The Stuffed Moppet 

Namaskaaram! A warm and sticky welcome from God’s own country-Kerela. An encounter with a doctor at a recent check up had me take notice of what exactly I was fuelling my system with. A whole representation of eating habits, which I’ve mustered along the way, my drastic weight loss due to troubles plaguing the mind and soul initially, a culmination of all of these had me realize over a period of a decade the amount of misguided abuse, I had let my body suffer at my own hands. We all look out for that twelfth hour of immortality when pitted against a wall. Not at the risk of sounding like the harbinger of doom and despair, but its always great to have a reality check every once in a while.

 We really are what we eat. Travel took me far down south; it’s always a pleasure walking into the kitchens of Maggie Q, a Brit living here since 1994 can aptly be described as ‘spontaneous combustion’. Warm, caring, razor sharp wit, unapologetic and carefree would be the best way to describe her. A practitioner of Ayurveda mastering the ancient scrolls in existence since 900 B.C, she is happy to share. Slightly perturbed about my said given condition, I’ve been codenamed ‘Moppet’, a small endearingly sweet child. She aptly describes my current condition as somewhere in between a lopsided Dwarf and a Tooth Fairy. A detox and body prolife was in order not to mention a jolly good ol’ stuffing. Now I know what is running through that mind of yours, however focusing on power health foods ‘stuffed’ with the right healing herbs and spices is what was what the doctor prescribed.

 Stuffed Yellow Chillies- 350 grams of yellow chillies approx. 2 inches, ½ up roasted and grounded peanuts, ½ cup roasted and ground sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut, 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, ¼ cup water, 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ turmeric. Wash and dry the chillies, cut one side of each length wise making a pocket. Scrape out the seeds for a milder dish. Blend the ground peanuts and sesame seeds with the coconut, cilantro and water into a low thick paste. Stuff the chillies with said paste. On a heated pan add oil followed by mustard seeds, cumin seeds, salt and turmeric. Sautee on a medium flame till the seeds pop. Add the stuffed chillies to the pan on medium heat. Gently and frequently turn the chillies on all sides until the skin is evenly brown and chillies are tender. Served hot! Keep in mind, this is a hot and pungent dish, sharp, penetrating and a stimulant. This forms a great digestive apart from being a very scrumptious dish.

While the first dish invigorates and targets certain organs closer to the digestive system the second is the counter balancing effect to a stuffed meal. Light, scrumptious, highly fibrous and a great balancer to the fiery chillies is the ladyfinger.

Stuffed Okra (Ladyfinger) – 350 grams of fresh okra, ½ cup ground roasted sesame seeds, ½ cup ground roasted peanuts, 2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon masala powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro leaves, 1 tablespoon chickpea flour, ¼ cup water, 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, ½ cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

Wash, dry and cut of the ends of the Okra. Pocket the same as done with the yellow chillies earlier, Make a mixture of the sesame seeds, peanuts, coconut, turmeric, masala powder, cilantro, salt, chickpea flour, and water into a paste for the filling. Heat the frying pan to medium and add oil, cumin and mustard seeds. Cook till the seeds pop and add the okra and turn for 10-15 minutes till brown and crispy. This forms a great laxative apart from other beneficial healing properties to ones digestive system. Serve with chapati’s (Indian bread)

Stuffed out, the rejuvenation process has begun. 

The Summer Dip 

The Heat is on”,- lyrics apt for the current weather situation. Glenn Frey definitely knew what he was talking about, however profoundly missed the gravity of the situation here, in scorching Goa. Normally, I would be on meticulously planned travel to a pleasant destination, the mountains up north perhaps- however this was the first for me back home due to a multitude of commitments in and around. With temperatures soaring enough to just ‘dip’ into my well, this is literal and -yes I have one of those in my yard at home. Futile and cumbersome, though exhilarating from a daredevil perspective if I may say so, it wasn’t merely enough to combat the double whammy of humidity and heat.

 I read an article somewhere, about research in relation to how hydration affects our mind, our mood, memory and learning, thinking and reaction time. What we are unaware of is the drastic impact; the external temperatures are having on us internally. Call it more of a ‘mute syndrome’ if not looked into carefully. It’s played havoc and had some rather adverse reactions to my metabolism from rashes to heat boils physically to mood swings and mild cases of depressive surges mentally- all warning signs for a rapid change in diet and water consumption. A human being on average consumes 3-4 liters of water a day. While that is great, the weather around is not really conducive for an appetite and eating is becoming rather cumbersome, more of a force-fed chore.

 At the local grocer store, I decided to list down a few home made dips that have been added to my diet to combat the ‘water shortage’ within with outstanding immediate results. It is great for the in-between meal cravings. Here’s a list of 3 food dips to make your summer a breeze, no pun intended.

