My entry for this Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflecting.
The pictures are from the Kundala Dam Lake area in Munnar, Kerala, India. I found it to be a very beautiful spot that instantly charmed this city dweller who got drawn to this serene, peaceful place and felt the perfect nature’s paradise. I wished we could stay longer and explore the area, do the boating, but we could not. The boating was closed and we could not enjoy the water more. The extremely tall Nilgiri (Eucalyptus) trees all around, and the thick forest with different variety of trees some with colored leaves (we had visited Kerala in March month) reflecting in the water below, it was a very silent and soothing time for me, perfect escape from bustling madness and traffic chaos of the place where I live.
The Houseboat stay and ride through the backwaters in Alleppey in Kerala too was thoroughly enjoyed, calming and soothing with fantastic view all around, a must include.
I would highly recommend a tour of Kerala, rightfully called as Gods own Country, if you have not yet visited it.
This picture is from my most recent India visit, returned home just last week. This was clicked when visiting my dad’s village near the banks of the river Wainganga, around noon with the summer temperature being above 43+ deg C. The huge tree provided the must needed shade when we got down from the AC cars and took shelter under the tree. Most were unawares of the danger lurking around with the creepy crawling creatures moving nearby, my eyes caught this little fellow changing color and I quickly captured the picture.
(Can you all spot the Chameleon in the picture ?!) 🙂
For this weekly photo challenge I have decided to share some pictures from God’s Own Country 🙂 , yes our Kerala tour, capturing nature’s bounty of some of the dense fruits and flowers that were seen around the cities in Kerala, India.
The visit to Georgia in July 2016 introduced me to this dish- Khinkhali, a dish that I find to be a similar version of Momos that I am so very fond of eating and making in my kitchen.
The first lunch after landing in Tbilisi, Georgia in a restaurant in the busy Tbilisi Center, the menu card displayed this bigger version of dumplings that looked similar to momos. The guide told us it is called Khinkali and also informed us the way how we were supposed to eat it. It is a boiled dumpling with filling inside, a fried version could also be seen in the menu card. The inside filling could be of either Beef, lamb, chicken, potatoes or cheese etc. The menu card in the restaurant displayed the various Khinkali that were sold.
While visiting the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mtskheta, we stopped for lunch in the neighboring restaurant and I was able to see and click these amazing pictures of the Khinkali in making.
The Khinkali are shaped and kept on a board and are ready to be put into boiling water.
The hot Khinkali is then served to us and we hold at the folded top part and eat the rest of the khinkali and leave behind the top thick part on the plate. The filling is as per our choice and order.
I find it interesting to note that the mountainous regions are colder and one needs food that is easy to make, simple, and hot. The Nepal travel saw steaming hot momos being listed on the menu cards, the Georgian travel to the Mtshekta region saw the Khinkali in the process of making. This Georgian dish is famous throughout the country, and I would like to add here that it is similar to the steamed Momos, only the size is bigger and also the coating seems to be thicker. The potato and cheese filled Khinkali was too bland for my taste with only salt added , hence I could not relish them both.
Travelling to places makes us aware of not only the region, landscape and people but also the food habits and one finds a lot of similarities in food across far-flung regions with similar dishes but having the regional names. I find similarity of the Khinkali to the dumplings that one gets to see in a Chinese, or Tibetan or a Nepal menu. Do take every opportunity to travel, so that the foodies like me get to learn new recipes after each tour 🙂
I have tried making my version of the Khinkali yesterday and that will be my next post, so do return to check that out too 🙂 .
I have always been fascinated to click pictures of the road that lays ahead or passed by while I am sitting in the passenger seat of the moving vehicle. These pictures are from our Barbecue picnic outing with friends in the month of January 2017 to the Jabal Al Jais mountains in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. We have to crisscross through the mountains to reach to the point at the top until where the road is open for public use, construction is still seen in progress further up this point.
The Jais mountain is part of the Hajar mountain range bordering Oman. The tallest part of the Hajar mountain range lies in the neighboring Oman and the Jais mountain is the second largest of it that lies in the UAE.
This is the view from one of the mountain top that we had hiked to after parking the car at the end of the motor-able road that is open to public. The view is breathtakingly beautiful to see from here; the cotton candy clouds, the sun rays giving a golden glow, the blue clear skies and the chilling winter air that sends a shiver through us, it indeed was a beautiful long drive that is worth driving on.
You can check out my post on the Jabal Al Jais mountain here.
This picture is from my recent travel to India. While visiting the Ganpati temple in a city in Maharashtra, India, I stopped to chat with this smiling lady, a fruit and vegetable vendor. I requested her for permission to click her picture, and she smilingly agreed telling me that many stop and click her picture 🙂 .
