Blogging for a better today

I have been blogging regularly for a year now and its been one of the best experiences of my lifetime.  I had blogged before but the frequency of my posts then was a function of my mood now my mood is dependent on what I write. If you are looking for the usual post about food then this is not it.

If you look at WordPress stats alone, you’d find 70 million + blogs using it as a publishing platform. That is considerably more than the population of France! There are more people Web Logging than ever before. Its not just about writing about your life and what happens in it daily but reading what others have to say. We all have friends and families to surround ourselves with and yet there is an allure in writing to and for complete strangers. ( that’s what made pen pals popular ) There is so much joy in sharing our very personal lives with people sitting across the planet in different time zones, with totally unrelated cultures and lifestyles. I read a few blogs in Icelandic and Romanian using Google Translate, language too is no longer barrier for fellow bloggers to share their experiences.

So why do we so unreservedly indulge in this verbal exchange over fiber optics? Why take time out from a mostly unrelated job to type out a few words of perhaps little literary value but great expressive power? To me I think it is not for the pursuing of unfulfilled dreams or to showcase hobbies, but it is for human interaction. To meet like minded people, lovers of the art which you yourself practice and admire. Meet the kind of people who you seldom meet in real life. It is also to perhaps gain recognition which one’s non – blog existence is not able to provide. Appreciation from living souls without the judgement which generally accompanies it. Every like, reblog, comment stirs within even the most popular of bloggers a feeling of elation, of being recognized for one’s work, of feeling special.

I find it hard to stick to only one of my favorite topics, food while writing. I have so many more thoughts in my head and so much more to express. I thus came up with a few more blogs, varied in content perhaps not so much in style though. Let me make the introductions :

 

Potsoup Potsoup : This blog! The first of the franchise and the product of a ravenous mind in constant love with the edible world. I started this with the object of sharing food photographs from around the world and now post content from all the nations of the planet going about the business alphabetically.
Potsoup For the Soul Potsoup for the Soul : My 2nd venture to hold my ramblings about life. Movie reviews, book reviews, poetry, quotations , music that I like and points that I ponder while sipping something hot and dark. Its also been around for some time now but recently my creative writing has picked up pace.
Potsoup For the Eye Potsoup For the Eye: The youngest of the family this blog is literally a window into my world. It’s my photography blog as I experiment with my DSLR, mobile and other devices with image capturing abilities. Follow me on a journey of learning how to shoot and discovering new interesting subjects. This is the most frequently updated blog for I have little writing to do.
Potsoup For the Mind Potsoup for the Mind : Perhaps the most neglected of its siblings this one has hoped to voice my opinions on matters academic and knowledge driven. Being the most time consuming this one has received little attention from me and others, here’s hoping things will change.

So join me on a journey on any of these paths, hopefully all, as I write and read and click and listen.

When at home, Eat!

So I have been busy, the busiest in a few months I’d say. Eating and digesting without moving a muscle is one of the toughest thing to do. I’ve been at home and my mother has been feeding me like there’s no tomorrow. There is nothing that can replace the food you get at home is there? I got a 50mm 1.8g and basically freaked out on clicking things. Some of the following are from the lens, the rest from the standard 18-55 mm kit lens.

Seviya Bhat : A south Indian breakfast made from vermicelli. Here topped with sev(chik pea flour deep fried spicy snacks)
Unlike one in a bachelor pad, the fridge at home is full of food! Besides being decorated with colorful magnets.
Sometimes when you are scrounging for cake you end up with strange things. Like this meteorite look alike. That’s a boiled beetroot by the way.
Then there was cake, apple, beetroot and cherry cake.
The simple Phulka, the humble roti is perhaps the greatest luxury of home. Hot steaming and thin with a nice sabzi.
As mum’s busy I chip in with a potato pea veg of my own.

Khandavi or Takatli Vadi is a snack dish made from fine ground chickpea flour cooked in buttermilk rolled out on a flat surface as shone above, add coriander, coconut, green chilies, curry leaves, mustard seeds all slight fried in oil. This makes for the perfect sour and spicy finger food served cold.

Soak pulses, crush to make a batter, ferment it then fry balls of it, soak in water and then cover with flavored curd, tamarind chutney and chili powder. That’s the Dahi Wada one of my favorite home made street foods

The sweets at a local festival, some home made some store bought, all tasty. Read the entire story here.

Some Ginger, cardamom, clove and lemon grass masala tea anyone?