 Mango Salsa Dip– Yes, I can see a smile on your face. While this is a sweet caveat in the making and should be had in moderation, given how heat retentive the king of fruits is, a cup of mango slices will rehydrate ones body with half a cup of water!! Do try and consume it moderately. Also the Salsa dip made with Yellow and Red Bell Peppers is an added bonus with more vitamin C than oranges as well as retention of also 92 percent water- a delicious hydrating addition to your summer diet. 

Tzatziki Sauce (Yogurt and Cucumber Dip)- The good old fashioned cucumber and yogurt; commonly known as ‘raita’ to many households. This is spin on the Greek version of the same- for that extra zing. Very easy to make and goes famously well with pita breads, chips and toppings. While the cucumber does its part with 96 percent of water to ones body, the yogurt has multiple benefits ranging from cooling the body to good bacteria for the gut. The process is simple; Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth and place it over a medium bowl. Place the yogurt on the cheesecloth and cover the colander with plastic wrap. Allow the yogurt to drain overnight. Lay grated cucumber on a plate lined with paper towel; and drain it for 1 to 2 hours. Combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, parsley, mint, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

 The Pineapple Cream Cheese Dip- With a name as sultry as Ananans, this dip is sure to make your taste buds tingle. All you need is 100gms of softened cream cheese and 200gms of crushed pineapple drained with juice reserve with 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed. A ten-minute preparation will have the entire family licking their chops and asking for seconds instantly. Mix the cream cheese and crushed pineapple first and allow it to breathe for a few. Mix the reserve juice from the pineapple to open the consistency and get the desired texture needed. Add the garlic and chill in the refrigerator until serving. Not only will you have friends and family asking for more, the pineapple delivers the compound bromelain, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and this tropical plant packs in 87 percent water. Best served with a hot toasted baguette.

 So the next time someone asks you to take a Dip, make sure you have more than your swimming costume on. As for me, I’m heading back to the well.

 

 

A ‘Whirlwind’ Experience at Sea

Statutory Warning! The next 1282 words, describe a ‘Whirlwind experience‘ aboard a floating world in the middle of the ocean. Granted its not an apt choice of words and I got home all accounted for, it did feel like just that- the minute I boarded the Mariner of the Seas by Royal Caribbean – a colossal 138,000 tons cruise ship, with 15 decks of activity poised in serenity at the Singapore Harbor.

From afar, one would be misguided to underestimate the ‘fun’ hidden within. After all, it does look like any other cruise ship meant for the honeymooners of mush. Looks can be deceiving, and I happened to witness it first hand the minute I boarded. “There is something for everyone”- a line that has been used beyond reckoning and is rather staid these days, not to mention over promised, would be the apt title for this ‘cruise’ and it sure lives up to its name. Let me give you a few activities that left me spell bound and thoroughly engrossed enough to realize that 96 hours passed me by. Did someone mention the relativity of time in a Interstellar manner of speaking?

THE Dreamworks Parade

Its an all star round up when life size characters of King Julian and Princess Fiona and Kung Fu Panda parade up and down the gangway to welcome one and all aboard this journey of Fun and Frolic. They even are amazing enough to click photographs with. Check out Gloria from Madagascar, she is a whole lot of hug and is quite supportive for ones weight ego issues, in a diminutive matter of speaking.

For the DareDevil in you

One realizes that moment of self proclaimed fallacies in regards to ‘physical fitness’ when the sign up for the adventure zone. You have a Rock climbing wall for the enthusiast such as ‘moi’ to climb atop and suspend oneself 25 feet above deck with unparalleled horizons of the deep blue sea and all that lurks within and shout out with arms wide stretched ‘I am the king of the world’ and play spectacle to all below who guffaw at your idiosyncrasies.

Or if that doesn’t cut it for you, try colour-coordinating footwear to match golf balls on the mini golf course during putting practice. Mind the wind and draft, it plays havoc on ones putting stance, or maybe it was the alcohol talking from one of the many bars around. For all the ‘insomniac hoopsters’ in the house, there is nothing like a great game of Basketball at 2am in the morning.

A Jacuzzi and Movie

Not all Fun and Games require physical exercise. After the bitter sweet realization sets in and parts of ones body, unheard of before- scream for attentive rejuvenation the best way to swallow ones bruised pride, no pun intended, is to catch a movie on a larger than life screen close to 70mm theatre sized format, in the middle of a bubbly Jacuzzi at 9 pm till midnight. I had a wonderful time watching a country western- The Magnificent Seven, with a beer in one hand and a shower of rain from above during the movie. A surreal experience indeed. Do remember to keep the towel handy, as the wind gets rather gusty in the wee hours of the morning. A definitive experience- with like-minded company, to redefine the term ‘Netflix and chill’. Goes without saying I wasn’t so lucky given three hairy men sharing my tub. Three more and I would be living my country western flick in real bubbly life, as a matter of speaking.

