What a pickle!

First of all let me clarify something. I’m a muhindi and it’s expected of me to be eating pickles and chutneys with every meal including my cornflakes. I am supposed to be able to eat chillies at an alarmingly high rate and not even wince when biting into those small bullet peppers.

‘Supposed’ being the operative words here! There was a time I could eat no food without dollops of hot sauce on it, or some sort of chilli condiment with it but as I grow older i realise I have what us Kenyans term as a ‘mzungu palette’. I can’t bear the heat in my mouth or the havoc that gets wreaked on my insides. I have a mzungu friend and he tries really hard to fit in with my mum’s cooking. Mum has a bit of a heavy hand where pili pili is concerned so he’s usually politely red-faced until he leaves the house and runs for an ice cream parlour.

My dad’s younger brother has a habit of eating a special chutney with every meal of his. He makes it himself and it is, in fact very simple to make and tastes divine too. Basically it’s a yoghurt based garlic chutney.

You will need:

6 tablespoons homemade yogurt (but even the shop stuff will do)

1teaspoon crushed garlic

1teaspoon crushed coriander leaves

Crushed green chillies (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

Just mix everything together and this chutney goes with just about anything – except your cornflakes of course. Try it with samosas and chicken tikka, sandwiches, drizzle it over irio (my favourite), in fact just about everything.

Now just in case you’re wondering what do I mean by pickle and what do I mean by chutney, it’s quite simple…

You can pickle a lot of things, including many vegetables and fish, in a solution of brine and vinegar. The terms chutney and relish are often used interchangeably, but a chutney is usually considered to be an Indian-style relish made of fruits, such as mango, and certain spices, plus vinegar and sugar. Other relishes can include a variety of ingredients, not simply cucumber. Not all things pickled are chutneys. Generally, chutneys are not whole or simply sliced (like a cucumber pickle), but are diced and more spices are added to chutneys. The difference  between them is mango pickle is a pickled version of mango(Achaar) and the chutney is a blend of spiced with mango added in it.

No self respecting chicken tikka joint can go without an array of chutneys to accompany the yummy food you get served. A tamarind chutney is usually standard fare at such restaurants.

I remember my Granny (cucu) used to make a fabulous mango achaar (pickle) with mangoes handpicked from her garden. The process was amazing. Firstly you pick the mangoes and wash and dry them really well, then cut them into small, long slices with the skin on – and at this point it is important to note that the mangoes are not the sweet orange fleshed ones. These are usually hard. Once washed and dried they are rubbed with salt and then laid out in the sun to dry completely. Granny used to use Granddad’s voile turban material but one can also use newspapers to lay the fruit out on to dry out in the sun. Once totally dehydrated, Granny would cook these dried mangoes in oil and i must say it’s not just a tablespoon or three of oil. She’s use litres of it! To this she would add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds and lots of red chilli powder and of course green chillies and a whole host of other things that i seriously can’t remember at this point. The result was an amazing mango pickle that would taste divine with pronthas (shallow fried chapattis) and hot masala chai.

Did you also know that marmalade is considered a sweet pickle? We love to put it on our hot buttered toast. I Portugal the fruit called quince would be used to make a kind of a sweet pickle which came to be known as marmalade and the ladies would make this marmalade and give to a man as a token of her love. Basically if you were in love with a man and wanted him to know that, you’d make him some marmalade and present it to him and in some parts of Europe this tradition still continues.

To this day, this fruit called ‘quince’, as it falls off a tree, a man may pick it up and hand it to a lady to indirectly say ‘Would you make me some marmalade’ so I guess the man, too, can reciprocate his feelings or make them known to a woman he loves with this gesture.

What a pickle eh?!

Vegetarianism – It’s not for the wimps!

I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian was a bumper sticker I used to have on my car as a student. You’d think that living in the UK as a student would make it easier for me to stick to a cheaper and wholesome diet but no. I used to absolutely love eating meat every single day! Walking into a fast food place was a thrill – eating southern fried chicken by the bucket was Friday night’s menu and walking through the place known as the Golden Arches for a burger fix or hot apple pie was almost a daily occurrence.

Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, states that vegetarianism is the practice of following a diet that excludes meat, including game and slaughter by-products; fish and other sea animals; and poultry. There are several variants of the diet, some of which also exclude eggs and/ or some products produced from animal labour such as dairy products and honey.

My worst vegetable used to be karela (bitter gourd) and I hated the taste with passion. Luckily Mum never forced me or my siblings to eat this food whenever it was cooked but there mere smell of it cooking in the house would ensure a hunger strike for the day. If we knew beforehand that it would be cooking at home the same evening, we’d stock up on junk food from the school tuck shop to make sure we didn’t die of hunger.

Then suddenly I grew up somewhere along the way and had kids of my own and I realised the importance of vegetables in our general diet. My daughter is actually a very finicky eater but my son eats anything and everything you put in front of him. He loves to experiment with food while my daughter picks out onions, coriander leaves, tomatoes and anything else and piles it on the side of her plate. In the dramatics department she takes after me, I must say. If she is forced to eat something she doesn’t like she will make retching sounds and heave as though I’ve just poured a litre of arsenic down her throat with some rat poison for good measure. Surprisingly she likes cauliflower, which I didn’t like while I was growing up so I do try and vary recipes so that she ingests at least one green!

