In December my home becomes an ice-box, dark, cold and depressing. The sun could well be blazing outdoors, but inside, it's freezing and we need 100 watt bulbs and thermal underwear on. Which is why, to misquote Tennyson, In the Chill a woman's fancy turns to thoughts of parks. There's something about sitting out on a durrie in a park -thorns, flies and hungry mongrels notwithstanding -that uplifts the mood and the appetite.
So, long after my children have outgrown excitement at the word "picnic", I haven't. When they were younger, we'd perfected the packing drill: water, plastic plates, paper napkins, a garbage bag, roast moongphali and gur (or chocolate) or chikki. Food was my responsibility, and this is so closely associated with my own childhood that only two menus were permissible. For many years, a picnic lunch had to have either sandwiches or kabab-paratha.
Sandwiches were chicken or ham, in soft, fresh white bread -this is before the whole-wheat and multigrain diktat -and bursting with filling. A large plastic box of salad: radishes (small lal mooli) cucumbers, tomatoes -no dressing, but sometimes a whole lemon -all cut on the spot with Daddy's pen knife. A bag of oranges and a flask of coffee. Soda wasn't encouraged.
I've always fantasised about another "local" packed meal seen on train journeys: piles of uncounted pooris and cold, yellow alu ki subzi, with homemade aam ka achar leaking strong smelling mustard oil from the wrapping: waxed paper from that week's Britannia bread. But the kabab-paratha menu wins hands down.
Some years ago six responsible adults and three children went prospecting for land on the outskirts of Delhi. We carried the usual sandwich story, and soon after we started walking, decided to unfold the durrie and collapse. The brave men forged on. For me the whole idea of a picnic is to get outdoors and start eating -Frisbee etcetera are irrelevant. So two of us thought we'd start on the sandwiches and the third said she had brought a few kababs and parathas. We had a couple each; the start of the slippery slope. First we said that we should just taste them, then that they would be too spicy for the kids, then that we should leave four each for the men, then that the men would be hot and thirsty and would prefer cold sandwiches and salad, and finally, that by now they must have stopped and eaten at a dhaba, so two each should be enough for them... Because parathas kneaded in milk to keep them soft; and kababs made with the finest qeema, crisp outside and soft within, spiked with garam masala, are, like revenge, a dish best eaten cold. This shami kabab recipe is based on the one in "Curry: A Biography", by Lizzie Collingham, and suggests, among other variations, masoor instead of chana dal.
Months ago a local newspaper ran a column from NYT by Mark Bitten, an American food writer, listing 101 foods to take on a picnic. The dishes were obviously for another audience and included neither poori-alu nor kabab-paratha. But he had delicious ideas that I tried with a little adaptation, and they work.
He suggested pesto chicken rolls: seasoned and grilled chicken cutlets layered with tomatoes and arugula and wrapped in pita-like bread smeared with pesto sauce. Curried egg salad with hardboiled eggs, mayo, curry powder, mustard, onions and diced apples. Grapes -or grape tomatoes or watermelon chunks -with feta cheese, mint and chilli flakes. Watermelon isn't a winter fruit -even if you buy it after paying an arm and a leg. Once cut, it will spoil in a plastic box in the sun-warmed boot of a car. Grapes are better for a picnic, but the watermelon version is delightful to eat at home on a warm summer night.
RED GRAPE AND FETA CHEESE SALAD
- 400g grapes
- 100g feta cheese
- Handful mint leaves
- 1 green chilli, chopped fine (optional)
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Halve grapes, cut feta into cubes and combine the lot with mint leaves and green chilli, if using. Grind some pepper over and drizzle with olive oil. Chill until ready to serve.
* For a picnic carry the oil and pepper in a separate leak-proof container. No salt -feta has enough.
Traditional Punjab and Uttar Pradesh recipe
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 onions, sliced
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 cloves
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1/2-inch cinnamon stick
- 4 green cardamoms
- 2 whole dried red chillies
- 3 tbsp red split lentils, masoor dal
- 500g finely ground minced meat
- 1/2 tsp ginger, chopped
- 2 green chillies
- 1/2 cup mint leaves
- 1/2 cup coriander leaves, chopped
- 3 tbsp yoghurt
- 1 tbsp raisins
- 1 tbsp sliced almonds
Heat oil and saut onions till transparent. Add cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom and chillies and fry for 3-4 minutes. Keep aside. Cook lentils in about a cup of water until soft. In a blender, pure onion and spice mixture, lentils, minced meat, ginger, green chillies, fresh mint and coriander. Add yoghurt and salt and process again. Shape mince mixture into balls, press a few raisins and almonds into each and flatten balls into patties. Shallow fry and serve.
Months ago a local newspaper ran a column from NYT by Mark Bitten, an American food writer, listing 101 foods to take on a picnic. The dishes were obviously for another audience and included neither poori-alu nor kabab-paratha. But he
had delicious ideas that I tried with a little adaptation, and they work.
He suggested pesto chicken rolls: seasoned and grilled chicken cutlets layered with tomatoes and arugula and wrapped in pita-like bread smeared with pesto sauce. Curried egg salad with hardboiled eggs, mayo, curry powder, mustard, onions and diced apples. Grapes - or grape tomatoes or watermelon chunks - with feta cheese, mint and chilli flakes. Watermelon isn't a winter fruit - even if you buy it after paying an arm and a leg. Once cut, it will spoil in a plastic box in the sun-warmed boot of a car. Grapes are better for a picnic, but the watermelon version is delightful to eat at home on a warm summer night.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
LAHORE: Pakistani youths attending a strategic discussion 'A Common Destiny' held under 'Aman Ki Asha' on Friday said people to people contact .....more
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Page 159 of 174
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw