Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chicken Rashness - A Chicken Recipe with a Rashness!

Have you ever had one of those moments, when a most rashly invented, on-the-spur recipe actually turns out great, and then you don’t remember the recipe? Well, I had one of those just now. So why am I writing about it? Well, I had this great idea (born under the influence of half a bottle of wine, no doubt!) that if I try to write it out, I might actually recall the recipe. I don’t know the scientific basis for such an assumption, but what the heck… it’s my blog – I can write what I want, even though it is utter rubbish!
So here goes… the dish I hereby name Chicken Rashness is prepared thus (should serve two, but I was quite hungry!):
  1. Two cloves of Garlic, finely chopped.
  2. One large leek, finely sliced.
  3. One medium sized tomato, roughly chopped.
  4. Salt, Pepper, whatever herbs you can lay your hands on – I used thyme, sage & rosemary – to taste.
  5. Half a can of baked beans (200g approx.).
  6. Anchovy paste – 1 tsp.
  7. Oil / Butter – 1 or 2 tsps, depending on how healthy you like to eat. By the way, I used anchovy fillets preserved in sunflower oil for the paste, and used the preservation oil for cooking – gave it extra flavor, I’d like to believe!
  8. About 100ml Water (you can use broth, if you are fancy!)
  9. One boneless chicken breast, cut in half if you want – I did.
  10. Mustard Sauce – 1tbsp.
  11. Honey – 1 tsp.
  1. In a saucepan, pour the oil / butter. When it heats up, add the garlic. Cook for a few seconds.
  2. Add the sliced leeks. Cook for a while, till slightly softened, then add the tomatoes.
  3. Add the salt, pepper and herbs at this stage – it releases the juices of the vegetables better. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the anchovy paste, baked beans and water. Bring to boil.
  5. As it starts boiling, put the chicken in. As the water / broth reduces, the chicken will cook. It hardly took me 5 minutes – but then again, I did not really check the watch, so if you are indeed attempting this recipe, do check for doneness! If needed, I guess you can add more water / broth, but not so much that it becomes runny or your chicken gets overcooked…
  6. When the chicken is nearly done, add the honey and mustard sauce, and keep stirring and cooking till the chicken is done and the gravy has become thick.
  7. Remove from heat and serve with a side of bread, polenta, rice or Yorkshire Pudding, for all I care!
There. I believe my idea actually worked! I think I remembered the recipe in full – or did I?! Eh well… If any of you adventurous folks do try this recipe out, do let me know if you were as enthralled by the outcome as I was. If not, I’ll know I’ve missed something… or the wine had mellowed my taste buds. Either way, we’ll know!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My First Off-Beat Vacation!

So, I totally had to write about this one. I mean, it would’ve been a crime not to. So enthusiastic I was, that here I am, sitting in the sit out area of The Misty Mountains Retreat, and writing about the retreat itself, the journey, the experience and the people I met here!

It all started when I found I had ten days off work, and absolutely nobody to accompany me anywhere. Added to my phobia of spending Pujas in Kolkata, I started searching for some holiday spot, resolved to go it alone – and I typed “offbeat holiday destinations” in Google. After hours of searching, I found that most of the “offbeat” destinations were not so offbeat after all – as evidenced by the fact that they unabashedly offered wi-fi connectivity and multi cuisine restaurants. I was nearly resigned to fall back on my all time favourite spot – Pelling, Sikkim – when I chanced upon this place. The Misty Mountains Retreat. Approximately an hour of researching on the spot, the resort and the location later, my mind was made up – this is where I wanted to be!

So, quickly getting the Logistics over with – the nearest railway station is Kathgodam, the nearest Airport is New Delhi. You can connect as per your location and convenience. I flew in to Delhi, and then took a train from Anand Vihar Railway Station to Kathgodam. From Kathgodam / New Delhi, you can drive / hire a car to reach this place. Yes. That is the only way. From Delhi, it takes about 14 hours, and 7 hours from Kathgodam, to get to this place. One goes through Bhimtal, Almora, Raiagar to get here. After Raiagar, if you think the driver has led you astray with malicious intentions, you are probably wrong. Yes, I said “probably”. There is always a chance that you may get robbed and stabbed to death – after all you are only mortal and probably immensely rich! Therefore, it might be best if you ask Madhur, the owner of the Retreat, to arrange for the cab. Even after that, if you think that the driver is duping you after Raiagar, rest assured, he is not. For The Misty Mountains Retreat is, really, in the middle of a virgin forest (read, in the middle of nowhere). After Raiagar, for about an hour, you will be driving through a road that is not even a road – more, a trail. A map of the route is given below for convenience.

Now, may be you are wondering if this place is worth all that trouble. So, let’s get one thing clear right at the beginning. If you are looking for a holiday destination where you have 3G and wi-fi coverage, ATMs, places to buy medicines and batteries for your camera if you run out, temples to go to pray for your kid’s grades, clothes boutiques and fancy curio shoppes, this place is not for you. (Madhur will never forgive me if I am responsible for sending another buffoon who asks for an ATM in the Retreat!) But if you want to witness Mother Nature in all her glory, or speak to birds that could teach Camlin a thing or two about colour palettes, or have an adventurous urge to challenge the Himalayas, or marvel at the number of stars that the sky can hold, or just simply want to reinvent yourself, look no further. This is the place you want to be in.

Then there is the Retreat itself. The décor of the rooms, the layout of the resort, the cute little sit-out areas where you can enjoy a cozy chat or simply look at the beauty of the Himalayas and the cool hammocks hanging around the place, all make the Retreat beautiful. The rooms are clean, the beds are soft and the blankets are comfortable – you even get an electric blanket if it’s too cold!
But the real beauty of this place lies in its being in the middle of nowhere! The Retreat is spread over almost 5 acres of land amidst the forest. The flowers around the place are not managed by any gardener – they grow on their own, with little or no help from Ambika (Madhur’s wife and co-owner of the Retreat, fondly known to most as Kuna). The three pet cats of Kuna, Brownie, Musasa and Ai-Ai, are as much a part of the Retreat as are the trees and flowers. And the food, though cooked as simply as at home, will definitely make you over-eat and gain as many kilos as you lose trekking!

The Retreat, within itself, offers several things to do during your stay – I won’t reiterate the ones that Madhur has already listed on his website, but I will tell you this: if you are a nature enthusiast, and especially like bird watching, then you would probably find yourself being taken trekking around the place by Madhur and Kuna themselves! And I tell you, it would be worth the experience, for these two know the place like the back of their hands, are charming hosts and have a gift of endearing themselves to you without really trying!

I am now back. To my drab existence in Kolkata! And it is here that I am finishing this post. I was at the Retreat for almost seven days, and there was never a dull moment - and the farthest that I went from the Retreat was to Lamkeshwar! You might be thinking, “what will I do there for seven days?!” For that, you need to visit the website. But even apart from that, I assure you, I witnessed the regrets of the visitors who were there for only two or three days. Well, to be honest, I regretted leaving too, even after seven days, but that was because I never like my vacations to end!

If I had it my way, I would have stayed on forever! That was not to be, though... But if you do decide to visit The Misty Mountains Retreat, and you don’t have a month to spend there, definitely spare a week. Otherwise, you will not do the place justice. You will not do yourself justice. And you will definitely come back unsatisfied!
If you'd like to see my memories of the Retreat, you might want to click this link: Holiday at The Misty Mountains Retreat. For pictures of the Retreat itself, well, Madhur has a website: The Misty Mountains Retreat.