John Travolta meets Evgeni Plushenko

Contrary to popular belief, the ship while cruising is as stable as a Professor delivering a lecture on quantum astro physics on a cold winters day in Harvard. However, if some wish to get ‘Jiggy’ with it, allow me to suggest two multiple varieties on two different surfaces. For starters you could head to the neon lit discotheque at the far end of the ship, and boogie away to Saturday night fever Travolta style, and bust a move while you at it or be a vision on ice like the 4 time Olympian Evgeni Plushenko. Yes don’t look so baffled, I assure you I am not doing a Hemingway through this article and this piece is written and edited sober. There is an ice skating rink in the middle of the ship!!!! And you can learn the art of making a complete fool of yourself and redefining the term ‘Bottoms Up’ every few feet on twin blades. Whats more allow for the show to begin post ‘your’ practice rounds and see these graceful figurines make you feel inadequate and left footed every step of the way. Please wear full pants, I speak from experience having to break away follicles of hair like icicles due to the severity of the cold.

A Yankee and a show

Given all the vigorous and not so vigorous activity leaves one famished. What better experience than to dine at Johnny Rockets, one of the specialty restaurants transporting you back to the days of jukeboxes, hamburgers, hotdogs, sundaes and corn chilly fries. The Strawberry milkshake is best left to be sampled as words currently transport me to the chunky bits of fresh strawberry amidst goodness of brain freeze slush. Set in a 60’s setting of the American diner this is a fun filled experience for adults and kids alike with a set menu that includes some scrumptious mouthwatering fare that would appease the palates of adults and kids alike.

Consume the meal with gusto and don’t miss to catch the Musical at the indoor theatre Gallery of Dreams.

Its a world class production and keeps ones feet stomping through the spectacle.
Jackpot ‘Kaching!!!’

Right about now, the only infamous words coming to my mind is the sputtering of Clint Eastwood to the tune of ‘Feeling lucky punk’. No, I am not held at gunpoint nor am I in a Mexican standoff at the Roulette tables in the casino below deck. A full-fledged casino to satiate the appetite and wallet of the gambler in you, this gambler paradise has something for everyone. From slot machines to Blackjack to 21 one never gets bored. I even managed to win a little as a first time gambler. What can i say, beginners luck perhaps? After all, the house always wins right? Maybe not applicable in this case given it’s technically not a house? One would never know!! To question or not to question, that is the answer. Strictly for adults only.

As I sign off, I would like to harp upon the activities NOT covered in the gambit of Fun and Frolic aboard. Time did not permit me in a 19 hour day of whirlwind madness to indulge myself in the VitalitySM Spa with 100+ treatments with medi-spa treatments and acupuncture or the 4 pools including the Solarium that is an adults only retreat.

Nor was I privy to the state-of-the-art Fitness center with classes that included Tai chi and yoga or indulge my shopping delights in the duty-free shopping on the Royal Promenade including a Coach¯ store, jewelry, perfumes, apparel and shopping etc. Time also did not permit me to enjoy my stateroom with ocean facing balcony that had a flat-screen television with touchscreen way finders and digital signage to get the digital geek in me fed and be happily content. However having witnessed it all, I am eager and ready to get on my next cruise for a longer duration of time to plan my schedule more meticulously to experience all that it has to offer.

Boredom is never an option aboard the vastness of the ocean thanks to Royal Caribbean and Tirun Marketing.

Picture courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Images shot on IPhone6

The Sleepy Minion 

An excerpt from Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost- “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep” generally sums up and epitomizes our current lifestyle for the present generation of ‘millennial’. We work hard, party harder, love deeper, socially antisocial, and technologically slaved sleep deprived beings on most counts. Sometimes I wonder and wish for an additional seven hours to a twenty-four hour day to get the job done. It’s harmful. I know it. What am I doing about it? Nothing really. Well not until I met Calin from Nebraska at the recent Saturday Night Market.

Calin works in the ER and goes without saying is a workaholic. She works twenty-hour days and while we walked around the grounds admiring it in entirety she had a certain sense of calm about her. She quipped of having been at ‘peace’ in a very long time, with her mind not racing in a thousand directions and being socially disconnected not to mention mentally traumatized given her work area. Having suffered a panic attack and anxiety attack almost simultaneously made her take note of her body and listen to it carefully. That’s something we both had in common. I had a panic attack but recently and that made me sit up and focus on certain ‘lifestyle’ choices that were plaguing me both mentally and physically. Over a cup of tea, notes were swapped as well as our common love for Minions- those nubby yellow henchmen of Gru from Despicable Me. Still clueless, Kindly Google!

 Now while the earlier version of yours truly would literally kill a Saturday Night in quick succession with multiple venues and a crazy all night party working towards the wee hours of the morning, the new and improved one choose a homemade recipe and a conversation to lull out a perfect set rendezvous. That’s the exact moment when revelation hit in this preparation as thunderous as Thor’s hammer and Zeus lightening bolt in unison- Banana Cinnamon Tea. Did you know? Bananas are one of the more well known sleep aiding foods. Aside from tasting great and being full of fiber, bananas are a good source of potassium and magnesium, which both act as muscle relaxants. When your muscles are relaxed, you are able to let go of stress more easily and drift into a deeper sleep. They also contain Vitamin B6, an important micronutrient that aids in the body’s production of serotonin, a precursor to the other sleep hormone melatonin. While they maybe rich in potassium and magnesium, what most people do not know is that the banana peel has, even more, potassium and magnesium than the banana itself, and it is often thrown away as trash. That was a new discovery for this preparation. 

Imagine the numerous times stress calls on us. That depletes Magnesium as a mineral in ones body first. Cinnamon apart from tasting amazing is great because it is one of the best ways to balance blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are balanced, your hormones can function in a way that allows for better sleep. If your blood sugar levels are off, then you may have energy at night, or be tired during the day.

 How does one go about this preparation? All you need is one yellow banana; I had to use five elaichi bananas present in my kitchen given the lack of a normal one. If you were using the Moira banana half of the same would do just fine given the size. A pot of filtered water and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if you like. Cut off both the head and tail end of the banana and put the banana into a pot of bowling water. Boil for about 10 minutes and sprinkle some cinnamon into the water as well. If you’d like to add some stevia for sweetening, do so. Stevia helps to balance blood sugar levels, and will not spike blood sugar levels before bed.

 Drain the same and enjoy a hot piping cup of tea allowing you into slumber land shortly thereafter.

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Lent with Lentils 

 It’s the first of forty. Days when one resists the temptations of sin, prays and abstains from all forms of luxuries as an offer form of penance. It’s Lent. While most of us are reeling in from the fun and frolic of the Carnaval that went by, I find myself in a rather precarious position at the start of this holy month. In Singapore for work, and my abstinence in the form of an autocratic and totalitarian option of vegetarian meals is an interesting story in itself. A confluence and blend of cultures and a stirring hotspot of multiple nationalities – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesia and Western influences, the food is diverse. Many lip smacking; mouth-watering dishes surround you as you enter China town- much like the temptations of Christ’s walk in the desert for 40 days and nights being tempted by the devil himself- my grandmothers bedtime story version, may her soul rest in peace. 

Focusing on food as one item to abstain from, its rather difficult when one gets an aromatic whiff of pork and mutton skewers being chargrilled by the roadside not to mention a leaner option in the steamed chicken rice cooked in chicken stock and the Hard shell chilli crabs with that taste bud tickler of a Katong laksa- rice noodles in spicy coconut curry soup with shrimp, fish cakes, egg and chicken meat!

However this is not about any of the above. It’s an account of a weak willed admitter to a world of gastronomic carnal sin- a food survival guide in Singapore. After some soul searching, I stumble upon Whole Earth- a Michelin BIB Gourmand Award winner in the heart of the city. An interesting concept much like the Trick eye museum of Sentosa where one gets to challenge and bend their imagination. What if I told you I ordered the Handmade Honey Ribs. First reactions, people. Blasphemy!! Sacrilege, Ill never get into the pearly white gates now. Quite the sinner, huh? However this is one their masterpiece creations with a myriad of ingredients including monkey head & shitake mushrooms, quite the Indiana jones version with lotus root, individually hand rolled to perfection and glazed in harmony with a delightful blend of honey sauce. MY conundrum has never been about the food, rather what can be consumed by one and all. That’s where the devil lies- finding the protein in everything I eat, given the strenuous workouts and heavy energy laden activities one has to endure as a traveller. 

Enter the holy trinity of super foods that I have come to depend on especially in times like these. Why lazy? Seeds, yes like a bird- including flax, chia, sesame, and sunflower, are packed with protein and “good” fats with a nutty taste to them, with flax being more prominent. Both flax and chia seeds contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. These are available in a myriad of flavors and allow me to ditch the potato chip packets as a snack in between meals. Next is the Beans & Legumes. The combination of beans and rice make for a great complete protein. Beans and lentils, of course, also provide you with the necessary carbohydrate aspects for overall sustenance.

 The trifecta ends with another Super seed. In 2013, the UN declared and dedicated an entire year to this seed. Quinoa. A complete protein, it consists of all nine of the essential amino acids the body can’t always produce on its own. Also look at the abundance in variety. Did you know? There are over 120 varieties of quinoa! Here’s one of my easy to make preparations- the Pineapple Fried Quinoa. All you need is 1 cup of uncooked quinoa, 2 cups water, 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, 1 medium finely chopped onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 Tablespoons of fresh minced ginger, 1.5 teaspoons dried red chili pepper flakes, 3/4 cup peas, 1 diced red, 1.5 cups of fresh pineapple and you are ready to go. This is a great family snack and serves 4. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Set aside and cover it for 10 minutes. Add the coconut oil to a pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the peas, bell pepper, and pineapple, and cook over high-heat for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pineapple just starts to caramelize. Add in the cooked quinoa, liquid and some cilantro for extra zing. Mix well and cook for an additional minute and voila. 

Till we meet next, have a blessed season.

