For the love of peanuts and peanut butter

Peanut butter? Peanut butter??!! Whatever was that? The real (milk-turned-curd-churned) butter-loving-me was first introduced to this strange ingredient on my first foreign travel. Suspicious then, I never gathered enough courage to actually go and buy a jar of the stuff. This was five years back. Cut to today, peanut butter was everywhere. It was a vegan favourite,  finding its way into smoothies, as a dip, and umpteen other uses on every food blog that had sprouted. PBJ (Peanut butter and jelly – jam to us non-Americans) sandwiches were supposedly a favourite kid treat, I read. I wasn’t still convinced.

Flashback to my childhood, when my mom first asked me to spread shengachi chutney (spicy peanut chutney) on my bread slice, I turned up my nose and said “Pfft!” I guess I was in the “mom-you-don’t-really-know-anything” phase. You see, growing up in a typical Maharashtrian household, peanuts found their way into everything. We made peanut laddoos (roasted peanuts and jaggery balls) and peanut chikki (peanuts and sugar/jaggery syrup came together in a nougat form), added whole unroasted peanuts to patal bhajis and usals (leafy green vegetables and lentils were incomplete without these), shengacha koot (roasted peanuts powder) would be added to all vegetable dishes (cabbage, french beans you name it) and also to all koshimbirs (a kind of salad with yogurt and raw veggies, with peanut dressing). Peanuts were also an important ingredient in the special masala for bharli vangi (stuffed brinjals) and karylachi bhaji (bitter gourd) These slow roasted peanuts were also munched with/without jaggery as a favourite snack as dinner was getting ready or for an afternoon post lunch quickie. My dad was an expert peanut-roaster, and he also showed remarkable patience in slow-roasting them to perfection. We inherited his loved for these roasted beauties so much so that mom had to sneakily keep changing the dabbas to hide them from us. Dad and I have spent many an afternoon opening dabba after dabba in the kitchen, only to come up empty-handed. But I am digressing. So, you can imagine my surprise and utter horror when mom wanted to smear peanut chutney on bread, and try to Indian-ize, or Maharashtrian-ize it.. Bread in my English-school-educated view was only to be had with butter, jam and ketchup then. How little I knew about bread’s versatility, and also that I was going to, ahem, have to eat my own words, and the shengacha-koot-turned-chutney to boot, that was to become a rage, a decade from then.

So when did the transformation happen, you may ask. Two important events took place, which had me converted. First, I discovered my peanut man, here in Yongchun vegetable market. He put up his stall only on Fridays, and would have two varieties of salted peanuts slow-roasted to perfection (and he actually came up to dad’s impossibly high standards!!). I have braved many a storm (literally – thanks to Taipei weather and otherwise) to rush to his stall on Fridays after work, when we were nearly out of peanuts, and procure a stash. The dialogue between the husband and me would, almost always, be on these lines:

ME: We need to go to Yongchun after work.

The Scientist: What on Friday?? Let’s do it Sat/Sun.

ME: Cannot. Only half a packet of peanuts left.

The Scientist (panicking): What? So soon…Ok, let’s meet up at 7 at the bus stop directly.

(You see, The Scientist loves them as much as I do, and both are together guilty of polishing off enormous amounts)

But I am digressing again. (There is another anecdote related to the peanut-man, which I will share again later).

The second important event was stumbling onto the easy-peasy tutorials available on how to make your own peanut butter, which abounded the cyberspace. You see, I had of late became far too suspicious of consuming anything that came wrapped in plastic (hence the foray into bread-making, butter making, ghee making etc, which is yet another post) with unpronounceable ingredients (and in Taipei, literally unreadable) and loaded with preservatives and flavourings. So a 3-ingredient recipe (roasted peanuts, salt, peanut oil) had me sitting up and taking notice.

Now if you have ever read Linda Goodman’s sun signs, as with any Aries girl, to-think is to-do. I lost no time in getting peanuts into a blender, and having a go! My first attempt was a gritty textured butter, from using the wrong blender jar. I also jumped too soon into making a chocolate flavoured, cinnamon spiced butter. The experiment didn’t go down well with The Scientist (my barometer or guinea pig, as he calls it,  when it comes to cooking experiments). Not one to give up after one failure, I made another batch. This time “orginal” flavoured. With crunchy apples, hmm, this was snack heaven. Apples were never my favourite fruit, but this combination was delightful, just the right amount of sweet and salty.

