Thursday, 14 November 2013

My Roman Adventure

 When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie that’s amore. When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine, that's amore…

If Paris is my favourite city in the world, Rome has snuck up and kicked it on it’s behind. After a lot of careful planning, we added Rome to our list of summer holiday destinations and arrived there one hot, sunny day, ready to tackle the heat wave and the food.

first look
When I think of Italy, I think of balmy air, a light breeze and fantastic food. We got 1 out of 3 – thanks for the heat wave Italy!!! The absolute beauty of the city is the architecture, and the way the city has grown and adapted itself around little ruins and old villas. Even the newer buildings come up keeping the old style in mind.

a tiny glimpse of rome
We stayed at Hotel Navona – perfectly located to walk anywhere we wanted. Day 1 was pretty funny. We got to the hotel, changed into something less heated (SHORTS!) and set off on our Roman Adventure. Taking a 6am flight out of Edinburgh may not have been the best idea, but it was the only flight there was. As a result, we were tired, thirsty and hungry. Keeping that in mind, we probably shouldn’t have stopped at a bar first (we slept for 14 hours that day), but we did. Ice cold Mojitos and some crisps a few minutes later, and we were part of magical Rome.

We had to stop
The next stop was pizza and pasta. I’ve always wondered, but I’m scared to ask – can I put pasta on my pizza? Or inside it like a Calzone? Do I really need to choose? The food we ate was at a little café just off Piazza Navona, unfortunately I don’t remember it’s name, I’ll blame that on the booze. By the time we finished our meal (Spaghetti Bolognese, Pizza Margerita and Bruscetta) we couldn’t keep our eyes open. Back to the hotel, and to bed at 6pm. The next time I opened my eyes, it was 6am!
Red red pomodore
First pizza in rome
The next day dawned bright and early for us – we were out of bed at 8am! After a quick shower and breakfast of coffee and pastries at a local coffee shop we were off to the Vatican! (Tourist tip – if you’re asking for a latte, specify there needs to be coffee inside it. Say the actual words Café Latte, or you will get a glass of warm milk, like I did the first time round.)

OMG - I'm in Rome!
Walking the streets of Rome with the person I most want to be with all the time (sorry love, hehe) was amazing. Seeing buildings, roads and people that I had only read about was inspiring. The Vatican was gorgeous, and we spent so much time in St Peter’s Basilica that we didn’t make it to the Vatican Museums before they closed!

After a great day of sight seeing, we showered, changed and wandered down to Campo de Fiori, once again a stones throw from the hotel. Settling down at Primo Café, we proceeded to demolish a bottle and a half of wine between us.

Ready to paint the town red
In addition to multiple sides of vegetables and potatoes, I ordered Il filetto guanciale e carciofi –a  fillet of beef with pork cheeks & artichokes. I was a bit hesitant about the pork cheeks, but it turns out they wrap the entire tenderloin in said cheeks and then slice of the fillets as needed. Delicious, juicy and wonderful, it needed no accompaniments to make it amazing.

Beef with Pork Cheeks
The pizzas flowing out of the oven looked incredible, but we managed to ignore them in favour of the meat we had ordered. My dining companion ordered l’abbacchio al forno con le erbe aromatiche della campagna romana also known as lamb chops over roasted in regional herbs. We’re used to seeing lamb chops drenched in gravy and mash on the table, so we were a wee bit disappointed that the meat came unaccompanied. The meat was perfectly cooked, pink and delicious and went well with the sides of roast potatoes and artichokes.

Lamb chops

No dessert for us, just more wine, and we were off to wander the streets of Rome. An amazing, magical night it was, one I don’t think I’m going to ever forget! (Now now, I can’t tell you everything)…

The Pantheon

The Trevi Fountain

Monday, 11 November 2013

Mars Smileys & A Summer BBQ

My summer holiday usually coincides with windy, rainy, cold England and an even colder Scotland. Imagine how happy I was that we spent a few days in Edinburgh during their ‘summer’. The word summer means that our friends who live there walk around in shorts and flip flops, while I huddled under one light jumper. Ok maybe it wasn’t that light. And maybe there was another layer inside.