 

 

 

 

Cheaters do Prosper 


2017 is turning out to be a tempted vixen in disguise. I’ve been good and dedicate to my regiment- (I’m referring to food here), in case one let their mind wander frivolously. Invariably the cosmos aligned and temptation had me meet a lovely lady who asked me out on a dinner date. Yeah, that’s a first for the year. I am as surprised as you are-believe you me! Whilst I promised utter dietary dedication over the last few weeks, I couldn’t just sit there and eat a salad while she consumed her meal in abandonment feeling guilty every other passing minute.
I decided to play the chivalry and cheat card and order on behalf of us both. She was kind enough to accept. Started off with a mushroom soup and a wholesome salad followed by some vino and a clam pasta with a light drizzle of olive oil, chopped garlic and some oregano seasoning. Dessert in a sinful chocolate mousse was for one with me playing second fiddle, consuming a miniscule excuse of a gelato to keep up with Robinsons.
Let’s pause for a second- I think splurging on a diet is mandatory, not an option. Now that I’ve got your attention, taking away a person’s favorite foods can be the death knell to a diet, in my honest opinion. I read somewhere of this concept called ‘structured cheating.’ Allow me to play devil’s advocate and elucidate this concept further. There’s a difference between enjoying your favorite foods occasionally and eating everything you adore. The key to maintaining ‘control’, is deciding what you want and how much you’ll have, and then “eat it with full consciousness … lick your lips, and then move on with your life.”
Here’s my personal 5 cheat point plan to allow one to lose weight without literally losing one’s mind.
1) Accept your “binge foods.” Acceptance is half the battle won. We know your desire for them isn’t going anywhere. And as we all know, when you tell people they can’t do something — like enjoy a slice of pie — they’re going to want to do it even more, human nature at its defiant best. With this in mind it builds up a ‘calorie count meter’ that’s imperative to psyching ones mind strategically much like the feeling of a depleted bank balance at the end of the month in lieu of our salary credit.
2) Have a plan. As weird as it sounds this helps me every single time. “If you happen to be a dessert lover (like moi) and eat out ever so frequently (guilty again), ask to see the dessert menu first,” This way, you can budget your calories for what matters most to you. Knowing where you’re really headed — toward that lemon cheesecake, perhaps? – It will make it easier to skip the creamy clam chowder or deep-fried cheese sticks as mains.
3) Eat what you love, in small portions. You can have it all, just not all in one day. No food is off-limits as long as you keep your portions reasonable. Don’t believe me? Make a beeline to my next review and witness it first hand. Everything goes! I cheat daily. I satisfy my sweet tooth with a teaspoon of organic honey that I keep in the freezer so it melts slowly with the slurp atop my tongue and satisfies my craving without consuming too many calories. Also try the ‘8-chomp mastication rule’. Chew each morsel of food repeatedly 8 times and over before consumption. This is scientifically proven to gestate and burn food simultaneously with a workout of sorts.
4) Compromise. Much like the lovely ladies who urge me to watch Netflix rom-coms over Sci-fi fantasies at home, a diet is a love affair filled with compromise. I love my creamy chicken salad- however drastic changes were made to mine by cutting the calories with replacing half the mayonnaise with yogurt. Compromises are an empowering thing. Especially when a Rom-com can be practiced in real time post the movie v/s a dream within a dream, if you get my drift?
5) Cheat galore only on what you love. Here’s my philosophy- ‘If it’s bad (for your diet), it had better be good’. So instead of grabbing a trio of donut holes each morning with ones coffee, and distractedly downing a doughy 300 calories, I would recommend splurging on something worth savoring. Donuts to me could be a perfect wedge of pineapple upside down cake, if your heart so desires?
Having opened up the cheater’s handbook, the underlying principle, which you got to stay committed, too is any format of physical activity or a mix format of a few. Kickboxing, Yoga, Pilates, cycling, swimming, walking, running anything goes. That’s something one could never cheat on irrespective.
So go ahead; have your weight loss and eat cake, too!
 
 
 
 
 