The old lady is portraying the Maharashtrian look of a married woman, wearing the traditional nine-yard sari called ‘Navvari, the Maharashtrian jewelry-the Mangalsutra, the Motiychi Nath (Pearl nose pin), the green glass bangles called ‘Chuda’ with the gold Patli (bangles) and the red Kumkum (Vermilion) on her forehead. It felt wonderful to capture the warmth and happiness in her smiling face, the long journey of hardship of life seen in the somewhat tired eyes, yet the pride with which she wore her traditional attire. For me this was a graceful and elegant old lady, hence my choice of photograph for this WPC.
The UAE is a country that is a federation of seven kingdoms or Emirates. The capital is Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven Emirates, and the other six Emirates are-Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah.
The first impression of the UAE as a tourist way long back was that it is a Desert country. Back then I had visited Dubai with little or absolutely no knowledge of the country (yes, how ignorant I was I to wonder now!!). It sure was a very different place as compared to now, none of today’s famous landmarks like the Burj Khalifa or the Dubai Mall or Atlantis, and not even the Metro, but still I had loved my visit. It was beautiful to visit this place where one could see people from so many countries living in harmony. The visit to Mall of the Emirates left me awestruck , never had seen a Ski slope inside a mall. The Desert Safari too was the most exciting and magical experience, a must do for visitors I would say. The thrill, and at the same time the scare, of the SUV ride climbing and coming down through the steep sand dunes was a first ever experience, the beauty of the Desert sands, the wilderness around and the camp in the center, it sure is something one should experience if you ever visit this country.
I am now a resident of this beautiful country and I sure love this place. The country, especially Dubai has seen tremendous growth, and I am witness to the ever growing change in this place, something new is always upcoming and we see constant development. The infrastructure, the public service transport, the civic facilities are top class, the greenery too is so evident and the seasonal flowers add so much color to the roads and surroundings during the harsh summer months. The pristine beaches, huge well-kept parks, are the best to enjoy family gatherings, barbecues, and also picnics with friends during the cooler months.
This country not only has the Desert sands, the beautiful beaches but also has magnificent mountains too. The landscape completely changes as we travel to Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, the other smaller Emirates of the UAE. The car drive trips up the Jebel Hafeet Mountain are the best mountain rides I have had, and was keen to do the Jabal Al Jais mountain road drive since I came to know about couple months ago. I was looking up to go on as the weather became cooler, and finally in December 2016 I was able to go. The road was fairly recently opened and is still under developed in terms of tourist interest things, but one can simply enjoy the long drive.
I enjoyed this drive and if you looking out for a long drive experience and being in nature then you might too. The vegetation around would be only the Ghaf trees that is seen in these parts of the desert, we do spot mountain goats that are seen roaming around, some even very high at the top of some mountain. The road passed through the rugged, wind scared surface of the mountains that which gave it a beautiful and carved look. It was very cold at the top of the mountain, and by evenings the temperature dropped and was too cold for a single hoodie and jeans clad me. The heater of our SUV was our rescue. A word of caution, if you are driving in the December month be equipped with proper winter wear as the temperatures drop in the evenings at the top of Jais Mountains.
Driving to Ras Al Khaimah from Sharjah takes about a little more than an hour, depending on the traffic. As one drives on towards Ras Al Khaimah, the road passes through the desert surroundings and on entering the emirate we can see the mountains in the backdrop.
I have driven through the other mountainous regions-Kalba, Fujairah, but first time to this Jabal Jais and hence the excitement to know what lay in store ahead. The Jais mountain is part of the Hajar mountain range bordering Oman. The tallest part of the Hajar mountain range lies in the neighboring Oman and the Jais mountain is the second largest of it that lies in the UAE.
After entering Ras Al Khaimah, following the Google Maps App of the cellphone we were lead on to the road leading to the mountains. I did see proper sign boards guiding us to the Jais Mountains. We had selected the cafeteria at top of the Jais Mountains on the App. It was a cloudy and windy day and the late afternoon sun played hide and seek, it sure gave some spectacular view of the surroundings, a nature lover couldn’t ask for more.
We ate our homemade packed lunch amidst the flat ground that was surrounded by the mountain range from all side. This ground area is with toilet facility, a camping & barbecue site. It is a favorite recreation for people living in the UAE to go outdoors or camping in the winter /cooler climate. Long drives, barbecues, picnicking are some of the most sought out activities during the Nov to Feb months. I too had gone for long drive and camping to Musandam in Oman (Hajar Mountain range) a couple years back during the Eid break in October.
After lunch and clicking numerous pictures with the camera and also selfies in my cell phone, we continued on our drive uphill. The ride was smooth except for the occasional speed breakers with most drivers driving cautiously, and the sun helping to give us spectacular view and different shades of the mountains. It was a magical experience at times with lovely sun rays highlighting some parts of the mountain and same time making other part dark. Though I missed on the thrill of driving on this road, but was enjoying the view and clicking pictures sitting in the passenger seat of our SUV.
Nearing the top we did see stops for viewing the panorama and one could halt and park the car to soak in the view. The look below of the zigzag road around the mountains to reach to the top was spell-binding from the top. The humongous natural beauty reminded me how minuscule my existence in contrast to the surroundings. In spite of this, each one of us matter and are important on this face of the Earth, a thought that I absolutely love. The view was breathtaking, the wind was super cold, and the sun was at its best, disappearing and surfacing again and giving us the perfect picture moments.
