F3 presents....Boozy berry brûlée

You knew it was going to be fruits today. Which, one has realised, is the secret to getting people to open up and comment (this week's posts as proof). Hopefully, this will be the last of such posts for a while. See you next week.

Time Required:
Preparation: 5 minutes (excluding soaking time)
Cooking: 10 minutes

Keep ready:
Ripe straw-, rasp-, black- and blue-berries, chopped
Vodka, rum, or brandy - or combinations thereof
Cinnamon powder
Thick double cream
Mascarapone *
Cocoa powder
Light muscovado sugar (or any brown sugar)

Soak the berries in the liquor of choice for at least 15 minutes, but as long as possible. Mix in the cinnamon powder, and spoon the fruit into individual ramekins so that it fills 2/3rds of each bowl. Separately, whisk together 4 parts cream to 1 part mascarapone, lightly sprinkle cocoa powder, and fill up the rest of each ramekin, compacting it down.

Bake for 5 minutes at 220C, remove, sprinkle each bowl liberally with the sugar, and grill lightly for 2-3 minutes.

Cool slightly, and serve.

Why you should try this:
Because it's fruits, and you like them. Admit it.
Besides, it's fruits soaked in booze.
With cream.
And you can just imagine that lightly-warm dripping mixture of sweet-and-sharp berries, cream, booze, chocolate and sugar.

Focus on:
1) Using only spirits. Wine doesn't quite seem to go with this, although it's ok if you've got nothing else. You can also make it without the booze, but where's the fun in that?
2) Don't overbake the dish. You want the fruits to be softened, not soggy, and the cheese/cream mixture to just start melting.

* It's just for thickening, and for flavour. You can always use fromage frais instead, or just the cream on its own.


Keeping with the fruit theme

No mango without tango.
No tango, no mango.

Or, how to tempt your child/student/partner into practicing their dancing, by offering slices of wonderfully ripe Alphonso*. Or, for any other work-reward scenario. Or indeed, just because.

* Or badaami, or paayree, or chausa, or totapuri, or...

It is being a fruit week

In all this time of living out of India (you have figured this out, haven't you?), one hasn't eaten one sweet lime.

Heck, one hasn't seen one sweet lime.

Not in markets, not in supermarkets, not in the desi shops, not in any exotic deli, not even in the form of juice cartons.

And yes, it's not indigenous to these climes (such a pretty word that - automatically gets associated with chimes...hmm, do climes chime?), but considering you can get pomegranate juice made from fruit grown in Kolhapur, you'd have thought some chain would have spotted the gap in the market, and capitalised on it. One can't even remember seeing it at Harrods...although one may be mistaken there - surely Harrods would stock it no?

And the worst part? This fact has just registered. And one used to thrive on mosambi juice.

Huh. Talk about out of sight...

So - when was the last time you ate one (when not in India)? Leave comments unowhere, one is off to sing "Naarangi, mosambi, kuch bhi pilaa..."


Manual of Life - Little Trick No.64

Ways to avoid morning-breath without having to brush teeth, on mornings where you have to slot in time to breathe:

Quarter an orange* - your choice of variety, but only semi-sweet - and place in fridge overnight. First thing in the morning, grab, bite into, suck, roll across teeth, toss peel, repeat. Now face the day.

Multi-tasking it is - biological wake-up device**, bacteria-killer, and breakfast. Wah!

And no juice. It is the biting that is bliss.

* Sweet limes work too. But they're too nice.
** You try biting into a sweet-n-sour cold orange first thing in the morning and see if your brain doesn't get get a jump-start.

At the risk of being repetitive

...go read this blog!

One was trawling through the archives, and discovered gems like this brilliant spoof of the Pink song, and this Bollywood actor spoof, and even wordplay! Oh, not to mention this, this, and this.

This is what blogging should be about - experimenting with form and medium. Really exploring the fringes of creativity. Not that people shouldn't write about their lives, or form groups, or whatever else - but this, right here, is an example of how blogging can be really pushed to new levels.

Whoever you are, kudos. You could have been a Python. And please don't stop.


Just to get the Punkster worked up

...a teensy bit more. Not that she needs it. But a good ranter deserves all the support they can get.


To realise how pervasive male-dominance in our society is, you don't really need to look at goddesses, or marriage roles, or female infanticide, or glass ceilings, or chivalry.