Date with a Clause 

If anyone asked me how I envisioned my Christmas at the start of the month, I would have scoffed at the idea and barked of my role as the Grinch this coming season. Flashback to an impromptu meeting at a Saturday night market followed by a late night bike ride with a beautiful stranger had me chimney down a different tune. Whilst many you folk went for midnight mass with refreshments and cake post (yes, I ain’t no heathen, I went for one as well), to the festive Christmas dances around Goa till the wee hours of the morning- I had an agenda in place. For all the single guys reading this, listen up. An invitation to a home cooked meal for a lady is sure brownie points on any given Sunday, and a double whammy at that when it happens to be Christmas. Donning the apron I had a plan in mind. An aperitif, salad and dessert were on the menu. Pre-planned and decided on our first encounter itself.
 For the sake of coveted ambiguity- Annie hails from Norway, is ambidextrous, loves her veggies and on occasion meets Mr. Clause from time to time. Yeah, they are practically neighbors, proximity wise. Cooking up a meal required something quick and easy yet spelt chic and sophisticated. Keeping it traditional had me research and play around with the Eggnog donning the aperitif quadrant. Did you know- culinary historians still debate its exact lineage; most agree eggnog originated from the early medieval Britain “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink. By the 13thcentury, monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs, and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health. The Coconut Eggnog had a local touch of Goa infused. A pack of full fat coconut milk, 2 cups light coconut milk, 4 egg yolks, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and always some extra nutmeg for service. I just combined all the ingredients in the basin of a blender and blended away till they were well-combined and frothy and chilled it. Why did I do this you asked? Compared to the traditional Eggnog recipe made with milk, cream and eggs, dairy-free nog made from coconut milk has about half the calories and a fraction of the fat. It’s surprisingly creamy, and the coconut flavor may trick you into thinking you’ve already added a shot of rum (saving you about 100 calories.) Yes, I’m considerate like that.

 Ever Dated a Carrot with Feta in a salad? No pun intended, I assure you. All one needs is 3 carrots, 2 tsp chopped coriander, 1.5 tsp of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp honey, salt, juice of 1 lime, ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese, 2 tsp of chopped toasted almonds, 2 tsp finely chopped dates. A 20-minute parallel process has one thinly slice the carrots into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, including any remaining “stubs” of carrot. Its important to note that you have to soak it in ice water until the ribbons firm up and curl, about 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Whisk together the cilantro, olive oil, honey, half a teaspoon salt and the limejuice in a medium bowl. Add the carrots along with the feta cheese, almonds and dates, and toss until evenly combined

 That didn’t stop there. With Christmas carols for good measure, I topped it off with Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” and served her the piece-de-resistance- Poached Pears in spiced tea pudding. And people say, I’m not a romantic. Scoff! A 15 minute preparation required 50g golden caster sugar, 1tsp honey, 4 luscious strawberries, 2 spiced tea bags (I infused strawberry cream and peppermint), 2 pears halved and scooped with a spoon, little orange juice zest and yogurt. You start off putting the sugar, honey in a big saucepan with 600 ml water and bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pear halves, then cover and simmer until the pears are just tender – do poke them with a skewer to check. Lift out the pears, then turn up the heat, throw in the strawberries and boil for a few minutes until syrupy. Serve them pears, with warm syrup poured over and a spoonful of yogurt. Move over to the simmering bonfire in my backyard on a nippy night with toasted marshmallows and a blanket for company, it definitely began to look a lot like Christmas for sure. 

 

 

 

Smooth Criminal 

Smooth Criminal 

Ever been called a ‘Smoothie’? An informal definition would pit it as a ‘man with a smooth suave manner’. Used in a sentence would construct accordingly- ‘A smoothie with an eye for a pretty girl.’ As for Miss YSL earlier- that’s the resonation she left me with. Whilst I thought it was the wine talking, apparently I jotted the wrong digits. That definitely was some great wine.

Early to bed, early to rise makes Jack healthy, wealthy and wise. Well, good for Jack given the fact that he aint living in Goa during the festive season. A season where parties are never ending, alcohol ever flowing and food fit enough to feed Kim Jong-un’s personal army. Who is Kim Jong-un? That’s an entire story for Google altogether- a rather interesting one at that.

The after effects of a singleton read ‘moi’, attending a party to the point of departure is as perilous as the savvy Jack Sparrow sailing the Bermuda triangle, though he does it with more panache and style and probably lives to tell the tale. 

A ‘5 point something ‘ checklist runs through my head every time I have to fight the urge of a social soiree. The folks are kind and inviting and more often than not, I fall in the mix of common company through my parents gracing the occasion given the circles we know. So I have to be on my best ‘seen’ behavior- i.e. when they have me in their line of sight.

What is the 5-point rigmarole?

Point 1- I stick to wine when I have to indulge. After all it’s fermented fruit juice and is supposedly great to keep the calories in check. Also studies show a glass a day actually does wonders to your heart and cardiovascular system. Stick to juice you say? Unless it’s fresh, its pointless. Tetra-paks and canned juices are a BIG folly.

Point 2- Lay off the friend starters and hunt for peanuts and or baked chips etc.

Point 3- Have a slice of cheese before every drinking session. Not only does it line ones stomach and counteracts the effects of being tipsy rather it partly fills you to consume less at the lunch/dinner.

Point 4– Quarter plates and one serving! This has helped me immensely in being social without hurting anyone’s feelings as well as keeping the food count to a minimum. Sushi sized servings in a quarter plate, works.

Point 5- Don’t find affable company to go off the reservation. Hence the ‘something’, mentioned earlier. Now, if you do find that ‘someone’ to sin with, this is what happens the morning post.

Aunty Dolores is currently a houseguest for the holiday season. A second mum to me during my formative years (like that ever fructified- no pun intended) she is one of the last remains of the Golden Age of Hippies in and around Goa. Yoga, Vegan, Natural soaps and the works has her like a child of Mother nature living in the next bedroom beside me. 