The top most part is still not accessible, but we can drive to almost near it. There is space allotted to park, camp, as well as to view the mountain from the top part. We saw many families were seated around with bonfires, some using their barbecues, some even had set up tents, and many simply crowding near the cafeteria that was set up in a truck. It was serving hot Karak chai (hot tea), coffee, soft drinks, water, snacks, biscuits. It was well stocked on the basic supplies that a picnicker would need, even disposable plates and glasses. So even if the picnic party is short of any eatables or essentials the cafeteria guy seemed to have it all. The garbage pickup trucks were busy collecting the garbage and ensuring the place is clean. It is very difficult to see many folks litter around and spoil the natural habitat, I feel it is so very important to do our part to collect our own garbage when visiting such locations and help to protect the environment. It is upon us to preserve the natural habitats.
It was almost dusk and hence low visibility for the camera to get the best shot of the construction and development below that was seen from the top.
The sea was visible to the naked eye, but the camera picture does not show it very clear. For this I do plan to visit the place again, and also to wear my sneakers that I had completely forgotten as it was not a planned outing to the mountains. Do wear comfortable footwear if you love hiking, it could be a painful fall if one missed a step on deciding to climb the reachable mountain tops after parking the car. I did see many visitors climbing the smaller peaks of the mountains and getting the hiking experience, something that I missed as I was wearing fit flops. After enjoying piping hot cups of the Karak chai and coffee and cookies from the cafeteria and watching the lovely sunset colors on the horizon, we started our return drive downhill.
Do note the road has no electric poles and hence the zigzag drive downhill in darkness would be very risky. We started the drive before it was pitch dark.
I did read recent newspaper articles that stated people camping for the night at the top. It would be a very very cold night out at the top with temperatures dropping to very low in December-January months.
I loved sharing my experience of this long drive to the Jais mountain top. Hope you readers do find it interesting and get the joy of this drive on any of the days as long as the weather permits it.
My entry for this week’s photo challenge: Relax are a few photographs from my visit to the beach near the Burj Al Arab hotel, Dubai, UAE.
I enjoy and always look forward to visiting the beach. Just standing on the beach in the sand near the waves that are lashing the feet, the feet sinking further into the sand with me completely engrossed looking out ahead at the vast stretches of the sea and the distant horizon, totally lost to the world around, the perfect moments that make me happy and totally relaxed. Dubai and also some other places in the UAE have amazing beaches and parks to visit to.
For this entry I have selected pictures from my visit to the open beach near the Burj Al Arab hotel, one of the most famous Dubai landmarks. It also has a long jogging track, a fantastic place to visit for walking or jogging on weekends or on any other day for that matter 🙂 if one stays nearby.
As I thought about the things that matter so much during this festive time, the November & December time of the year, so many things came to mind to post about without which it can never be this season of the year. Selecting just a couple of them for this post.
It will never be Diwali festivity without the oil Diyas, the floating candles, the fresh Marigold and Mango leaves garland to hang on the entrance door of the house, the rangolis, the Diwali faral/snacks etc. etc. and my list would go on and on 🙂 .
Maharashtrian Diwali Faral/snacks can never be complete without this goodie-Anarsa on the plate.
The winter season brings with it the seasons best fruits and vegetables, the holidays would not be complete without these fresh and sweet juicy Nagpur Oranges, the Nasik Guavas, and the Singadas. The taste of these delicious fruits is so badly missed every winter if I am not visiting India.
Finally, the December month brings to mind the memories of the house filled with divine & heavenly aroma of my homemade freshly baked cakes, the Christmas time would not be complete without the special Dry fruit soaked Cake.
For recipe of the Dried Cranberry & Blueberry Loaf click here. Do checkout ashus other cakes and muffin recipes in the archives.
Just writing this post makes me want to bake something right away , but I know I will have to wait as I have other plans for today :), it is the 45th UAE National day today here in the UAE 🙂 .
My entry for the WPC: Tiny dated November 11, 2016.
This beautiful picture is from my Nepal tour, took this out from my photo archives to share here.
We had just checked-in to our hotel in Nagarkot in Nepal and went out for a stroll in the evening, the sun was yet to set and we wanted to see around the neighborhood. This mother hen and her tiny chicks came walking along from somewhere, and the vast stretch of the road and dried leaves provided the chicks the perfect camouflage. It was a beautiful sight and I could not miss opening my camera to capture it 🙂 .
My entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge dated November 4th 2016 : Chaos.