Just pick up Ye Olde Word-Explainer instead.
Aka, the OED.

And try finding an antonym for harem.
Or the verb form of heroine.
Or notice how all professions have a distinct word for female practitioners, but the men are associated with the generic term itself*.
Or even how all distinctly female professions have a totally different word for men who do the same. So a woman may be a seamstress, but a man is a tailor**.

Go further, and listen to the talk.
And realise that a man may sometimes be a whore, but only a woman is a harlot.
And how you're a bitch if you're nasty, but a dawg if you're cool.
And how Jesus is sweet, but Mary is always the mother of Christ.

Pervasive, yes?
There is more, one is sure, but who ever said this was Research Central.
Add your examples though, and they shall be listed.

* Male poets/actors/writers are poets/actors/writers, but women are poetess/actors/writers. And yes, while women can be described as poets etc too, it still doesn't change that there's a completely separate word for them.
** Yes, '
seamster' does exist, but it's archaic and nobody uses it.


Enlightenment is what you make of it.


There are so many ideas to write about - not including a much-overdue entry for Urf - but it's difficult to know which one to begin with. Not least because they all seem inter-connected, and it feels...wrong...to write about one without explaining the context, which in turn requires a whole other post.

See? Ketchup bottles again.

Besides, one is lazy.

But never fear, this is not the dreaded Blogging Ennui point. Which some of you will find quite familiar.

The point where you just can't seem to muster up the enthusiasm to actually type all these ideas out, and where you'd rather just read other blogs and post snarky comments, and then wonder if that's actually not the best way to go about it after all.

The point where you wonder whether you'll look back at all this as just one more of your phases that you eventually outgrew, and three years from now cringe when you think of some of the stuff you used to write (of course, you will have consigned all those outpourings to the dark oblivions of the Net, so you won't thankfully have to read them - or worse, have other people read them and then laugh over them).

The point where you'll open up your blog after days and weeks where circumstances kept you for having any time in which to sort out a publishable thought, and then go to your feed-reader and find dozens and dozens of new posts, and accept (you always knew) that it wouldn't matter that much if you just...stopped, and faded away, becoming just one more thing for somebody else to blog about, perhaps in a "Which Blog-personality-type are you?" post.

The point where you wonder why you're bothering if you're probably not going to make much of an effort to meet them personally, or really get to know them, or tell them anything worthwhile about yourself (unless you're a Diarist), which may be just about acceptable with real people that you meet everyday but not with bloggers, because what if something happened to you and you couldn't blog again (what with being dead or kidnapped or in hospital or some such shitty thing) and nobody knew how to find out why you weren't, just because you had this whole secrecy thing going?

The point where you reach a limit as to how many blogs you can faithfully follow, without getting confused as to who did what, and then get depressed thinking of all the other bloggers who you meet in the comment-space and you know are worth reading, but who you just cannot be bothered to get introduced to.

The point where you try to remember why you started this in the first place, and then need to take a break to go back and see what you've ended up with, and how far you've strayed.

The point where you just go - bleh.

Oh hey - actual post. Pass Go and collect 200 bucks! So no, not reached Blogging Ennui point yet. Just lazy.


A marvel of engineering

Is when you sneeze while eating a banana*, somehow manage not to choke or spray the banana all over, and a minute later blow your nose....

(you know where this is going, don't you?)

...only to have a piece of banana pop out.

How disgustingly spectacular.

* Because you have a mild cold, not because you have a fetish for sneezing when eating.


F3 presents...Potato pancakes

And by that one does not mean aloo parathas (ha ha soooo funny. Shuddup you).

Time Required:
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 5 minutes (each)

Keep ready (in order of appearance):
Potatoes, peeled and roughly grated
Spring onions, chopped
Grated cheese of choice
Salt, pepper, oregano, chives
Egg (optional - one per three pancakes)

Squeeze out all the water from the potatoes as is possible. Mix in the spring onion, cheese, and seasoning. Mix in the egg if you're using it, else add some flour and mix properly. Then take lumps of the mixture, pat into rough round pancakes (or square, or triangular, or whatever), coat with flour, and shallow fry on medium-heat till browned.

Serve hot.