Bati : Balls of wheat flour mixed with some other flours of different consistency, baked in a dung or wood fired oven and dipped for hours together in lip smackingly wonderful ghee,
Alu Gobi Matar: A spicy sabzi of Cauliflower, potato and peas.
Putting it all together in the Dal Bati Thali. The Bati is eaten with a garlic enriched split pea dal and multiple chutneys.
If you have any space left after dal bati ( which is a very great accomplishment) you move to basmati long grained Jeera Rice.
The end of one of the lunches gets marked with the succulent Rasmalai
As a treat I made some Suji ( Semolina) Halwa, needed a little sugar but otherwise spot on.

Doodh Chumchum, the most underrated of Bengali sweets and one which my father bought nearly every week when I stayed at home. Soft, tender, juicy goodness of freshly curdled milk.

These were a few photographs that I was able to squeeze in between hog till it hurts moments. Hope you enjoyed them and that they left you salivating as they shall me when I look at them away from home.

 

Coming Soon : Israel

In Israel in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles
– David Ben-Gurion

Ben-Gurion was the first Prime Minister of this predominantly Jewish state. A state which holds the roots of the worlds major monotheistic religions, a curse above which it shall find hard to rise. The result of a wave of sympathy and support by the world for the Jewish population of Europe who suffered greatly at the hands of the Nazis, Israel is truly remarkable. It has achieved a great deal for a nation so young. This video while so similar to an advertisement showcases the faces that fill this land.

You can’t discuss this state without bringing up the question of Palestine, a question which I know little of and understand even less. For its all progress and culture and the beauty of Tel Aviv there is that familiar bullying dark side to this country which one usually sees with self proclaimed leading nations of the world. While the situation of Gaza remains far too complex, with my limited knowledge, to comment upon. Figures like the following don’t do well to hold up the image of this nation.

Source - http://www.vox.com/2014/7/11/5891599/crisis-israel-palestine-conflict
Source – http://www.vox.com/2014/7/11/5891599/crisis-israel-palestine-conflict

However, I’d like to  believe that every Israeli would live peacefully with a Palestine if it were not for devious men of religion and politics. In that hope we shall soon explore the food of this nation.

What the world eats : Iraq

Iraq, one of the oldest habitats of humans on Earth. The land of the once great and always fabled Babylon Empire, the area known as the Cradle of Civilization, one of the great centers of the Islamic World in the Middle Ages. And yet today, what do we know about Iraq? The clouds of dust rising from recent violence and warfare eclipse the glorious history and culture of this nation. The sight of most men is but limited to what picture they see painted of a place and its people where as it may be only a depiction of its politicians and powerful.

My first true peek into this land and its modern history was through the excellent TV series : The House of Saddam. A portrayal of the well known ex ruler of the state, his family, rise to power and daily dealings. It is honest in its depiction of the man without resorting to the exaggerated demonizing of the dictator by a Western Production house. The authenticity can of course be up for debate and with blemishes like The Devil’s Double having been churned out, who can blame the skeptics? The series will teach you one thing for sure, how to pronounce the country’s name properly.

History

Assyrian Empire
Assyrian Empire

The Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations remain the claim to fame in the Ancient ages of Iraq. We see various stages of these empires stretching from Cyprus to Egypt. Cyrus the Great put an end to these empires. The region eventually came under the yoke of the advancing armies of the Hellenistic Empire of Alexander the Great. The Muslim conquest of these regions and the growth of Islam in general would reshape the area entirely. The Middle ages saw only caliphates, Arabs and the Ottoman Turks. For five centuries, Baghdad remained one of the busiest and largest cities of the Islamic world. I remember the mention of this great metropolis even in Hindi and Indian texts of the time. Unfortunately this rich city was decimated by the grandson of Genghis Khan. Later on agriculture in the region declined with soil salination and other causes to blame. in the early 15th century, Tamer Lane (Ancestor to Babur – the first Indian Mughal Emperor) pillaged the city of Baghdad. He is said to have demanded of his men 2 heads of the enemy per soldier.  This bloody period was followed by the rule of the Mamuluks and the Ottoman Empire.