This is the scene one witnesses as soon as a Mumbai local train halts in the station, rush and chaos of people on the staircase leading them out of the station. Those couple minutes on the train platform are truly spellbinding :). I too had just descended on the platform from the local train that is seen in the picture and was about to walk to the platform staircase, but then this scene had to be clicked first! 🙂
Living in the UAE we residents are aware of the life during summer time, venturing outdoors is not a good idea with the scorching summer sun with very high temperatures and humidity levels. So, as the weather starts becoming more pleasant after the summer, the outdoor activities, picnics, long drives, camping activities take precedence. Dubai is one awesome place to live. New theme parks and lot other attractions get continuously added to your ‘to visit’ list, one always has a new location or place that is yet not visited. Recently a new theme park IMG world has opened and one more place has got added to our visit list. I first heard of the Al Qudra lakes a year back, almost all the radio stations and local newspapers were talking about this great camping or picnic location. With the daughter having already seen the place and me having seen a couple of her clicked pictures, this was one place that I had been longing to go.
This weekend the Friday went picnicking with friends in Zabeel park and on Saturday an impromptu plan (with my hubby)to take a picnic lunch to Al Qudra happened. Al Qudra lakes are man-made lakes in the middle of the Saih Al Salam desert. It is quiet far from my residence, but if you live in the UAE no distance is far, we enjoy our long drives. If the weather is cooler, then long drives are preferred to enjoy the desert, the lush greens around, the parks, the beaches, and the various places in other Emirates. For us Google maps were handy to reach the place, we follow Al Qudra road till the tar road ends at this roundabout (seen below) and we are at Al Qudra. The picture below was clicked by me seated in the car while we were returning back from the lakes. Al Qudra has a designated cycling track and we see lot of bikers along the way.
At this roundabout if we are coming straight we reach the Al Qudra Bike shop, and a coffee shop too is seen. After this point the tar road ends, the desert is visible all around with the sparse and dusty plantation. We have to take the mud road to reach the lakes. One needs to turn left from the bike shop and drive ahead into the desert, no sign boards were seen as to where the lakes were nor the lake was visible. The coffee shop guy guided us how to reach the lake-‘just follow the cars that are driving into the desert :).
NOTE: Except a few, all pictures are clicked by my husband on his DSLR Camera.
So we did follow a few cars that were ahead of us on the muddy stretch of the desert road that saw many cars driven over and became a distinctly defined road. Through bushes and zigzag drive one finally is brought in front of the vast stretch of water, few cars parked near lone trees that gave shade for families to picnic. We had reached our destination. I could see lot of new plantation, and am sure in coming years this place that looks quiet and deserted would be having a completely changed look. Living in the UAE one is used to the developments taking place around, the efforts of the government to make the place more greener. Lots of trees were seen planted, these would grow up to make it a more green surrounding.
Al Qudra Lake:
As we drove ahead from the start of the lake, we followed the lake and this is were it ended. All the trees lined far away, as seen above in the picture, gave a beautiful necklaced view.
The area is home to many species of birds, we too saw a couple of these beautiful winged beings. I had read an article of Gulf News that stated that it is home to 175 bird species, some of which are endangered and threatened species too.
This place is a perfect spot if one wishes to get lost in the wilderness, away from the hustle and bustle of the city life, the traffic woes. Sitting and eating our lunch by the lake side, it was most tranquil moment and the only noise heard was of the birds chirping away. Yes, one is sure disturbed by the dust whenever a vehicle passed by from near, people drove to search the perfect picnic spot for them.
I have always enjoyed being in nature, did go out for bird watching nature walks as a school girl and hence I loved being in this place. The best picture that I liked from the couple that I have clicked is the one below, the bird footprints on the sand. One gets to see human footprint everywhere, but this lakeside sand was full of bird foot marks, rare sight for this city dweller.
We were fortunate to click pictures of a few of the winged beings in the lake waters, most of them were busy catching fish, the lake seemed to be abundant in fishes.
I have used Google to help me identify the names of the birds, not sure if I am correct in identifying all correctly.
After the lunch and strolling around to see the number of different types of birds that we could spot and click pictures, we finally left the place. It was around after 5 pm that we left and it was still light and the sun was yet to set. As there is no street light or electricity in the vicinity it is advisable to leave before it gets dark as there are high chances of getting lost. We were clueless on how to reach the tar road, and after some zigzag driving we spotted another lake that was full of swans and ducks and even black swans. It was indeed an oasis kinda feel, and this place sure was crowded with visitors. I wondered whether this was the actual lake or picnic destination or the one that we had spent time exploring. The lake was too crowded with these birds, I felt it was over crowded in fact! I clicked few pictures in my iPhone, sharing them below.
As seen in above picture, it was almost dusk and in no time the sun would go done so we left this lake and again took the help of Google maps to reach to the tar road(roundabout picture that is seen at the start of this post). We drove a couple minutes and were soon at this roundabout and followed the road home, waddling 🙂 our way through the weekend traffic!
Point to Note: This is a good place if one is seeking the tranquil wilderness of the desert outdoors with the lake water near and birds chirping around. It is good for camping and having a barbecue meal, I think I did see a family doing barbecue as we were driving around the lakeside searching for a shaded place to park and eat lunch. The trees are the only source of shade here in the afternoon, not enough shade if many visitors are visiting. And if one is looking out for a more fun and comfortable picnic spot with electricity and concrete structures around to provide shelter, then this is not the place.
