.
Interestingly, though Balan has also done the North-South stereotyping, she has fared much better. While Bhagat could barely conceal his annoyance and bias, Balan worked at creating stereotypes only to contradict them later – be it in repeatedly showing how “simple” South Indians are, only to be followed by the groom’s (south-Indian) mother happily accepting a Honda City, or to Rish and Deepika’s argument on who was more obnoxious - The balance seems equal, and hence, funny.

However, as a standalone book, it did have its drawbacks. The flow was unsure and shaky initially, which progressively improved with the story. The initial attempts at funny one-liners and interesting comebacks seemed a tad disjoint and broke the narration. Admittedly, no fault can be found with the language, which was witty, intelligent and slightly wordy with sporadic doses of swear words.  There were poetic lines like these:
Conning the audience was the aim and the client was the unsuspecting fat cow about to be milked like nobody’s business. So, come hell, high waters, weekends or lunch time – ours was not to reason why; ours was but to write clever headlines and lie.
Or funny ones like these:
Sure, we can’t give our lives for the country, perform open-heart surgery or help prevent global warming. But we know how to make people buy things they don’t want to buy. And that makes us way cooler than everyone else.
There are ample doses of dry humor in these pages, which are guaranteed to bring out a chuckle or two from the reader. Though it shows a lot of promise, for a non-TwoStates reader, I don’t think it is enough to hold fort.

Verdict:
The book is strongly recommended for those who have already read “Two States”. As a parody, it is remarkably funny. As a standalone book though, it fell a bit short. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Getting the Chapatti Right!

Arch had once suggested doing a post on soft chapattis, and I had conveniently forgotten about it (read, chickened out - it is a recently acquired talent).  Chapattis are so easily underestimated, and so difficult to do it right. The science of it is simple: Keep the moisture in.It is the “How” that is kind of confusing.



I seem to have tried many variations and finally settled on one. For starters, here is a list of the tried options:

  1. The ghee (clarified butter) paratha:


      • Take a ball of the dough and roll it to about half the size of a chapatti.

      • Spread a teaspoon of clarified butter evenly over the surface of the chapatti.

      • Now fold it in half, and then again in half to form a quarter.

      • Use the rolling pin to form a uniform and thin paratha. Needless to say, it won’t be as thin as a normal one.

      • While putting it on the tava, keep pressing it gently with a spoon so that it is well cooked.




  2. The oiled dough: While making the chapatti dough, add about two teaspoonful of oil. This makes the dough very soft.

  3. The vegetable roll: To be fair, this is a coward’s way out. If one is very doubtful about the chapatti coming out well, the side-dish can be rolled into it and stored. Ideal for lunch boxes, the chapatti absorbs the moisture of the vegetables and becomes very soft.


I have tried all three, but have finally settled on a method that suits and serves me well. It is a multiple step approach:

  1. The consistency of the dough: Contrary to normal expectations, the dough should be soft and slightly sticky. We tend to worry that it’ll end up creating trouble while rolling, but it can be adjusted by adding the flour (either to the dough or to the chapatti being rolled). If the dough is too hard, all the moisture is absorbed when we cook it resulting in dry and hard chapattis.

  2. Resting time: Perhaps the most common mistake one makes is giving the dough absolutely no resting time. Try giving it at least half an hour to settle before cooking.

  3. The Fluff: Needless to say, the softness is directly related to the ballooning of the chapatti while cooking. I have never had trouble with it, so am not sure what the reason for that is, but I am guessing it is the uniformity of the rolled chapatti, and of course, its thickness. Thinner, the better.

  4. The Storage: If all else fails, this ought to work. Even if the chapatti is hard while cooking, when they are stacked one over the other, they end up absorbing each other’s moisture (through steam) and become soft. The roundabout (and technically sound) way is to cover them in a thin cotton cloth to hold the moisture in. The lazy part of me is content on stacking them one over the other, and then inverting the bunch and storing it in a utensil in FIFO (First In, First Out) order.


If you have any other methodologies do let me know in comments.