Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A July update; and sweet welcome to August.

This past month was a god-send in terms of catching up with my reading. I was on complete bed rest for the first two weeks, and up and about with restrictions for the other two. Between hours of wait time at doctor's office and the luxury of chauffered drives to those visits, I managed to browse through numerous magazines. Then after I got my fill of day-time soaps and started to get antsy, A even drove me to the library to replenish my reading. Of the four books that I picked up, I actually finished three (and a half)- a pretty good feat considering that of late, I have really fallen behind. Now that I am back to work, reading times will again be few and far between. Till then, here is what I read.

'The Peach Keeper" was on my local library's summer reading list.  I have never read anything by the author before, and I picked it up, because it sounded like it had the right summery, peachy title!! Plus I figured that if it is on the Book Club List, it'd be good. It's an all-right book; light and breezy. Set in a small  Southern town, it's mainly about childhood friendships and rediscovering them past our adult prejudices. There's a little bit of ghost in it, a bit of murder, and enough romance to keep wanting to read more. This is neither the best book I've read, nor the worst. Am sort of ambivalent about it.

The next one is what A picked out for me- he'd taken the girls to the library, and he was thoughtful enough to bring me a book as well. It was called 'Body on the Beach" by Simon Brett. I'd never read his books before, and was pleasantly surprised. Set in a charming little English town  called Fehthering with two 'older' women trying to investigate a possible murder, this book reminded me so much of the Agatha Christie's books that we read in school - especially the Miss Marple series. It is also a fairly easy read; and gripping enough to want to finish at one go.  I think I am going to rate it as 'fairly good' and 'enjoyable'.

And I saved the best for the last. Khalid Hosseni's 'A Thousand Splendid Suns'. I was so impressed with his "The Kite Runner" that I had to pick it up. And I must say, that it was more than what I ever expected it to be. This was definitely , hands down, the winner of my July reads. I cried with Maryam in the first part; and for her in the last. I was hopeful for Laila in the second part of the book, and wished for her to get those thousand splendid suns as I put down this book. In between, this book was a roller coaster of emotions. Can't help but admire women like Maryam, Laila and Aziza- and I'm sure they do exist in the real world. The one image that stayed with me during this book was that of Maryam and Laila talking over cups of chai and a bowl of halwa; while Rasheed slept.  Then when Rasheed wakes up and hollers for them, they exchange a secret glance, ignore him and continue with their chai-halwa ritual. There's just something so homey about this image; and so natural that whenever I make halwa for my family, I'm reminded of it.

Which is what happened today- Aug 2nd is Saawan ki Teej and to mark it for the girls, I made them halwa after getting back from work. What better way to welcome a new month than with indulging your sweet tooth.  It was just the 3 of us; the women of the house, with chai-halwa (for me-  doodh-halwa for the girls); when A walks in declaring that he wants some too. And the girls look at me so to say 'why is daddy always show up when it is our time?'!! Some things never change- men for example....

Sooji ka Halwa
(Semolina Halwa)

Sooji/Semolina (coarse)    1 cup
Ghee/clarified butter  2 Tbsp
Sugar     1cup
Water     1 and 1/2 cup
Cashews, raisins, almonds (chopped)   1/2 cup  (optional)

  • To make the no-frills attached halwa, in a wide saute pan, I melt ghee on a low-medium flame, and then roast the sooji in it. Takes about 5-7 minutes for the sooji to turn a light brown. Then, I add the water, followed by sugar and nuts and stir it to avoid lumps. After about a minute, I turn off the heat.
  • Enjoy- as hot as you can stand it without burning yourself!
 My two cents: All I can say is that this is a fool-proof everyday sweet-dish.  Baby P calls it 'sticky brown sweet' and can demand it at the drop of a hat. Which is why I never ask her what she wants for dinner!! I have an electric smooth top, so the halwa comes together on the hotplate and with the heat from the saucepan. Everyone has their own preference as far as consistency of the halwa is concerned.  But there's no right or wrong way to make a halwa.
Linked to:
Come celebrate-Indian sweets.