I am hopeful to make another trip soon to see if we are lucky and can spot some more birds at the lake site. Hope you find this post helpful if you are planning a visit to the lake :).
It has been over a month and I have not stopped by here to write any new post. Well, I can call it my sabbatical from blogging, never meant to be away for this long :). I know I have missed out reading lot of awesome posts of my fellow bloggers, will be catching up reading them all for sure.
October is the birthday month, so this Libran was tied up with family and the Diwali festivities in the later part of the month. Being a foodie and one who loves cooking a variety of food, I thought ‘let me share’ my food journey here for this October month :). With the daughter visiting home for a couple of days, the days were well spent in pampering her by dishing out a couple of her favorite foods and all the new recipes on her mom’s blog that she missed out in tasting and relishing. This month also happen to be my late dad’s birthday month, a day when I cook all the favorite food and cherish the old memories.
I also made a chocolate cake with a gooey crumble base of ripe bananas, raisins, black currants, almond slices, and chocolate chips, the cake was plated upside down, sharing the picture below.
My birthday dinner was a special meal for me as it was cooked from scratch by my daughter, it was the best birthday gift received. I had a lovely day that saw me being chauffeured by her to the Mall for some retail therapy :), the day spent in receiving phone calls from loved ones and the birthday messages, a Pizza Hut takeaway lunch, with an evening when I received a lovely flower bouquet from the hubby and an equally amazing food cooked and served by my darling daughter. It was indeed a memorable birthday.
This Caramel Custard for dessert was also made from scratch by her, steamed cooked, and perfectly cooled and served, the best way to end this yum & memorable dinner. Post dinner I was given my birthday gifts too :). What more could one ask for, right? and hence I wished to share my memories with you all.
I cooked vegetable Masale Baath, mattha, Palak puris, Basundi, and mint yogurt chutney for lunch on Dussera day.
Birthdays are incomplete if not celebrated with friends, called them over for brunch, made couple dishes and baked the fresh strawberry muffins.
The weekend after Dussera I was finally able to go to the Last exit on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway, it has the food-trucks stationed. It is a carnival kinda experience, the different fast food joint food trucks, the ultra sophisticated and huge locomotives with modern kitchen gadgets are stationed and cater to the foodies who drive down to this last exit just to have that outdoor experience. The whole area is lit up in lights and the headlights of the vehicles entering the area makes the whole place flooded with light. I did try capturing some clicks of the locomotives but it was impossible to get a picture without the visitors and hence not sharing here. To name a few of the food joints that have the trucks-Burger and Fries, Al Karak – their kheema paratha was yum but too oily for my families taste, Poco Loco- ate their Tacos, Cafe Di Roma, Urban Seafood, Burgerpit, Bigsmoke Burger etc.
Dubai Food Trucks
From here we next went to Boxpark, Dubai, another foodie location that has the Container boxes converted into restaurants.
We dined at Kuai Restaurant, a Chinese joint. Few pictures below from that place and the main course dishes that were ordered. They serve rice with each main course dish.
This month saw another outing with my girlfriends, a dinner at the Absolute Barbecue, Deira branch in Dubai. It is a grill buffet place where they serve barbecue on the table, they have live grills that are placed on the table that have slots to hold it, the veg or non veg food skewers are then placed on this. The waiters keep serving a variety of appetizers on the table, there are also other chaat and tawa counters, saw a Daal bati Churma counter too as well as the dessert counter that had a chocolate fondue fountain, assortments of sweet dishes from bengali sweets to french pastries to cheese cakes, fresh fruits, ice cream, gulab jamuns, rabri too. The main buffet has an array of dishes laid out with both veg and non veg foods, salads, bread etc. The different Indian breads like Naan, Tandoor roti, etc can be ordered and they serve it on the table. It is a good dinning experience, and one definitely needs a large appetite to enjoy the numerous dishes served. They charge 85/- dirham for one person on the weekends, with a little less on week nights. The weekend nights here in UAE are Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I need to mention here the desserts and the crispy corn that was served on the Veg menu, it was great. They had fried ice cream too on the dessert menu, a scoop of vanilla ice cream is shaped as a ball, rolled in desiccated coconut and breadcrumb mixture and dipped in cornflour batter and then fried in hot oil till outer coat is golden. This fried ball is then drizzled with either a chocolate syrup or strawberry one.
They even have deep-fried watermelon triangles that is later dipped in sugar syrup as dessert on the menu, had seen it on an earlier visit to the place. Intriguing menu options, but definitely are not my choice. The whole idea of something that is extremely cold getting subjected to high heated oil is a big put off for me, but heard that these are the latest food trends offered in weddings too in India.