Talking to her, one could feel pure and reborn. Have her make one a breakfast and you could feel healthy on the spur of the moment. But in an age of ‘time’ being ones enemy and all that jazz this is what she whips up. 

Collard Greens Smoothie With Mango and Lime- This remedy is perfect when it comes to getting you over that ‘hangover’ from the night prior. Being in Goa this is perfect given the abundance of mangoes we have around. It works wonders and can be done in a matter of minutes. 

Basically its Frozen mango and green grapes with spinach. A refreshing power smoothie, and that in a matter of minutes. What goes into this? 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, 2 cups of stemmed and chopped spinach, 1.5 cups of frozen mango (yes I freeze mango pulp from my trees outside, so I can enjoy it for the entire year round and one cup of grapes. Combine the limejuice, ½ cup water, the collard greens, mango, and grapes in a blender and puree until smooth for about a minute. A way better option than watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘End of Days’ combining a ‘throw it all in’ smoothie with alcohol and a stale slice of pizza- though I’m sure that’s something one could look into for a ‘boys gone wild Netflix and chill bachelor party’. 

Back to the smoothie- Someone ask Annie if she’s ok? She’s been hit by, a smooth criminal.

Mr.NObody is your average bachelor blogger, critic, and food aficionado struggling to walk the fine line between healthy eating and carnal gastronomic delights.

Follow him on @nolansatwit

Objectivity & Opinions 


Over a gifted night of wine & cheese in the solace of my own dominion, I read this phrase that stuck with me till date. 

‘Opinions are like arseholes, Everyone has one’

Without too much of a pun on the word, in my ‘opinion‘ everyone is entitled to their own as long as they don’t subject it on the likes of others around them- at times forcefully imposing their point of view leading to culling objectivity in the process. 

A beautiful piece written by a talented fellow blogger for OHeraldo in Goa- Fernando Monte da Silva and I share a few thoughts on the subject. 

My excerpts as follows:

“In the field of throwing open ones ideas up in the air objectively speaking of course- is the false assumption of acceptability from multiple thoughts alike. Basing that assumption the objectivity of food is that of Russian roulette from multiple factors ranging from the chef having a lovers tiff to the improbability of sourcing the right ingredients thus leading to lack of continuity and monotony to produce the same fare time and again matching to expected objectified standards by patrons. 

As a writer it’s imperative to understand the perception of the chef to allow a deconstruction of his food through a presentation and taste storyline for acceptance and approval from the concerned recipient. Many a times, this is lost in translation thus leading to objectivity been thrown out the window without caution. Influencers and foodies alike play a integral part in this constructed ‘storyline’ and it needs to be cajoled with utmost love and care. Failure to do so would lead to quite the catastrophe. 

Let’s  break it down with an example. Not a particular fan of aubergine- does that make the ratatouille carefully crafted unpalatable to describe and eat to my readers? Objectifying the process and the closeness to home is something everyone looks forward too in a meal given Nuevo cuisine and international fare.

 Objectivity of a writer is paramount as their recommendations form the quantitative basis of food making its way to multiple palates for them to make a decision accordingly.”

“Monetization for the art of writing and blogging is a trend that has long been in parlance just as paid media is these days. 

My opinion on that is just cause it’s monetized, a seasoned writer should not be influenced by the same. There are two independent parallels. Cash for goods and services in this case words. 

Writing is an art form indeed and a mature writer should not allow the cost of words dictate the truth behind them. Are we saying that if it weren’t paid it would be truthful? There are two sides to that story. 

There are many incognito writers I am aware off who go unannounced and craft beautifully written articles, however died out naturally in coverage due to ‘life’ happening to them in the interim. Eating out is a serious business these days and let’s not forget extremely expensive. 

Having said that the cycle of ad space vs articles is something people are banking on these days. Also there should ideally be no demarcation between traditional media and website blogs. A few known blogs have coverage close to rival of many regional papers and hence capitalize on the same much like how newspapers and magazines run. 

More eyeballs. Having said this in the matter of objectivity it’s a sharp sword. Once bitten indeed if a writer is not true to his word it shows through the readership of fans knowing that monetization ruined the piece written was not objective enough. 

All it takes are a few bad reviews and voila, one loses credibility in the eyes of all.”

Thank you for a wonderfully crafted piece.  

Ready.Set.Jump 

“Welcome to the jungle,” said the spider to the fly. You enter at ease, with dense scenic foliage around. Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary- a wildlife-protected sanctuary has an eclectic range of flora and fauna species nestled deep in the heart of South Goa. Painted billboards along the way, a guide to the forest dwellers inhabiting the jungle– king cobra, kraits, Russell vipers and the common rat snake and the elusive leopard and many species of spider and scorpion. Deep within the jungle is a hidden treasured extreme activity- Canyoning. An exhilarating technique-oriented sport, its activities range from walking, abseiling, wading and swimming through waist deep and open waters, scrambling, climbing, jumping and sliding down natural slopes. Imagine, Indiana Jones wet dream.