Why you should try this:
It's insanely easy to make, yet wonderfully filling, and feels slightly exotic. It is also remarkably adaptable - works for breakfast, evening snack, a side-dish, or even as a meal in itself. You can make it as thick or light as the situation demands, and it goes well even

The variations are endless - you can mix in tomatoes, mushrooms, shallots, coriander, fresh basil, peppers, cook a plain omelette around it. Or, if you were JAP, add sausages and salami and whoknows what other animal parts. However, regular onions don't quite go with this, as the pancakes take ages to cook.

Focus on:
1) Selecting a 'dry' potato, preferably a good baking variety, like Maris Piper. New or white potatoes are to be avoided.
2) Don't use too much oil, and let the pancake cook through properly. You do not want to be eating raw potatoes.
3) Keeping a light covering of flour. Think puff, not pie.

Intense paranoia - Identification method #17

Believing that those word verification letters which read like almost-proper words or sound somewhat-funny, are not simply randomly generated, but instead come from a prepared list churned out by the techno-geeks who own/operate/ moderate blogs*.

Who then allocate points for every person who refers to the "words" while commenting, as part of some hilarious (to them) in-joke contest.

Your world is stranger than you think.

* Either that, or they've been inserted by extra-terrestial intelligences who are testing us for our reactions to situations where things aren't exactly right. Just so they know what to expect when they finally openly launch their takeover. Which has been going on in secret.


You say,
be not you,
but I cannot;
for all that I
could feel,
or think,
or write,
or do,
or be,


these words,
and this thought.

It's hard to be different
when you were never

Manual of Life - Little Trick No.23

If you want a glass of cool water, add the hot water first, then the cold. It mixes quicker.


This is the way we write our blog, write our blog...

You have a three-quarters-used ketchup bottle at home?

The one which has a thick ring of ketchup building up near the opening, however freely-flowing it is marketed as being, and which refuses to ooze slowly back down unless you dip a finger in and push it down, or wipe it off and lick it off, which only makes your tongue curse you for assaulting it with all that acid-y stuff without any dressing?

The kind of bottle which refuses to discharge the ketchup except in splatter-filled spurts after you squeeze like Popeye (just like when you try to burst an unripened boil - and now you're going to get that image when you next use such a bottle, aren't you?) and with all sorts of disgustingly flatulent noises (which are fun if you're at home and trying to put other people off their food, so that there'll be more for you, but embarrassing as heck when it happens while you're at your local joint, leading to the two old dears in the corner purse their lips as they fight down the urge to take you by the ear and smack you for not having learnt manners)?

The kind that has lots of the stuff in it, because you can see it there for fuckssake, but which you have to work hard at to cajole out, and then it all bursts out and you always end up with more than you want, and then you have to open the top and scoop some back in, because you know otherwise that there's going to be a time when you'll really want some and there won't be any and you'll be bitching about how short-sighted you were and curse yourself for not spreading it out (hah! pun!)?

The kind which you just sometimes look at, and wonder if it's worth all the effort, and whether you should just opt for the sweet-chilli sauce instead, or even better, the green Tabasco?

You know that kind of bottle?

So then you understand.


A small ray of hope

What's really heartening about the operation on Lakshmi is not just that it was (so far) successful, but one detail from this Guardian story.

Specifically, that her small-village parents chose not to use her plight to their advantage, and give in to lure of making a bankload of money from the whole "Look, she has four hands, and her name is Laksmi - she must be a reincarnated goddess!" circus (can you not just see the lines of idiots ready to bow and grovel in the hope that some material offering would help redeem some of their wretched mistakes?).

And even hiding her from those who didn't have such scruples.

And actually getting her the treatment she so obviously needed, rather than letting her suffer for a few years till she died (at which point, she would be even more worshipped).

And they're from Bihar!

See Punkster, things can get better.

I look at you,
as you look at me,
and in your lazy gaze,
I can almost see what I saw
when I loved to look into you.

I look at you,
and you stare back,
without any explanation
for why you no longer spare me
those thrilling glances that made me want you
to never let me out of your sight.

I look at you,
and wonder if I ever really saw you,
and whether I knew it would come to this;
that I would return again and again
to devour these pictures,
while creating a blindspot
to cover the one who you now hold
captive in your eyes.

I look at you,
to try and understand why
I am lost to you.


Somebody, somewhere, finds you ridiculous.


The 3F post (...or should that be F3?)

Hmm...aspersions have been cast on one's ability and talent and all-round ingenuity. To which one says - pbbbbbbrrrrrrrptttt!

And take this.