The last week finally was the much awaited festivity time, the Diwali celebrations. This year it turned out to be a week-long socializing and partying time with get-together, Diwali dinners and parties, a total foodie indulgence week for me. Celebrations and the Indian festivals all call for homemade delicacies, and keeping with all the rituals and traditions that I follow, it was a great time, happy time. The Indian festival Diwali, which is also known as the festival of light brings with it the colorful rangoli patterns adorning the front door, the puja room, the puja setups, the oil diyas and the scented tea lights being lit for all the five days of this festival. The apartment balcony too gets decked up in the colorful series of lights, the whole atmosphere is bright, colorful and joyful. One can identify the Indian houses from the lights that are lighted and series of light bulbs seen adorning the building balconies on the different floors.
I tried giving a few pebbles that were collected during my beach walk a new look, tried coloring them but the brush was old and though I was not satisfied with the finesse, but it did bring on a cheer to see the final result of an hour of painting. Buying of utensils is a custom on the first day of Diwali, I used the stones to decorate my purchase and placed it on the living room glass top coffee table.
Anarsa and Methi gota Prasad for Laxmipuja
This Diwali too I have made the Anarsa from scratch. This is my second attempt only at making this, the first being last Diwali :). It is a lengthy and laborious rice recipe, an Indian sweet that is made during this festival in Maharashtrian households.
The Diwali Faral includes the Chivda, Besan Ladoo, Sev, Namkeen para, Shakarpara, Jowar chakli, rice and sesame Andhra recipe chakli, and Anarsa (as seen in previous pic). It was a week long celebration with rich food either at home or at parties for at least one meal of the day.
Starting November I am already busy shedding out all the extra kilos gained during Diwali, back to fitness regime of daily walks. Eating and working out needs to be balanced, right!
Hope you all too had a great festive time with your loved ones. Life is always fantastic, one needs to grab the moments and make them memorable.
Traveling, for me, is to embark on a path that is unknown. Whenever I am traveling to a new place, the foodie in me is very much keen and interested to taste and experience the local cuisine from that region. Though I prefer mostly vegetarian food as I am not a very fond eater of lamb or red meat in particular, but am always keen to learn new region specific recipes, the family does enjoy eating non-veg food.
The Georgia tour package included plans of eating lunch on one of the days at the local farmers house, we had booked it in our itinerary with the tour operator, and ate the Georgian feast which is called as Supra, at his place. We went to the farmers house on the third day of our tour after starting the day visiting Gremi and the Nekresi monasteries. We had informed our tour guide of eating only chicken and hence meat or pork was not included in the lunch. Visiting the local farmer for lunch is part of the Georgian tour package, it gives us visitors a taste of the local homemade food and wine, get to know the local cuisine and customs associated. As it is a country famous for its wine, wine plays an important role in the local customs. As we reached our host Mr. Gavazi’s house, we were warmly welcomed by him and his gracious wife. They could not speak English, but I found them to be very friendly and a humble couple. The table was laid outside in the porch area of the house, had already been set when we reached with various dishes. The numerous plates were filled with lovely homemade dishes, fruits and salad vegetables all fresh produce from their farm. When my hubby needed some spice and asked for green chili, immediately the farmer plucked fresh chili from his yard.
I will share some pictures of the our Georgian feast- Supra 🙂
The table had all the homemade dishes, even the honey and cheese was homemade. The farmer’s wife had prepared all the dishes, and on our request only chicken was served as part of the non-veg dish and hence other meat is missing from this spread of dishes.
I loved tasting this dish, it was the first time I was tasting beetroot in this preparation. The onion in it was giving a nice crunch to the soft bite of the beetroot. It was a sweetish tangy taste.
This is the famous Georgian cheese called as Sulguni, used in many of the dishes including the national dish named as Khachapuri. It is salty to taste and bit elastic, crumbles easily. It was a bit too salty for my taste, not used to eating such salty homemade cheese :). I am used to eating homemade cottage cheese i.e. Paneer, it is without salt, unless we add salt to the milk before curdling it.
This is the kidney beans or Lobiani as they call it. The above dish is mashed up Lobia or beans with onions. It had the Georgian salt, was without chili, and hence we needed some spice and hubby asked for the green chili 🙂 .
Ajapsandali, as per the guide, hoping I have spelt it correct :). This tasted very much like out Indian Brinjal and tomato sabji. This was the Eggplant cut into long thin slice, fried and then cooked with onion and tomatoes with the Georgian salts and herbs. It tasted good, but yeah this too was not spicy.
This is also regularly eaten, as in most parts and one of my favorites, fried potatoes sprinkled with the Georgian salt.
Khachapuri is the national dish of Georgia. It is flatbread filled with cheese filling, Sulguni cheese is used. It is called with different names as per the filling, cheese either used as stuffing or as spread on top and the names given accordingly. If it is filled with Lobia it is called as Lobiani Khachapuri. This was more like our Indian flatbread- stuffed Naan, with a very cheesy tasting filling inside. It is a very rich dish.