Being a vegetarian or having a diet that leans more towards vegetarianism is great for health and it doesn’t take rocket science to figure it out. The fresher the vegetables, the more beneficial they are to your well being. The equation is the simplest one I know off head.

I would suggest trying to experiment with herbs and spices to flavour the foods. A sprinkling of sesame seeds on tofu with a drizzle of soya sauce and a quick pan fry method, served up with sautéed vegetables is actually very delicious. Oregano is an herb I really love using. Who says it’s just for pizza? I even use it in basic Indian recipes that I make at home for that slight oomph in the taste, and that’s not the only herb you can experiment with for flavour. Just let your creative juices flow and you know there is so much you can do and enjoy your veggies.

So including a lot more vegetables in your diet isn’t really a scary thing. You might end up liking it more and more instead of eating far too much meat which ideally your body doesn’t require. The key is to enjoy the taste and various flavours and if you’re stuck with not knowing what to do, just let Susan walk you through it. She’s a dab hand in the kitchen if you know what I mean!!

De-cluttering My Life

For the record, I am someone who hoards just about everything. I keep all sorts of things that would make one wonder what is it that really makes my mind tick. Let me demonstrate to you the extent of my hoarding. I have my 18th birthday banners and the champagne corks too. I have my birthday cards from all these years and I keep things for the event of ‘just in case’. By this I mean I will not throw out that piece of fancy ribbon that I got off the packaging of a posh chocolate box because you never know when you’ll get to use it again.

You must understand at this point that I’m big into recycling things and because I really enjoy making my own greeting cards, I will use the oddest of objects to stick on the cards to make it unique, so I rarely end up throwing bits and bobs. I have special drawers for all my crafting supplies and I know the day I throw something out because I feel it won’t have any use, chances are high that I will need to use it as soon as the bin people have taken the taka-taka away. Sod’s Law!

The hoarding has continued with my kids’ stuff. I have their first outfits they wore home from the hospital after birth, their blankets, first footwear, heck, I even have their teeth! Usually the Tooth Fairy is meant to replace the tooth with some cash and probably flush the tooth down the loo or something but I save the teeth. Sometimes I wonder why because a mere look at those teeth just grosses me out completely. Ewww.

It doesn’t stop at my kids. I have pictures and colourings and cut out flowers given to me by my vast number of cousins, nieces and nephews. I’m just too sentimental and absolutely refuse to throw away my memories like that.

A fortnight ago I was on leave from work and I decided to clear out my home. Being at work the whole day I tend not to have the time to give it the full attention that I do at the weekends so it was actually therapeutic clearing up. First of all I did my filing. All my papers were stuffed in a purple floral gift bag and more kept joining that bag until it started tearing from the sides. Then I got rid of clothes and shoes and handbags that were in great condition but I wasn’t using them. Most of the stuff I just sold it off at a very nominal amount and the rest I gave away. The kids’ toys, books and clothes also followed suit and I felt really good to have taken out so much stuff from the house.

The only area left to clear up now is my study. No one is allowed to touch anything here or move anything at all. The helper has strict instructions to NOT TOUCH ANYTHING on my desk and leave all noble intentions of wanting to tidy up because she will just mix everything and I will have a nervous breakdown. In my pile of papers, books, pens, craft supplies and what not, I always know where to find whatever it is I am looking for.

Having said that, I’m actually glad that I have managed to sort my stuff out. It’s amazing how, when you clear one aspect of life up, all other looming aspects seem to get sorted out too. Or maybe it’s just me…!

They say a cluttered environment is a reflection of a cluttered mind but I just like to call my clutter ‘organised chaos’.

Share your clutter and clutter-free stories with me…

The Woozy Day

I’m getting off the effects of General Anesthetic as I write this. No, it’s not a regular habit or occurrence. It’s just that I had to get a medical procedure done and hence the need for it. As I write this I hope some silly git spammer doesn’t pick up on the words medical and anesthetic and send me offers of cheap viagra. I swear I don’t need it!

The day has gone by in a daze and I even painted my nails black for some strange reason. It’s strange because I’m more likely to wear pink or red or some other ‘safe’ colour like that. Perhaps the black was a reflection of my mood. Maybe I saw The Light while in the operation theatre. I have no recollection of any near death experiences, if any.

I have most of tomorrow to recuperate and look forward to chatting more with you over here….

Do you see butterflies during NDEs??

Welcome to Kamal’s Korner


Welcome to Kamal’s Korner where I say exactly what I feel like because I feel like it!

Your feed back is much appreciated but if you’re spamming me with offers of cheap viagra and you are from Nigeria and want me to fax you my letterhead, please don’t bother. That’s just not done!

What is done is that I can yakkety yak away and you can enjoy that if you are so inclined.