Winter, as mentioned a month ago, is the season for apples. But, also, soup.

Hot, thick, aromatic soups. With all sorts of base ingredients, and lots of seasoning. And root vegetables. And cream. And hot bread. Buttered. Lavishly. Mmmmm. So one presents -

Orange-and-Butternut-Squash Soup
Time Required:
Preparation: 5-8 minutes
Cooking: 15-20 minutes

Keep ready (in order of appearance):
Whole jeera
Vegetable stock
1 butternut squash, medium
1 potato, medium
Rind of 1 orange
Rosemary, thyme, oregano
Salt, pepper
Juice of 1 orange (or equivalent)
Tabasco (green would be ideal)

Heat oil and fry the jeera till they crackle. Add the vegetables, orange rind, herbs, and stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer till veggies are cooked. Remove from heat, blend/puree, add seasoning, orange juice, and tabasco. Heat gently for a couple of minutes - but do not let boil.

Serve garnished with fresh green herb of choice (coriander/parsley/basil), and Hot Buttered Bread.

Why you should try this:
The combination of the squash and the orange goes oddly well, especially if the orange is not too sweet. Mix in the herbs, the jeera and the tabasco - you get a lovely sweet, sour, and spicy soup.

And if you're using fresh orange juice, and a really ripe squash, you get a wonderful orange-y colour.

Focus on:

1) Using a slightly-sour orange, to offset the sweetness of the squash.
2) If you can't find butternut squash, use a member of its extended family (pumpkins, marrows, etc). Although the butternut squash is the sweetest, one finds.
3) The potato is only to give the soup some 'body'. A medium one should suffice.
4) Don't overdo the seasoning. This is supposed to be a delicately mild soup, and you want all three taste-groups to come through - so little herbs, little tabasco. Gently does it.
5) Do not forget the Buttered Bread!



A recent column in the FT spoke about a dislike for cyclists. While in general the columnist's reasons showed that he's a twat, a couple of points stand out -

1) Cyclists do not pay any form of tax. Yet, they (oh heck, might as well admit it...we) use public facilities which are maintained by and paid for (in part, at least) by road taxes, licence fees, and other such stuff that motorists have to.

2) There is no concerted effort to apply road-rules to cyclists. Sure, if a warden catches them hurdling past a light, they can be caught and fined. But, from what one has seen, this practice is minimal.

Now, cycling is to be recommended. It gives some people the only exercise they get everyday, doesn't cause CO2 levels to jump too much, and is a heck of a lot more cost-effective than even public transport. Especially if you can buy a cheap bike on eBay - in which case, you're a fiscal genius.

But - cyclists are also a dangerous bunch. And smug. But dangerous mostly.
The light's gone red? Ah go on - how much space do we need anyway.
Traffic's moving too slowly on a narrow lane? Hello - do you not see the pavement?
People are walking on this pedestrian-only pavement? Stupid people! Stupid government! Yeehaw!

However, try and overtake a cyclist, or cross the road when they're 15 feet away, and you're bound to trigger off an outraged explosion not seen since Cleopatra told Caesar to kneel to her (what a dame, eh...abase thyself, Julius, abase!).

And, invariably, you get retaliated against for some other pisspot's indiscipline, despite always cycling in keeping with the qualifications required to win the "Ideal Model Superperfect Darling Cyclist In The Universe. Ever. And Ever" award.

So, maybe it is time that cyclists are made more accountable. Thus so -

1) Pay a yearly tax. Which could be minimal, like it is for 'green' cards, and could be waived for young children. In return, we could have more cycle lanes, cycle paths, and cycle traffic light crossings.

2) Get a licence/registration. Which could be for an individual, rather than for the vehicle, because anyone who's had a bike knows how it tends to get modified so often that the final version looks the fifth cousin thrice-removed of the original.

But wait....some bikes should patently not be allowed on roads - like kiddie bikes and trainer bikes. Ok, so bike frames could have a licence number too. But a plate is just not happening. And number-sticker could be torn off. And a painted number could be resprayed. And you wouldn't want to carve the number onto the frame. Hmm. Actually, a painted number is probably the best bet. Along with a separate card that you could carry to show that you are the owner.

3) Get road cyclists to take a basic test, so they know how to navigate roundabouts and can read signs.

All of this need not cost much, nor need too much time. It could also, potentially, lead to a safer experience for drivers, riders, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Should we start a campaign?