I now bravely buy my apples, and they don’t make it to trash, dried and shrivelled up any more. Have you tried PB anytime? Go on then, blend some peanuts, and blend some more, drizzle some peanut oil, add salt, slice up your apples, dip them in, munch, munch,  munch…I kid you not. You will definitely convert.


Ek sweet si love story

“Aao sunau pyaar ki ek kahani..ek tha ladka, ek thi ladki deewani ”
Today is story telling time..this post is as much about the pictures as about the story each character has to tell…so read on…


Introducing the heroine of today’s story…unbeknownst to her, she the proverbial ugly duckling, in her dry dessicated form knows not the power of transformation. ..but some fresh milk baths and she is transformed! Oh so fresh n lovely!! With dressing of jaggery n make up of khus khus, elaichi, kaju and kismiss, she is ready to play the main lead.. all this heady combination goes to her head, and she becomes proud of her own sweetness…not realising she needs a true partner in “ukad” with just a hint of saltiness to bring out her sweetness…


This is the villian of the story. ..with his shiny cover, his super fine form and easy-peasy charms, he woos our heroine and promises her the out of world experience of becoming “modak”…”let’s come together n create magic”, he says…and our heroine falls for his words..but can their love stand the test of time n hardships?


Soon enough our villian shows his true colours…some contact with boiling water n steam, he forms a disgraceful paste…all slimy, sticky and totally non salvage-able…he has to be unceremoniously dumped in trash…


Enter the true hero…the amba mohar rice…he has been watching all the tamasha quietly…he also knows the amount of effort that needs to be put in to please the lady…and is willing to give up his form to win her heart, and thus begins his transformation. ..he is washed n dried in shade….


…finely ground into powder. …


…immersed in boiling water, faces the steam test, and readily complies to every whim..and such is his love, he does all this without a single complaint…indeed he is a joy to work with…



Our heroine promptly realises her mistake and lands in his lap..he embraces her in his folds, and the past is forgiven. ..but they are yet to face their final test together…the final steaming…but true love conquers all, and they make it!!


Humbled by the experience, they land up together in front of “bappa”, consecrated by the tulsi leaves, and He smiles in his benign way…Though He is leaving today, He decides He can’t resist His favourite sweet …so just a bite, no more…but will be back for more next year…till then He goes back to His original place in our hearts where He always resides, and we are left with the lingering sweet tastes in our mouths….

The Rockstar feeling

Today, during lunch break, I was waiting in the foyer for the elevator. The elevator stopped, and I noticed there were four guys in it already from the top floor. Funnily enough they seemed to be wearing some sort of dark hoodies, hood up. As I stepped in, conspicuous in my peach T shirt, they politely moved to the four corners. I was carrying a grandfather umbrella rolled up. Now, I am no skinny female, nor was I wearing pink lipstick glitter, nor silver/blonde hair, but hey! for those 15 seconds to the groundfloor, I felt like a rockstar, waiting for the curtain to go up!!

The Meeting…

I was disgruntled by the lack of sleep, travelling in the sleeper class which was packed to the fullest with unreserved travelers. So you can imagine my mood when I set out in an “eshtee” at 4 am to seek Her. She had sensed my mood and had drawn an amazing scenery to sort of placate me..a sleepy village stirring to life, the pinks of the sky, the early chirruping of birds, silent mood visibly changed and now I sort of mumbled an apology for having put off this visit for long. My job, a family wedding..I had my excuses ready. “Ah, you are a married woman now”, She was baiting me. And I rose to the bait right away “so have You been, as long as I remember. But when did that start coming between us?” “Plus Your Husband has always been with You”, I pouted, knowing fully well I sounded childish and immature to my own years. But that was the beauty of our relationship – I could be a kid, a friend as I fancied with Her. She smiled in reply and said softly “so is yours, you know”. I closed my eyes and smiled, knowing for once that is was indeed true.

This Lady is very close to my heart…used to meet Her regularly in Goregaon, Mumbai.

Sajan daari ubha…

I had written this a long time ago, after hearing Arya Ambekar sing the song (which is reproduced at the end)…I had heard the poem recited by Bharati Achrekar in Nakshatranche Dene (special episode) and it’s words captured my heart…But hearing the song, was mesmerising, transporting you to another world. It refused to leave me till I wrote this down.

