Monday, November 16, 2015

Books, Movies and a Seasonal Dal

A belated Happy Diwali to you all! We had a very quiet Diwali- lighting rows of twinkling tea lights, enjoying a nice family dinner, and feasting on homemade faraal- two types of chivda, anarse, shankarpale, chakli, shev- generously sent by my parents.

I recently completed a pretty mundane home improvement project and was surprised at how much it improved my life: it was simply putting up light blocking curtains on our bedroom windows. When drawn, they make the room pitch dark; I sleep so much more soundly in this cave-like darkness. I put the curtains on rings making it easy to pull them open with a flick of the wrist to let natural light stream in during the day. I'm only slightly exaggerating when I say that this has been life-changing. Because I sleep more restfully, I've been motivated to go to bed early (I mean super early, like 8:30 PM, I basically stuck to my usual bedtime even when the clocks turned back) in an attempt to make up for years of sleep deprivation.

Did I just gush over a pair of grey curtains? Yes! LOL!

This early bedtime means I'm not reading as much as I like to, and that's OK. Most days, I just flip through magazines and read an article or two. A couple of the magazines we subscribe to (New Yorker, Science) and the others- more delicious ones like Real Simple and Southern Living and Good Housekeeping- are borrowed from informal magazine exchange racks at my public library and the gym.

I did read two more books from the NPR book list and enjoyed them both: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson. And with that I'm totally done with romance novels for the next decade or so.

Right now, I am reading I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb as part of the read-along for Nonfiction November.

I did watch some good movies on Netflix. My favorite has to be Queen, a 2014 Hindi comedy-drama. A young woman from Delhi is shattered when her fiance calls off their wedding at the last minute, but decides to go on her European honeymoon on her own. This is such a sweet, funny and heart-warming movie. I'm not saying it is perfect- it could easily have been a good 45 shorter for one thing- but there's something about this movie that I really adored.

Another good one was Philomena, a more serious drama starring one of my favorite actors, Judi Dench. She was nominated for an Oscar for this one.

Today's Special is a sweet little foodie movie. I loved the cast of this movie more than the actual storyline. So many beloved actors here.

V and I did something that does not happen often for us- we went to an actual movie theater to see a new release, while our friends watched Lila. It was The Martian and we enjoyed it. Although the last movie we saw in the theater was Interstellar, which also featured Matt Damon stranded on a lonely planet. Deja vu?

As far as TV goes, I've been watching some episodes of Aziz Ansari's Master of None and also some old episodes of 30 Rock, one of my favorite sitcoms. Tina Fey is brilliant.

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Today's recipe came about serendipitously but the results were particularly enjoyable so I'm recording it here. I was making a simple masoor dal (pink/red lentils), and noticed that there was some mashed sweet potato in the fridge that needed to be eaten soon. On a whim, I added it to the dal and the result was creamy, comforting and perfect for the season. It is always nice to try small variations on everyday dals, and I hope you enjoy this one.

Sweet Potato Dal

1. Soak 1 cup masoor dal for a few hours, and rinse throughly.

2. In the body of a pressure cooker, heat 1 tbsp oil. Temper with 1 tsp. mustard seeds, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, a few curry leaves, a sprinkle of asafetida.

3. Add 1 small minced onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Season with salt to taste, 1 tsp. ginger paste, 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric and 1-2 tsp. of your favorite masala.

4. Add the soaked masoor dal and 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato. Or if you don't have leftover sweet potato, then add small diced raw sweet potato.

5. Add about 3 cups water (or more or less depending on the consistency you like) and pressure cook.

6. Stir the creamy dal, drizzle with lemon juice, chopped cilantro and ghee and serve warm.

What have you been cooking, reading, watching? 

27 comments:

  1. Hi Nupur,

    Thanks for allowing us to have a peek into your routine. The intensity of darkness does make a difference..Happy sleeping...:)

    After I read the book 'I am Malala ..', I felt grateful to be in a place where education is not denied to girls. And also understood how influential a father can be in shaping the future of his daughter..

