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Sunday, 25 October 2015

A Country of Contrasts . . . and INDIAN PEAS in Tomato Sauce

Indian Summers  . . . “can’t get into it,” commented a fellow traveller. 

The Jewel in the Crown . . . “too violent” rejected the same tourist.

 “Well, it certainly wasn’t boring,” I returned . . .  meaning I loved it.

Sipping wine in the shady but warm garden of the Oberoi Maidens Hotel, I almost felt as though I could, if I turned quickly, catch a glimpse of Baker and Lutyens chugging gin and tonics while arguing over the placement of Rashtrapati Bhavan.  (Might explain why they got it wrong!)

So far, however, the highlight of our trip  has been our night visit to   a restaurant right in the middle of the Chandi Chowk market in Old Delhi. 

Our driver was a 34 year old Hindu who apologized for his poor English.  He told us he has eleven year old twins back in his village with his wife, his mom and dad, and his brothers and sisters because renting a room is too expensive in Delhi, he said.  “Four or five thousand rupees a month." (That’s  one thousand dollars Canadian.)  Both children are going to school and learning to speak good English. 

He talked a bit about Indian weddings.  “A man like me,” he said, “spends 4 or 5 lakh on a wedding.” That’s 400,000 to 500,000 rupees  (ten thousand Canadian dollars).

A rich man in India spends 40 to 50 lakhs on a wedding . . . or more!
The driver had to park the car a ways off and paid some guy to keep an eye on his car.  Then he led us down a BUSY narrow street, wending our way around motorcycle cabs, rickshaws, and PEOPLE, none of them white.  I think the only light came from the shops on one side . . . the crispy brown chicken street food looked sooo tempting, but I was glad we were going to end up in some kind of a restaurant. 

Karim’s is a Muslim restaurant which is highly recommended by Lonely Planet for both the food and the experience.  Good job, Lonely Planet!   
Instead of having the driver wait for us somewhere, Nestor asked him to join us for dinner. 

On the way home from supper the driver was so grateful.  He told Nestor, "I am so happy I got to eat chicken with gravy."  (He ordered the butter chicken.) 

India is, of course, a country of side by side marble and mud . . . showy streamers and scabby squalor.

So yesterday we visited an immaculate and opulent Temple.   This religion dates back to . . . 1968 :).  Everybody was looking for something and the wealthy Gujerat found this swami.  Now, saffron-robed monks ring bells and chant in front of a huge golden statue of him . . .  and that immense stone adorning the forehead is, I am assured, a genuine ruby. 

Security is very strict and no cameras are allowed.  Well, never mind, my camera’s kaput anyhow. 


MATAR KHORMA  (Peas in Tomato Sauce)

            From  Premila Lal’s INDIAN COOKING FOR PLEASURE

1 lb tomatoes
1 lb frozen peas
½ inch fresh ginger root
1 green chili  (jalapeno)
1 tsp oil
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp salt

·        Boil some water in a saucepan.  Dip in a tomato and roll about in the boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Set aside and blanch the other tomatoes.   
·        Peel the tomatoes and blend them in a food processor.
·        Boil the peas for 3 minutes and drain. Set aside.
·        Discard the seeds of the green chili and finely chop it.
·        Peel and finely chop the ginger root.   
·        Heat the oil over low heat.  Add the garam masala and chili.  Stir for one minute.
·        Add the tomatoes and peas.  Remove from heat and let stand until 15 minutes before serving time.
·        Cook for 15 minutes over low heat.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Delhi on Tour

Our Welcome/Farewell dinner provided by the Kempinski Ambience Hotel was a multi-course feast!  After dessert, large boxes were placed on the table and we could select from an array of seeds and other palate 'cleansers?'.  I thought I was choosing a large nut but it was maybe tamarind . . . I should have asked afterwards, but I was too taken by surprise.  I ate half and popped the rest into Bryan's mouth . . . ha, ha.

I asked some of my fellow travellers what they enjoyed most during the day:

a.   Some enjoyed the rickshaw ride through the Chandi Chowk market. (I would have preferred getting down at some point and shopping.)

b.   Threading our way side by side with cars and motorcycle-cabs and rickshaws was a thrill for others.  (I felt really confident after our excursion during the night just previous.)

As for myself, I was struck by the immensity of the Jama Masjid mosque and the coolness of the interior; a nice relief from the sun.   I also enjoyed the lacy stone screens at Humayun’s Tomb – can never see them too often. 

Most Irksome:
A huge cloud of mosquito spray descended upon us while we were touring Humayun’s Tomb.   Couldn’t that have been done AFTER the tourists left?