The magical, wondrous thing about Europe is that the sun doesn’t set till 9pm. The first time I walked out of a pub at 9, I was slightly scandalized to still see daylight! And also unable to accept that the shops didn’t stay open till the light lasted- gasp!

Hello to you too Edinburgh 
We took advantage of a lazy Edinburgh Sunday and lots of light with a BBW at a friends’ house.

On the menu – sausages, sirloin steak, red & yellow peppers, portobello mushroom caps & grilled asparagus. What I love about the UK (and pretty much most countries that aren’t India) is that you can walk into a supermarket ten minutes before you’re supposed to make dinner and walk out with everything you need. Of course nothing beats ordering your stores home (hello, bhajiwala?) but this is a pretty great thing too. You don’t really need to preplan.

How to have Scottish BBQ

Step 1 - Send boys to buy self-lighting coal

Step 2 – Watch as boys attempt to fire the bbq, using all coal

Step 3 – Cut up & skewer the peppers, marinade the steak in salt, pepper and oil, clean mushrooms and open the sausages

Step 4 – Place peppers, sausages and mushrooms on the grill

Oh Yum
Step 5 – Drink while you watch your food cook

Step 6 – Serve the cooked food and put your steak on the grill

Step 7 – Add some sliced cheddar to the tops of the still cooking mushrooms, and watch it melt and bubble

Step 8 – Drink some more, it helps the food go down while you’re watching the amazing display of clouds

Step 9 – Finish everything and if not, feed the cat

Step 10 - Dessert

The one thing I’ve never had, and I have to say was pretty amazing was a Mars – Banana Smiley © Kit Carson

It’s pretty simple, so simple that I definitely intend to try it at our next bbq. The end result may not look fantastic, but it tastes incredible.

Kit Carson’s © Incredible Mars Bar Smileys

What you need
4 ripe bananas
6 Mars Bars
And a BBQ

Step 1
Keep the bananas in their skin and slice them vertically, like you’re drawing a smile into the side of the fruit.

Step 2
Thinly slice the Mars bars, also vertically, so you have long thin strips of chocolate goodness.

Step 3
Stuff the sliced chocolate into the bananas – try and fit as much as you can into the banana without tearing it on the other side or over stuffing it.

Step 4
Wrap each banana in foil and toss directly onto the coals on the BBQ.

Patience is a virtue
Step 5
Depending on how hot the coal it, give it about 15 to 20 minutes before carefully peeling open the foil.

Step 6

Serve with a big spoon and some ice cream.


Until next time Edinburgh… 

Lovely, Simpson like clouds

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sachin's Score

The world (my world) was shaken a few weeks ago when Sachin Tendulkar finally announced his retirement. Yes, everyone knew it was coming and everyone has been talking about it for a while, but no one expected it to actually happen. As I said to a friend ‘It’s like someone broke up with a whole country.’ There is a mad scramble for tickets for both the Kolkata match and the Mumbai match (I’m scrambling taoo!) and tributes are popping up left right and centre. It’s only fitting that I too write my own. I actually know Sachin – I worked in cricket for a few years and have had the privilege of spending time with him during the IPL and the Cricket World Cup 2011. He is a warm, wonderful person who, while mindful of his elevated status (of God) amongst us, is always polite, always smiling and capable of putting anyone at ease. He recognizes the people he has worked with, and always has a smile ready for them.

This is a resurrection of something I wrote 4 years ago, when we celebrated his 20th year in cricket. I meant it then, and I mean it now, and it’s with a heavy heart that I bid the greatest cricketer in the world adieu.

My first meeting - can you tell my knees are shaking?