 Three guides, with a cumulative 25 years of experience, direct each expedition. Being a moderately risk defined activity- Safety is paramount. Medical kits are on standby– water, helmets and harnesses with a wet suit provided. Instructions are delivered post the signing, of a surreal consent form. It’s more dissuasive than persuasive. One has to be moderately fit, not afraid of snakes or spiders, and have no fear of water or heights.

 The jeep meanders an uphill road, a few grunts and shrieks later; arrives at the destination. You tread the off beaten path no more than a few feet wide with loose gravel and strewn spider webs on the earth’s floor for company. It’s humid and the smell of wet earth engulfs the air. There are ascents, which run 75o inclines that get you huffing & puffing. Itchy cacti stand guard to the river like militia. It gives you the sense of a quest for lost treasure – a secret to be discovered. One is allowed multiple breaks and the guides – Clement, Vlad and Philip – are an enthusiastic laugh riot. Their jabber makes the trek bearable. The sound of cascading water can be heard beyond the dense foliage ahead. The course charts 3kms in total, yet having barely crossed a kilometer, the lactic acids in ones legs start to build up.

 Standing at the cliff’s edge, one realizes there’s no turning back. Once underway, the way out is seeing it through the end. The Sauri River majestically makes its way over rocks and boulders with numerous waterfall drops in the distance. 

At a point in a deep cove, resides Brian- a water snake. Luck in their favor, the guides catch the elusive irate reptile and can make a formal introduction on request. The canyon puts one to the test, and chances to conquer it are high, though with a few minor nicks and scratches and a multitude of tumbles in tow expected. The ending for this beginner course is far more theatrical, to say the least. The last rappel against gushing water from up above, one is informed of the rope holding self is a few meters short. The only way left, is to let go!! Fear not, the water below embraces the fall tenderly much to the impish grins of the guides above. A sense of accomplishment beckons on departure amidst tired bones and muscle aches – which would have one ready to repeat this again. Or maybe it would be the adrenaline talking; longing to see Brian, once again.

 A great place to stay at is La Mangrove. A blink-and-miss eco resort in Katebag, it offers a modern tipi concept opposite a serene mangrove. An idyllic, tipi accommodation and river lounge garden in South-Goa, only 5 minutes by cycle from the beautiful protected Galgibag Beach, also known as Turtle Beach. It’s located in an authentic and charming Goan Catholic village, 25 minutes from the famous Palolem beach. The river lounge is a ‘bubble of fresh air,’ a place to escape from the hustle & bustle of life. 

A panoramic view of what expects you at La Mangrove 

The view transcends your senses to an alternate realm of peace and calm with only the occasional egret and Brahmin kite for company. Being an eco resort that’s one with nature, the tipis come with open-to-sky bathrooms and thatched walls right behind each with a common meeting and dining area right next to the mangrove. The reception is good with free wi-fi and a delectable organic menu to choose from.

 Perfect for an early morning awakening, with a hot cup of tea to watch the sun rise from behind the riverbed far ahead.

La Mangrove has an exclusive sitting area facing the river and mangrove. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared daily with organic foods by their chef from a set menu. Serving a range of Indian, Tibetian & Continental -a must try is their La Mangrove Momos, Pasta a la carbonara, Tentuk soup. 

The deep fried chocolate momo’s with vanilla ice cream is a must try. 

The breakfast is part of the package with a choice of continental and a healthy option. The food prepared is fresh and wholesome. 

A scrumptious continental spread to start the day at La Mangrove 

Another option is 10 minutes away on Turtle Beach at Santosh Bar & Restaurant. Known for his fresh fish and recommended by Jamie Oliver you should ask for the catch of the day. 

Fresh catch of the day. Basic. Scrumptious. 

An unforgettable sunset amidst the crashing waves

Word of Advice: 

  • Avoid Canyoning if you suffer from arachnophobia
  • Canyoning is best done between October and March
  • If you suffer from any serious medical conditions it is best to avoid this activity as it is very strenuous on ones body.
  • There are a variety of levels to accomplish depending on fitness levels.

Tour Operator: It is recommended you book your stay through the website http://www.lamangrovegoa.com for the best deals. Thibault can be contacted on +91 8408086365 or lamangrovegoa@gmail.com

For the canyoning experience it is best booked with Emanuel Ferre the owner of Goa Jungle Adventure. He can be contacted on +919850485641 or manu@goajungle.com


 This article was written for Lonely Planet Magazine as part of their Easy trips. No part of this publication  can be reproduced without prior consent/ approval of LPMI. 

Chocolate momos, Fresh catch, breakfast, panoramic views, hammock Pic courtesy by Nolan Mascarenhas Photography. Shot on Iphone6. Images for main article shot by Sameer Mangtani.