And a Warning . . .
A luxury tour is expensive . . . A single glass of “house” wine appeared on the menu for 1300 rupees.  Add tax to that and the glass of wine cost about $30.00. 
                              I decided I wanted a beer instead.   

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

October 24, 1973 and DUCK ZAHNY

On the farm, most of the ducks we ate were wild.  We helped pluck them  -- I was fascinated by their green heads and the blue feathers on the wings but I hated the lice running  up my arm and would run to the woodstove to drop the nasty things in.  Once cleaned, Mom soaked the ducks,  stuffed them, and roasted them slowly 2 at a time until they were a rich dark brown & the meat would be falling off the bone.

Oct 24/73? Mom wrote:  

I was to Karens helping to kill the rest of her chickens we done Friday 39 chickens.  and killed our ducks last Monday will have to do the chickens soon but its so cold so don’t feel like. 

STEWED DUCK  (Kachka Varena)  

        Based on Bohdan Zahny’s recipe in THE BEST of UKRAINIAN CUISINE

1 duck
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp flour
3 cups vegetable stock or water
2 carrots
2 onions
1 garlic clove
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup sour cream

·        Slice carrots thinly and set aside.
·        Chop onions and add to carrots.
·        Mince garlic and add to carrots and onions.
·        Chop parsley and add to the carrots, etc.
·        Cut up duck.  Reserve breast to sauté separately.  (Or include it in the stew, as Bohdan does.)
·        Salt the duck pieces.
·        Heat the oil in a large frying pan.  Fry the duck for 20 minutes on each side until golden.  Remove from pan.
·        Pour off most of the fat.  (Reserve fat for frying duck breast and potatoes.)
·        Return duck to frypan and sprinkle with flour.  Fry for 10 more minutes.  This will make a lovely rich brown gravy.
·        Bring water or stock to a boil in Dutch oven.  Take out about a cup of stock.
·        Remove duck and put in Dutch oven. 
·        Pour stock onto frying pan and scrape up all the browning.  Add this back into the Dutch oven.
·        Add all the reserved vegetables to the Dutch oven and the bayleaf, salt, and pepper.  (about ½ tsp salt)  Stew 30 minutes.
·         Stir in sour cream and taste again for salt.
o   You can let this cool and then reheat in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 before serving to company.

·        Make life easy for yourself by also sautéing the duck breasts before your company arrives:
o   In 2 tbsp hot duck fat, sear breasts that have been sprinkled with seasoned salt.  Lower the heat a bit and cook skin side down for 5 minutes.  Flip to other side for 5 minutes.  Then back to skin side for 3 more minutes. 
o   Cut into the thickest part of the breasts to see if they are cooked to your liking.  I like them medium rare; not raw-looking.
o   Reheat before serving and slice thinly so everyone can enjoy some.  J  Serve separately from the rest of the duck.

o   Bohdan suggests serving this duck with fried potatoes.

We've had this duck twice now -- my brother even served it at Thanksgiving this year!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

LUGGAGE and LAUGHTER . . . A family obsession? . . . and Cheese Biscuits

My grandmother presented her daughter, Nellie (Nastia), with a suitcase when she went out to work as a hired girl.  This was during the years when many people had to stuff their belongings into sacks or whatever.

Thirteen-year-old Nellie stepped off the train and was met by her employer who asked, “Where are your bags?”

“I don’t have bags,” replied Nellie, proudly.  “I have a SUITCASE.”


I love that my mother and her sisters were able to tell these stories and laugh together.

                                   Florence, Nellie, Mary


I have a lot of different suitcases to choose from, because I’m always on the lookout for a good one. 

For my next trip, I can pack only 33 lbs because that’s the allowance for internal flights within India.  My Roots bags will be perfect because they're so light.


        From HELLO CANADA Weekly, No 444

2 ½ cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
2 green onions
¼ cup butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 ¼ cups buttermilk

·        Grease a baking sheet.
·        Thinly slice green onions.
·        Grate cheddar.
·        Start oven preheating to 375.
·        Put flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in food processor.  Give it a whirl.
·        Add cheese and onions.  Whirl to mix.
·        Add butter and whirl until well mixed.
·        Beat egg in a large bowl.
·        Mix buttermilk in with the egg.
·        Add flour mixture into the bowl and stir only until just combined.  It is very important not to overwork the dough at this point.
·        Drop with a large spoon onto baking sheet.  Makes 12 biscuits.
·        Pat biscuits down with a floured hand into rounds about 1 ½ inches thick.
·        Bake for 25 minutes.
·        Serve warm or  transfer to a rack for cooling.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Coming up: INDIA 2015! . . . and Best CHICKEN CURRY ever!