पिया येणार म्हणजे कधीचीच हुरहुर लागलेली अस्ते… तो आल्यावर आपली भेट कशी बरं होईल ? हे स्वप्न डोळे उघडेच ठेवून पाहिलेले असते … तो आपल्याला ओळखेल का? आपल्याकडे पाहून हसेल का? मग आपण काय करू? दार उघडू ? की त्याच भानच राहणार नाही? नुसताच लाजू कि हळूच हसू? त्याने आपल्याला लगेच मिठीत घेतला तर… असेच बरेचसे विचार करत पिया येणार म्हणजे “सेन्दुरी से मांग अपनी सजी …रुप सैया के कारण सजाया ” ही अवस्था झालेली असते …असे पिया जिया मध्ये सामावलेले असतात

पण जर कधी अनपेक्षित पणे साजण दारी उभा ठाकला तर? कसली धांदल उडते!! आता काय करावे? त्याला कसे सामोरे जावे? अजून तरी काहीच साज शृंगार झालेला नाही. छे अजून केस विंचरले नाहींत… न्हायले नाही … काजळ तर दूरच …

पण हा “साजण” असाच अनपेक्षित येतो … त्या करता ना “अंगण” तयार असते न “साजणी”… हया देहाचे अंगण आणि आत्म्याची साजणी ह्यांची कधीच तयारी झालेली नसते … “साजण” पण असा हुश्शार की नेमकी आपली परीक्षाच घ्यायला आतूर … असं म्हणतात “त्याला” पाहायला एक दिव्य दृष्टी लागते. आत्म्याला हे माहित असतं पण अजून ही देह बाहेरचा शृंगारात मग्न असतो. त्या दिव्य दृष्टीचे अंजण डोळ्यात पडलेले नसते

हा क्षणिक मिळालेला दुबळा देह आपण गोंजारत बसतो , दुःखे कवटाळून बसून राहतो … जे प्राण त्या “सख्या”वर ओवाळून टाकायचे, ते ह्या भौतिक जगातच अडकून पडलेले असतात … स्वतःला अजून ओळखला नसतं, निरखलं नसतं … आता देह रुपी अंगणा पलीकडे जाऊन साजणाला भेटायचा असतं खरं पण मन मात्र मागे ह्या शाश्वत जगा कडे वळून वळून पहाता …

साजण परत दार ठोठावतो … परत आपण भानावर येतो … अरे हीच साद तो कित्येक जन्मापासून आपल्याला घालतोय … आपण ऐकून न ऐकल्या सारखे करतोय … तो आपला प्रियकर आहे , राधेचा कान्हा आहे, मीरेचा गिरीधर गोपाल आहे … आपण त्याची राधिका आहोत … आणि “तो” आणि “मी” काही वेगळे नाहीत … मग माझी मलाच मी कशी मिठी मारू … हृदय माझे कसे मीच हृदयी धरू … घर कधी आवरू … मज कधी सावरू?
सजण दारी उभा, काय आता करू ?
घर कधी आवरू ? मज कधी सावरू ?मी न केली सखे, अजुन वेणीफणी,
मी न पुरते मला निरखिले दर्पणी
अन्‌ सडाही न मी टाकिला अंगणी;
राहिले नाहणे ! कुठुन काजळ भरू ?मी न दुबळी कुडी अजुन शृंगारिली
मी न सगळीच ही आसवे माळिली,
प्राणपूजा न मी अजुनही बांधिली;
काय दारातुनी परत मागे फिरू ?बघ पुन्हा वाजली थाप दारावरी :
हीच मी ऐकिली जन्मजन्मांतरी;
तीच मी राधिका ! तोच हा श्रीहरी !
हृदय माझे कसे मीच हृदयी धरू ?

Cinnamon Pumpkin swirl bread


I have never known what the fuss about Fall/Autumn was back in India…but here in Taipei, from the past couple of days you notice that there is a slight nip in the air in the mornings, and the air is not so hot and humid as it blasts you when you step out of A/c in the’s still not the time to pull out the blankets and sweaters, but you definitely want to do away with summer cottons, and keep a light pullover handy..And then this morning, as you wait for the signal to turn green, you notice the sidewalk littered with red and gold and orange leaves…oh the trees still look green when you squint up, but they are definitely preparing…the words “patzhad mein kuch patto ki..girne ki aahat” from “mera kuchh saaman” come unbidden to your mind…this then is the beginnings of Fall perhaps…
There is also some association of Fall with pumpkins (not my favourite veggie back home)…but then I hit upon the recipe of Cinnamon Pumpkin swirl bread and decide to give it a try…Cinnamon is another spice which is a baker’s best friend and the house smells wonderful if you bake something with cinnamon.. picture a warm, cozy cottage filled with delicious smells of cooking and baking…so coupled with ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and the goodness of pumpkin, here is a classic Fall creation, in anticipation of many more to come….