This walnut filled Eggplant slices are served cold, and the walnut filling is so tasty, bit sharper in taste with the added salts and spices, it perfectly balances the bland and soft fried Aubergine slices. I liked this dish and am going to include in my home menus, memories of our tour :).
This is the regular bread that is a must with all the meals. We saw many bakeries making fresh bread and the locals taking home the daily supplies of bread. Do check out my post on the bread here.
I do not have to remind you all how the freshly from the farm fruits taste, directly on table from the trees, they were the best and very juicy. It was great feeling to eat this fresh a fruit after ages, here we are dependent on fruits sold in the supermarkets which are flown from all parts of the world 🙂 !
Fried chicken is the simple rotisserie style fry chicken, with the Georgian salts.
This homemade honey was quite thick and very granular, tasted more like an Indian sweet. It was the sweetest granular sugar syrup I felt :), but this was very tasty.
The below pictures show the different drinks served with the meal, homemade Georgian wines. Chacha is the local name of Vodka. You can check out my post on the visit to wine cellar here.
The wine plays a major role in the Supra. All the different types of wine, the red and white variety, and the Chacha and the Cognac were kept for tasting, but as I do not drink, it was left untouched.
We saw the farm after our lunch and saw the fresh tomatoes dangling on the plants in the farm. The green chili was freshly plucked for us upon our request for chili in the salad. It was interesting to note that for salad they keep the whole tomatoes and fruits in the plates on the table along with the knife to cut as per need and not served as cut salad. Our International travels expose us to the different and unique cultures of this world, the best form of gaining knowledge and interaction with other folks, don’t you agree!
I have learnt that the spice level in Georgian food is very mild compared to our daily Indian cooking. They use salts or spice paste called as Ajika, a mix of chili, garlic, herbs and spices in their cooking. We have to place an order for the spicy chutney or hot sauces separately with our dishes in the Restaurants, it is not served or kept on the table as in most other places. This was not known to us on the first day when we landed and ate our first lunch in Georgia. I purchased a hot sauce to add to our food, later the guide informed us that we can order the Ajika sauce that is spicy :).
This was the lunch that we ate that day, it was way too much for us to finish up all that was served in the table. The food was served in the many plates that are kept on the table, instead of big serving bowls. It was interesting to note the whole table was filled-up with plates full of the served dishes, serving plates, types of glasses, bottles of drinks, and bowls of honey and trays including the whole fruits and salad vegetables. We had a good hearty and tasty meal, the farmer was very friendly and was happily chatting and answering our queries, clicking pictures with us. Our guide was our translator 🙂 as the farmer could not speak English. The lady of the house was inside the house, she had just stepped out for sometime to greet us and then to bid us goodbye, but she was too sweet and soft spoken. The farmers mother too had greeted us and again went inside the house. I too had shared some dried fruits, Pistachios and the gulf region famous Dates with the family, who were happy to receive the Dates :). We finished up the lunch and then drank some black coffee, it was good.
After the lunch we visited the farmland that was in the adjacent plot and opposite to the house. He grew Strawberries, the best that I tasted, had Peaches laden trees, the grape vineyards, could see them with green unripe grape bunches. He had farm animals too-saw two fat pigs near the fence. He grew tomatoes, Eggplant, and potatoes too. Saw a bee-hive too. This farmer too had kept the wines bottles displayed for sale.
The farmers father was cleaning up the strawberry patch, he gave me few of the strawberries that he plucked from the plants, they were the best that I have eaten so far in my entire life. I have never before tasted strawberries this fresh, eaten directly plucked from the plants. The old man was very happy to share them with us.
This was our visit to the local farmer for a scrumptious Georgian lunch and to visit his farmland.The whole family works in the farm. This visit reminded me so much of my hubby’s late grandmother and our rural area visit in our hometown. Farmers are people who are self sufficient, living a simple and humble life, daily working very hard in their farmland. I had the privilege of visiting our grandmother’s rice fields and to live few days with her in the village, my most cherished memories of her.
I feel happy sharing here the pictures of the Georgian dishes that I ate during my travel, and hoping to hear your thoughts about this post. Wishing to see you visit here again 🙂 for my next posts.
When visiting the beautiful country Georgia, one has to include visits to the lush green vineyards, orchards, wine cellars and not to forget to taste the locally made wine.
Georgia is famous and known for its ancient traditional method of wine making, and this method is inscribed in UNESCO intangible heritage list. Wine is a very integral part of every Georgian’s daily life with all the festivities and their different rituals. Wine making is a national occupation, almost all houses have grape vines growing in their land and the method of wine making is passed on from generations to generations. They use the wine making method in which an egg-shaped earthen clay pot known as Kvevri or Qvevri is used to make wine.(I am not sure about the spelling). The Georgian farmers use the Qvevri for making the wine, ageing it and then storing it. Hence this method of wine making is known as the Qvevri method.
Our Georgia tour package included a tour visit of a 300-year-old wine cellar as mentioned in the brochure given to us by our guide Nino. It was something new, different and a fabulous experience to visit the wine cellar.