Modern History

After the 1st World War till 1932 Iraq remained under the British mandate with it having been declared The State of Iraq by the league of nations. Coups, military occupation and other acts of establishing political control followed till 1968 till the Baath party came to power. This eventually shifted control in 79 to Saddam Hussein. The First Persian Gulf War, cleansing of the Kurds, Iran – Iraq war and the Israeli bombing of Nuclear test facilities followed by the use of Chemical weapons by Iraq would become the legacy of the man. His true call to international attention however can be thought to be the First Gulf War with US involvement. The lavish lifestyle, dozens of body doubles, signature mustache and general flamboyance had made Saddam an internationally renowned  figure in the 90’s.  UN sanctions and no fly zones remained a constant for the state till 2003. In March the US Congress sanctioned military action against Iraq began under the pretext of its violation of UN treaties circling the issue of weapons of mass destruction. What would follow is perhaps one of the most controversial wars in Human history where in a time of relative peace and prosperity, an exercise of liberation was carried out with the world’s silence taken as approval. For the last decade or so this country has constantly been in news, nearly never for reasons which can be celebrated.

Hussein caricatured by Chunlong Sun
Hussein caricatured by Chunlong Sun

The Food

Iraqi cuisine is a blend of Turkish and Arabic food. The similarities with what we have already seen in Bahrain, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt and that of Syria, shall become obvious. There are the traditional appetizers, stress on lamb over other meat, chickpeas, rice, spices and fruits playing an important role.  Iraq is the world’s largest producer of dates. Its difficult to introduce you to new dishes but I shall try.

Sujuk - Dried spicy sausage
Sujuk – Dried spicy sausage

Sujuk : A dried spicy sausage popular in Balkan and Middle Eastern countries. This is primarily a Turkish dish but varies in the composition as per region. While beef is popular in Iraq, Syria and other Islamic nations, Kazakhstanis have been known to include horse meat. In countries of a different faith you might find pork sausages too. Cumin, garlic, red pepper and other spices are mixed with ground meat and slat and allowed to dry for weeks.
Source – AzulunaBrands

Sabich - the Israeli Iraqi Sandwich
Sabich – the Israeli Iraqi Sandwich

Sabich : An interesting creation from the region this is a pitta sandwich with fried egg plants and hard boiled eggs making the filling. The lack of meat may be surprising but even more so would be the presence of mango! It is believed that the Baghdadi Jews  from India in early times brought back mango chutney to the region. The migration of Jews from Iraq to Israel carried the dish to the land it is now considered native too. This of course is also debated by Israelis. The source blog post goes mental on Sabich in Tel Aviv in a way you can’t help but admire.
Source – MentalManna

Tepsi Baytinijan
Tepsi Baytinijan

Tepsi Baytinijan : It is hard to understand the middle Eastern love for the aubergine. They seem to be obsessed with it. This casserole like dish with meatballs, tomatoes and garlic with fried aubergine seems to be against the very core of my aversion of the various runny and wobbly vegetables out there. Yet it seems indulgently delicious. The stunning photograph comes from a stunning blog.
Source – Feeding Cravings

Shorbat Rumman
Shorbat Rumman

Shorbat Rumman : The food of my college cafeteria often centered around beetroots and to usually unappetizing ends, so the picture above is not as appealing tome as it might be otherwise. However this pomegranate stew is rather popular in Iraq. This colorful picture comes with a recipe from a great Vegan blog.
Source – VeganFeastKitchen

 Maqluba

Maqluba

Maqluba : This is a traditional dish of the Arab Levant, Persia, and Iraq.The dish includes meat, rice, and fried vegetables placed in a pot, which is then flipped upside down when served, hence the name maqluba, which translates literally as “upside-down”. Reminds you of pilaf. Look at the source for more on the dish and Lebanese origins.
Source – TheBeachHouseKitchen

Tzatziki
Tzatziki

Tzatziki : A Greek yogurt dip which has made its way to Iraq and gained popularity. It goes best with Kebabs and grilled meats. The Ottoman empire can be credited with bringing this to Iraq.

 

 

Hummus & Baba Ghanoush : These are definitely very well known players in Mediterranean and Arabic cuisine. Although their origin is not unique to Iraq, but ground chickpeas and aubergine mash can be mentioned for its popularity.
Source – ThreeManyCooks & SpiceJar Check these posts for some delightful step by step recipes.