Fri., Oct. 23:    Delhi  
                      Free day:  Visit Hauz Khas

Sat., Oct. 24:  Delhi: explore Old & New Delhi

Sun., Oct. 25:  Visit Hindu temple
                    Drive to Agra:  Evening:  Optional live performance

Monday, Oct. 26: Agra:  Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Marble factory

Tuesday, Oct. 27:  Fatehpur Sikri and drive to Ranthambore

Wednesday, Oct. 28:  Ranthambore Park: 2 drives: AM & PM: look for Bengal Tiger

Thursday, Oct. 29:  drive to Jaipur:  Free PM or Cook with Local Family

Friday, Oct. 30:  Jaipur:  Amber Fort, Old City, Tripolia Bazaar, City Palace, Gem factory

Saturday, Oct. 31:   
                         Varanasi: evening on banks of Ganges

Sunday, Nov. 1:  Varanasi:  Sunrise boat ride, Mother Teresa’s Mission, Sarnath,
                                Evening on banks of Ganges

Monday, Nov. 2:    Delhi:  Free PM:  Visit Qutb Minar

Tuesday, Nov. 3:  Arrive Vancouver:  9:10 AM

(These photos were taken about 1970.)


THE BEST CURRIED CHICKEN  (based on recipe in Chatelaine: October, 1993)

8 to 10 pieces of chicken
1 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion
6 garlic cloves
2 tbsp water
2 inch piece fresh ginger root
2 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
28 ounce can tomatoes

1.     Remove fatty pieces of skin (but not all the skin).
2.     Chop onions.
3.     Chop garlic.
4.     Chop ginger root.
5.     Start preheating oven to 350.
6.     Cut canned tomatoes in quarters.
7.     Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onions and water.
8.     Stir in all the spices. 
9.     Stir in the garlic and ginger.  
10.                          Stir in the tomatoes and their liquid.
11.                          Add the chicken.  Bring to a boil.  Cover.
12.                          Transfer to oven and cook for 30 minutes.
13.                          Take off the cover and cook for 30 more minutes.

·        To reheat, cover and put in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. 
·        Serve with rice, raita, chutney, and vegetable side dish(es).

This is SO easy and so GOOD I will have to make it again!


Sunday, 11 October 2015


I was 20 when I first travelled by plane and so excited!  Through my porthole, I stared down at the patchwork squares of fields cut by rivers and dotted with clumps of trees and lakes.  Then we went up through the clouds to blue skies and bright sunshine glinting off silver wings.  Huge white fleeces below . . . I could no longer see the land.

It was wonderful until we started a bumpy descent.  Everything I’d eaten suddenly wanted out and my ears were killing me.  I couldn’t hear for about half an hour after we landed.

The next time I flew, I sucked on the hard lemon candy a stewardess brought around, but it didn’t help my ears.  Gravol just made me groggy and miserable.  Finally, I figured out for myself that yawning works.    My ears crackle but at least they stay clear.

A postage stamp to sit on though. . .   The longer I sit, the narrower it gets, as my bum flattens and spreads like a cookie in the oven.

But, on the other hand, on our next flight there’ll be dinner, a glass of wine, and hot towels in the morning and then an announcement: Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ll be landing shortly in . . .  


¾ cup cilantro (coriander) leaves
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 small onion (8 ounces)
½ cup chopped pickled green chillies (or fresh)
1 tbsp liquid from pickled green chillies (or fresh lemon juice)
4 slices fresh ginger root, grated or finely chopped
1/8 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ cup grated unsweetened coconut

·        Grind together onion, garlic, and cilantro leaves.
·        Add all the other ingredients and grind together.

                     (Based on: Mary Atwood’s A Taste of India)

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

UKRAINIAN Heritage Buildings . . . and an excellent Potato Salad

If you’re interested in Ukrainian pioneer history, you don’t actually have to go to a museum.  Just pull off the highway in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, or Alberta.

Menzie, Manitoba is a treasure trove. 

This little house in Menzie is open for visitors!  Bryan even tried out the scythe.

Elphinstone, Manitoba

Ethelbert, Manitoba

An abandoned hall on the way to Swan River is now home to a swarm of bees.

There’s only a sign to mark the village of Ukraina, Manitoba, and this derelict church.

Krydor, Saskatchewan

I like the road signs in Hafford, Saskatchewan!



1/3 cup canola oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
5 medium potatoes, baked in foil in oven
1 carrot, coarsely grated
2 celery stalks, finely diced
½ small red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
½ cup mayonnaise

·        Shake oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small jar.
·        Peel baked potatoes and cut into bite-sized pieces.
·        In a large bowl, mix potatoes with oil/vinegar dressing.
·        Add carrots, celery, onion, and parsley.
·        Stir all together with mayonnaise.

EVERYONE LOVED IT!   Definitely HERITAGE worthy.