The farmer had both the Red and White wines that he removed in front of us from the Qvevri that were buried deep in the ground in his cellar. The cellar was dark inside, no sunlight could come in, the walls were thick, stone and brick made. There were many old vessels, machinery, lamps, wine making tools and quite a number of assorted pots, pans, pitchers and jars that were displayed of which some might not be in use now.
Their were number of empty wine bottles stacked very neatly in the wall, big jars, bottles filled with liquid and lemon cubes inside.
It is a Georgian tradition to offer the local bread Shotti along with the wine, this farmer too offered us the bread. I loved the wine pots and pitchers, but unfortunately I could not buy any as souvenirs as I kept thinking I will see them some place, but did not like the ones that I came across in the souvenir shops.
Our guide Nino helped us understand how the wine is made, as the farmer could not speak English. I am writing and sharing here whatever I can recollect of the Georgian wine making method that she told us, everything was so new and interesting that I had no time to jot down each and every word of hers :).
The grapes are collected, pressed and the juice then poured into the Qvevri along with the skin, stalks, and the pips. It is then sealed and buried into the ground so that the wine can ferment for five or six months before it is opened and drunk. The wine is then kept for ageing. The Qvevri facilitates the process of formation and ageing with the minerals that are part of it’s composition. This method of wine making is found all over the country. After the wine is removed the left over chacha-skin, stalks and pip is used to make the drink called chacha through a process, and this drink Chacha (Georgian name) is also know as Vodka. We can see that nothing from the grape plant is wasted, the whole plant gets used to make both the wine and Vodka. The local farmer at whose house we ate the Georgian lunch served us all types of drinks- Wine both red as well as white, Chacha/Vodka, and Champagne. I will make another post of the Georgian feast, Supra as they call it.
The grape varieties used determine if it is Red or White wine. We visited the many monasteries in the country and could see the wine cellars using this traditional wine making methods. The Rkatsteli and Mtsvane varieties of the grapes are used to produce the White wine. The Saperavi grape variety is used to make the Red wine.
The Satsnakheli is a wooden trough usually made from a single wood that is used for as a manual foot stumping wine press.
It was no longer used by this wine maker as told by our guide. The grapes are put into the Satsnakheli, then manually foot pressed and the juice is directly collected in the Qvevri. Later the grape skins, stalks and pips left in the Satsnakheli are put into the Qvevris.
A visit to the wine cellar would not be complete if we did not buy the farmers homemade wine, and we bought one bottle of the red wine.
As we sat and chatted along with our guide, the farmer was busy with another group of tourist who had come to visit his wine cellar.
As I already mentioned at the start of the post that this Qvevri method of wine making is inscribed in UNESCO intangible heritage list, hence, if you are visiting Georgia, do visit a wine cellar or winery and see it in person and get the joy of tasting the local wines.
I had a great trip and hence wished to share few details of the trip for those tourists who look up websites, blogs for information before traveling or picking up a travel destination. Are you one of them? I sure am :).
If you want to check out my other posts on Georgia click the below number links-
Our tour included travel to the Kakheti region of Georgia which is famous for its wine making. The day two of our tour saw us visiting the 18th century, small yet beautiful town of Sighnaghi. It started pouring as we entered the town. We were carrying our umbrellas hence as we got down from our hired taxi, we had to open up the umbrellas. It was such a nice feeling to walk the cobbled streets of the small town, a very silent town with nobody out as it was raining. The cobbled streets and town reminded me so much of the streets of Rome.
It was an impressive town and the Restaurant Nikala that we ate our lunch at was the best of the whole tour. It is seen at the end of the street in the picture below.
The lunch I ate was a pot of beans, it was like our Indian Rajma gravy, Corn bread, Georgian bread, the hot sauce, the kebabs that my family ate and couple more things.
By the time we finished our lunch the rain had stopped and the sun was bright and we could see no traces of the downpour that we had witnessed, everywhere it was dry and sunny. The old structure at further end of the town gave us the picturesque view of the Alazani valley, the impressive old fence surrounding the town, the Great Caucasus mountains and the beautiful town houses.
The picture above shows the old ancient fence that surrounds the town.
We had seen this souvenir shop along the streets opposite the town hall and the local women were seen busy making the bags, purses and woolen caps and gloves etc.
After the town visit, lunch and clicking loads of pictures, we rode by car and reached the 300-year old wine cellar of a local farmer. Do visit again to check out the wine cellar post, that will be my next post.
The Hindu month of Bhadrapad brings with it the auspicious Ganpati festival. It is a ten days festival, but in my house we celebrate it for five days. This year we celebrated this festival from 5th September to the 9th September. It is a busy time with the daily Prasad or Naivedya offerings to the Bappa and the pujas and artis. Many guests are invited and friends visit to have a darshan of the lord and to attend to the pujas. The last day of the festival marks with the immersion of the idol.
This year I thought of sharing few festival pictures of the celebrations done at my home.