Masgouf
Masgouf

Masgouf :  Carp grilled on wooden embers. A Mediterranean dish this is considered the national dish of Iraq. The fish is generally from the Tigris basin. One can just imagine the meat soft, moist and perfectly cooked.
Source – Wikimedia

Fattoush
Fattoush

Fattoush :  A Levantine bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of pita bread (khubz ‘arabi) combined with mixed greens and other vegetables. This post outlines a wonderful step by step recipe with great colorful pictures.
Source – Nuts about Food

Kale Tabbouleh
Kale Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh : A Levantine vegetarian dish (sometimes considered a salad) traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Bulgur is often added to the dish. Find the recipe for this great looking salad.
Source – Taste Food Blog

Stuffed Peppers
Stuffed Peppers

Fil-Fil Mahshi : Rice, Mint, spice and meat are stuffed into colorful peppers. A generic Arabic dish. The source post outlines a wonderful recipe, the peppers look cooked perfectly.
Source – WanderingSpice

So ladies and gentlemen, that was Iraq in all its culinary splendor. I avoided the mention of the well known dolmas and kebabs  to hopefully introduce all of us to a new side of the country which is most certainly more than the international headline we have so gotten used to.

Coming Soon : Iraq

One of the world’s oldest lands is on my list next, its culture, people, food and lifestyle are more of a mystery than its politics and current affairs. Where history is so rich and human habitation so old, is it just a slump in a very old civilization that is ours to see? This is a land which has clearly seen much better times. A subject of controversy, even for those people who may other wise know so little about it. It seems odd to talk and even think of writing of the life and food of a land which has seen so much death and devastation and continues to do so, even today. But perhaps the best way to keep a culture and the lifestyle of a people alive is to discuss it, learn about it and appreciate it. I shall come to the food in a few posts, for now here is a glimpse by Al Jazeera Documentary of the Iraq of 2012, post war.

I’d like to have shown a travel documentary, but none was to be found.

What the World Eats : Iran

I promise a post as coming soon and no sight of it for a fortnight, for things which give lesser joy than blogging must be tended to as the bread you dream of can’t be eaten. Such are the times we live in.

Iran, etymologically, The Land of Aryans, is definitely an intriguing place. A country whose impact on global history and polity has been more than most nations. Whose culture and cuisine has influenced lives from Britain to Bombay.While I rant on about this land formerly known as Persia, you play this list of songs from the land to create an Iranian Aura.

Bordered by Afghanistan and Pakistan on one side, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Russia on the other lying above the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Iran is the Eighteenth largest nation by size.  There was civilization here nearly 3000 years before the pious carpenter walked this Earth. Under Cyrus the Great, the Achaemenid Empire became the largest the world had seen yet. Alexander the Great of course put an end to that empire which was followed by the Neo -Persian era which had Iran play an important role in the Byzantine Empire. By Around 600AD Zoroastrianism was replaced with Islam as a result of invasions. Iran was a major player in the Islamic Golden Age with contributions not dissimilar to Europe’s Renaissance.  We see an adoption of Iranian culture by Turks in the 10th Century followed later by invasions by Genghis Khan  who wiped out a huge chunk of the Iranian population.  The middle ages see various local conflicts and notable Nadir Shah and his huge empire including the annexation of India and its looting. Russo-Persian wars , famines and Anglo-Persian wars formed much of the modern history of the country. The British  remained till the 1920’s followed by a period of internal political turmoil.

Perhaps the most well known period in Iran’s history is that which commenced in the 1940’s. When you pick up history books, comic books and newspapers from the period you find the mention of Iranian Oil and the West’s need for it. So when the then democratically elected PM, nationalized the much coveted petroleum supplies of Iran there was much perturbation. The USA, Arguably by acts in the best interest of its own people and not those of the Iranians, helped depose the PM and the democratic government and replaced it by an Autocracy/ Monarchy headed by the Shah. The first direct intervention in a sovereign nation by the US in the cold war, the country found it self changing.  With westernization of the populous came also the tortures and arbitrary arrests generally associated with a dictatorship. Ayatollah Khomeini a  a religious leader voiced his opposition to the Shah and his government and was imprisoned and then exiled. The Shah’s repressive regime was met by  the Islamic Revolution in 1979 which saw the return of the Ayatollah and the exile of the Shah. Follow the story of Argo with US citizens being held captive in exchange for the Shah ( They were released later with the Shah never coming back to Iran). Saddam Hussein  invaded parts of Iran during this period of turmoil. That conflict ended in a UN mediated peace. Iran today is an Islamic Republic with the questionable title Supreme Leader still in place. A democracy by all means but with freedoms which we take for granted not so free.