    In the cooking section, planning to buy an OTG and start with basic baking...(with the help of internet)...Very much curious to smell the fresh baked bread smell from the oven...


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    1. Good luck with baking- it is a fun adventure and the aroma of fresh bread really is better than any perfume one could buy!

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  2. So many common things going on in my life too! First of, the curtains. We got sun blocking curtains for our bedroom too, and it has been bliss not to be woken up by direct sunlight that used to fall on my face! ;)
    I recently finished reading the power of habit. Amazing read, with tips to implement the strategies in everyday life. I have also procured I am malala and will start reading it soon.
    Not watching anything currently! I sleep early and the cold bangalore weather is pretty conducive for hours of snuggling and sleeping.
    I finally inaugurated my new toaster oven and made chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. I have never used a small toaster oven before, and do admit that I was spoilt by the huge ovens in US for all these years. Unfortunately the cookies turned out burnt on the bottom. :( Still tasted good after scraping off the bottoms. lol. I need to figure out what I am doing wrong or if there are other tricks to baking in toaster ovens.

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    1. Enjoy the crisp Bangalore winter! Here too we have perfect weather for snuggling and staying cozy. Enjoy your new oven- it always takes some trial and error to get used to new kitchenware.

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  3. Belated Diwali Wishes, Nupur! BTW I've been thinking about installing light blocking curtains too - I think you gushing about gray curtains is a sign that I need to get around to installing those curtains in my bedroom. My Diwali was spent downing a cocktail of medicines - I had a cold that led to a cough that just would not quit. (Did you know the average cough lasts 18 days? I am now an expert on all things cough related) What did you think of Master of None? I thought the Indians on TV episode was hilarious.

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    1. I wish I had put up light blocking curtains several years ago!! I mean, we had blinds on the windows but there is a world of difference with being able to make the room pitch dark.

      Sorry about your cold and cough! Hope you are better. I work in sort of an open office suite and I can hear office-mates hacking away (you can't take days off for a cold so I do sympathize); I won't be surprised if I catch it.

      Master of None is funny and cute (I've only seen 3 episodes so far), Ansari's parents are so bad at acting but so sweet nonetheless.

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    2. Hahaha .. You know it's the language .. Because his dad was in Kimmel and he spoke very slowly .. just like on the show. And the bit where he spoke Tamil he was much better.

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  4. I have been reading so many good books of late my head is fit to burst with excitement :) my most favourite finds two books by Dorothy Whipple. They are They Were Sisters and The Priory. She writes about domestic dramas but with such psychological tension you feel very drawn into the stories.
    Another favourite has been the quirky book Cheerful Weather for the Wedding bu Julia Strachey. It describes the wedding day of a young woman who is part of a strange, quirky family who do and say the most unusual things.
    Currently reading A Room With a View after finishing LM Montgomery's Emily of New Moon. Have you read it? It is similar to Anne of Green Gables but quite, quite lovely to read.

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    1. I have to look for ALL these books! I need a good novel in my life right now.

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  5. Getting faral from India always makes a diwali extra special. I made some of our favorites which were devoured within the first 2-3 days itself.

    Anything that improves the quality of sleep is totally worth gushing :-) I am so glad you got the curtains. Sleep deprivation turns me into a person I don't quite like myself so I really value a good night's sleep.

    We watched The Great British Bake off after reading about it here and really enjoyed it. Thanks for recommending it. We were totally amazed at how much they could do within the time that was allotted to them.

    A movie we saw recently and liked was Bridge of Spies - great performance and engaging story. Queen is one of my favorite movies. I adore it the same way I adore English-Vinglish, hope you have seen that one too.

    The dal looks really comforting. I should make it in my brand new pressure cooker. I am in the mood of making a big pot of chilli with roasted seasonal veggies and assorted beans. The curry/dal that I am making very often these days is a Spinach and Gongura 'pattal bhaaji' cooked with chana dal and peanuts, I add just a handful of gongura leaves to a big bunch of spinach and love the sour notes it brings to the dish which are so different from tamarind.

    - Priti

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    1. Sleep deprivation is the worst- and with a restless kid, I'm chronically deprived for the last 4 years!