Sachin's Score

“Thieves- steal anything you want you wont get caught - because when Sachin plays, even God is watching.” – A quote at Lords Cricket Ground

Twenty years. Twenty years in international cricket!

Drive through Mumbai, see people gathered outside shop windows watching tiny screens inside, and you know that Sachin Tendulkar is batting. No one else gets the kind of devotion he does. Take a walk down memory lane when it comes to Sachin, and it’s not just a lane, but a road crowded with a nations memories and voices. There’s no way to count how many books have been written about Sachin, he inspires a new one every time he creates a record, which happens often enough. Posters, t shirts, websites, you name it, he is on them.

It is impossible to outgrow him. Whether at 16, 26, or 36, the experience of watching Sachin Tendulkar bat at the crease is an exhilarating one. The emotional reaction of an Indian cricket fan watching Sachin is different from when watching someone else. The identification a fan has with Sachin is a singular experience.

While my perception of Sachin is different from yours, it doesn’t matter- at the end of the day he’s the same Sachin, and will evoke the same emotional reaction from everyone. We celebrate his successes with screaming enthusiasm and bemoan his failures with the same seriousness we would our own; one billion people- one billion perceptions of the same man, and one billion identical reactions to him. How much better can it get?

There are so many Sachins- the anchor, the front man, the aggressor, and the calmest cricketer. Each molded to the situation needed by the team. I have seen him as the last man standing, I have seen him step out of the crease and hit, and I have seen him unblinking in the face of aggression. There are times you see him walk away from the wicket, shake his head and go back to face a ball. That is Sachin in his element. Maintaining his calm, preparing for the next ball, and getting ready to face the opposition.

Sachin is a man who faces an amazing amount of pressure. How can he not, when he is Sachin Tendulkar? He has the hopes of a nation pinned onto him and it is quite often that he realizes these hopes when he guides us to a winning position. He is capable of being there for India when others are not. When the batting order fails, Sachin is there to pull the team up, as he has shown countless times.

He has been injured on and off over the last few years. He has opted to sit out of international Twenty 20 cricket, bowled less to save his elbow, but not once has the possibility of retirement cross our minds or his. What would an Indian team without Sachin Tendulkar be? There can never be another Sachin Tendulkar. Calling someone the ‘next Sachin’ merely means that you’ve spotted new growing talent, because let’s be honest- who can be everything that Sachin has been? Who has the consistency, passion, drive and technical excellence that he has shown over the last 20 years? Who can inculcate the same fanaticism the world over that Sachin does. I often wonder what would happen if you put a Bollywood star and Sachin Tendulkar in separate places, who people would go to?

In spite of the adulation of an entire nation, and people around the globe, Sachin has remained a humble person. He is a role model for the new generation of cricketers, one who has not allowed fame and fortune to affect him or his sense of values and family. He does not get into controversies; he keeps himself under the radar and makes headlines the right way- through his batting. It is his unassuming attitude that has served him and the game of cricket well over the last twenty years.

When asked to measure his best innings where does one start? How do you narrow down achievements that have spanned 20 years and are far from done? Just when you think you’ve got Sachin Tendulkar figured out, he undergoes a metamorphosis that frustrates bowlers all over the world. He is an enigma unto himself, and our admiration for him increases with every innings he plays. His range of strokes, grip, and balance are things that make him uniquely ‘Sachin’. His signature shot- a straight drive – is one that everyone identifies him with. Of course it’s always better if he hits it for 6, straight over the bowlers head!

As Sachin begins his landmark 21st year of cricket, a wealth of sayings and quotations come to mind. To adequately describe Sachin Tendulkar would be to write continuously, paying homage to every run he has scored, every ball he has bowled, every match he has played. Many have tried, many have succeeded. It is easy after all to sing the praises of the great. Summing Sachin up is a mammoth task, but I have heard a few that make the mark. As the saying goes –

                                            “If cricket is a religion, then Sachin is god”

Gotta love the internet