In terms of tourism, the majority of tourists today remain Asian Muslims who visit sites of religious significance. European tours with an archaeological interest are a minority. It seems a shame that despite its great art, history and culture this nation has its tourism determined by religion.

The cuisine of Iran has influenced and been influenced by that of Turkey, Mesopotamia, India and parts of Central Asia. Many a dishes in their name and conception seem very familiar with Indian dishes.

Chelo kabab

Chelo Kebab  : Considered the national dish of Iran, this is steamed basmati rice served with different forms of meats cooked on a skewer. The meat can be lamb, chicken or ground beef mixed with parsley and spices. Here is a glimpse from an Iranian restaurant, the other images are worth checking as well.
Source – Jalda

Ash

Ash : Ash refers to ‘a thick winter soup’. This one is Ashresteh, a thick soup with noodles in it. Parsley, spinach, dil and onions, lentils, flour with other hearty ingredients form this recipe. The source blog has some wonderful pictures and text on Iranian culture. This picture what won me over was the fried garlic.
Source – Persian(Ate)

Borani Esfanaaj

Borani Esfanaaj : Spinach is pretty popular in Iran( that’s what I concluded from the recipes I have been browsing). This dish is a spinach based yogurt dip. With all the thin breads like Nan – e -Lavash being popular this is a good accompaniment.
Source – TravelSenses

Fesenjān

Fesenjān : This is a poultry dish made with ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup. The red jewel like fruit is very popular in Irani cuisine. This dish sounds a little bland, but then some cuisines believe in the subtlety of taste.
Source – FigFondue

Kashk - e -Bademjan

Kashke Bademjan : A dish of eggplants and tomatoes, something similar to the Indian baingan ka bharta. The eggplant also features prominently in the cuisine of the region. The source site for this image is host to pages of multiple cuisines.
Source – InternationalFood4U

Khoresht Baamieh

Khoresht Baamieh : Okra and Aubergine stew with beef. Khoresht means a meal. So you’ll find a lot of dishes with that in its name. The images on the source blog are pretty, especially of the process.
Source – DyalasKitchenJournals

Kookoo Ye Marchoobeh

Kookoo – ye -Marchoobeh : Persian style Asparagus Frittata . A very green dish this, the images on the source are stunning to a degree of inspiration.
Source – TurmericAndSaffron

Mirza GhazemiMirza Ghasemi  : This is roast aubergine mush with eggs which get scrambled in the process. This becomes not a main dish but more of an appetizer or side dish to meat and bred. Again the resemblance to Indian dishes is uncanny.
Source – SabrinaPassions

Zereshk Polo O Morgh

Zereshk Polo O Morgh : Barberry Chicken Rice, a very interesting recipe. Look at the source post it gives a very detailed step by step recipe with photos to match.
Source – edibleMoments

Nan-e sangak

Nan -e- Sangak : A plain, rectangular, or triangular Iranian whole wheat sourdough flatbread firstly.The bread is baked on a bed of small river stones in an oven. There are, normally, two varieties of this bread offered at Iranian bakeries: the generic one which has no toppings; and the more expensive variety which is topped with poppy seeds and/or sesame seeds.
Source – brotdoc

Nan-e barbariNan – e – Barbari : The Barbars  are an ethnic tribe from Eastern Iran. It is from their name that the term Barbarian  originates. This bread is associated with Tabriz so is also called Tabrizi Bread.
Source – NotitieVanLien

Naan-berenji

Naan Nakhodi : Shortbread made from Chickpea flour with butter, icing sugar, cardamom and vegetable shortening. Sounds like a great accompaniment to Iranian Tea.
Source – MyPersianFeast

Tahchin
Tahchin :  Iranian Rice cake that includes rice, yogurt, saffron, egg, and chicken fillets. It is also possible to use vegetables, fish, and meat instead of the chicken fillets.
Source – PersianRecipes

Sohān-e-AsaliSohan Asali : Persian Honey and Saffron Almond Candy. This comes from a unique blog which centers on Persian cuisine. A rather sugary treat but all recipes on this source site look brilliant.
Source – TurmericAndSaffron

Irani ChaiIrani Chai : Tea is an important part of Persian culture, the way the brew it, how its savored. Here is a recipe.
Source – fyeaIran

So that was Iran, with all its mentions across news and political speeches I now know more about it just by being curious about its culture than reading papers and watching the Tele. All you learn from those sources is about the nation’s politicians, to know its people I’d suggest reading blogs.

Food Porn & other things

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