      Your paatal bhaaji sounds amazing. Enjoy the new cooker :)

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  6. Love reading your post. The dal looks very comforting. One thing I would say is Interstellar did not have Matt Damon. The Martian was the one with Matt Damon left in lonely planet.

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    1. It did though- Interstellar had Damon in a cameo role as Dr. Mann who is stranded on an icy planet. In Martian, Damon is the lead of course.

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  7. I made your oil free granola this week and it was a big hit in our house. This will become my go to recipe. Reading Joy Inc.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the granola! I've been through many iterations of the granola recipe over the years and the one that's my go-to now has some coconut or olive oil.

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  8. I feel the same way as you Queen. It could have done with being a bit shorter in length but that did not stop it from being a heartwarming film with a quirky and likeable leading woman.

    I second the comment made by Priti about English Vinglish which I think is one of the most sincere, lovable and, again, heartwarming Indian films to be released in the last few years.

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    1. I'll have to look for English Vinglish, Amber! I'm loving these off-beat, heartwarming movies.

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  9. Nupur Diwali wishes to you, V, Lila and Duncan. I want curtains! But I can't sew!! And quality, and quantity of sleep are so important! Loved the recipe for daal,will make it soon as both ingredients are my favourite. I made a few faral items, sweet and savoury shankarpale being the highlight! Reading Michael Crawford's biography and watched The Martian and Spectre, both so different but both enjoyable in their own way. Very warm here now, today expected to reach 41 deg C, the Jacarandas are spectacular! Enjoy your cool weather.

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    1. Shubha- I did not sew these curtains- I bought them from good old IKEA. I did sew the light-blocking curtains in my toddler's room and it was an easy enough project.

      Wow- 41 deg, enjoy the heat wave! We are at 41 degrees too, but Fahrenheit :) it is sunny and nice though.

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  10. I made the apple bundt cake from your last post. It was a winner! Have made a note of this sweet potato dal. Will be trying it very soon.
    Btw both Queen and English vinglish are very entertaining movies with a decent message. I also read Still Alice last week and thoroughly enjoyed it.

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    1. Yay- glad you enjoyed the apple bundt cake! I haven't read Still Alice but watched the movie on a flight a few months ago.

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  11. We saw philomena at the pictures and it was great though very emotional - but haven't been out to the cinema lately and not even finding time to see movies on the box but we are enjoying Dr Who. I can appreciate the need for dark curtains - we get too much light in our windows which bugs me when I just want to sleep esp as it is almost summer here.

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    1. Yes, there were some really heartbreaking scenes in Philomena.

      Get those dark curtains (and if possible, ones that are called "light blocking" or "blackout" because they are the best at making rooms completely dark)- I wish I had done this ages ago, it improved my sleep quality so much.

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  12. Hi Nupur,
    My first time commenting here.My name is Swapna. Ive been following your blog for a while. not every post but when I feel like Im in a rut with reading/cooking. I was brought up in Maharastra and love their cuisine. Also love to read and been wanting to write reviews like you do. But it just never happens. More importantly because I dont know what I like to read. You have no idea how many books Ive only half read. So I want this for accountability, but also dont want this to be a chore, reading/writing is better as a hobby. Anyway, I wanted to see if you can suggest me something about a reading challenge, what books to read and how to get hands on these books. Do you order them online ? The public libraries dont seem to have every book.

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    1. Forgot to hit "reply"- my reply to you is the next comment, Swapna!

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  13. Hi Swapna- Thanks for your note. I barely own any books at all- all the books I read are borrowed from the public library. Most public libraries allow you to request books that they don't have in their location (they will get them from other libraries in their regional network) and so far I've been able to find almost any book that I have wanted to read.

    If you e-mail me, I'd be happy to send you a list of some of my favorite books from different genres and you can see if you enjoy them.

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    1. Saweet! I'd love book suggestions from you. Thanks bunches, Im just not a research kinda person, I get lost and never come back where I started. So i'll email you at onehotstove@gmail.com and wait for your reply. Also, keep writing awesome articles like you do, I love them.

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