Monday, 9 November 2015

Pear Tarte Tatin With Cardamom, Saffron and Rosewater for Diwali

About a year ago, I was at Adz's school, talking about Diwali to the Grade One class. I talked a bit about India, and how we celebrated many festivals among all the faiths that make up this incredibly diverse and secular country. When I was talking about Diwali, the celebration of light in honour of the Lord Rama's return to his home town, one little voice piped up - "India sounds awesome, Adz's mom. Can you please take me there?"

India has a tradition of celebrating festivals with the kind of joie de vivre that is almost over the top. When Adz and I visited about a year and half ago, Christmas was being celebrated. Adz, who was used to the classy, restrained lights of Canada, was overwhelmed at the colours, music and lights that Indians celebrated festivals with, and to me, it reminded me of India at it's very best.

Diwali, in particular, has a special significance in India, and is one of the biggest festivals in the country. When I was talking about Diwali to the kids, I found this really cute video online, that they loved.

Of course, I then had to answer a million questions about why the goddess Surpanaka had her head cut off. Trust kids to focus on the goriest parts of the story!

One of my favourite parts of celebrating Diwali in India is seeing the little diyas, or lamps, lining the porches of houses. As I walked along the road to my house, I would see thousands of these pretty, flickering lamps, along with flowers and lights, and it gave the community a magical, joyous feel. Along with the rest of the kids in the neighbourhood, we would head to the fireworks shop and buy tons of sparklers, fire rains, and crackers, and spend the evening in a haze of colour and smoke, the fragrance of which sends me straight back to my childhood. Neighbours would bring us sweets, creamy rasmalai, sweet gulab jamuns, kheer, carrot halwa, milk burfee and savoury snacks. We would eat until we were sick, and then eat some more. The sugar high never came down for the whole week of Diwali, as we celebrated with our friends.

Pear Tarte Tatin With Cardamom, Saffron and Rosewater for Diwali

Here in Canada, the celebration is a bit more subdued for me. I always do celebrate it, whether by buying diyas and sweets, so I can recreate some of the magic of my childhood for my own daughter. One of the best parts of Diwali in India is it's inclusiveness and it reminds me of the ethos of this website in the best way.

I decided to celebrate this inclusiveness and diversity of Diwali, by taking a classic French dessert and Indianizing it. I mean, I've lived all over the world, and for me, one of the most welcoming aspects of Diwali is how you can celebrate it by adding your own little touches to it. This pear tarte tatin is a classic, but the delicate complementary flavours of cardamom, saffron and rosewater give it a  simple, but very elegant feel of India. Just like me, it embraces the flavours of the world and my own life and makes me feel at home, wherever home is.

To help my readers celebrate Diwali, I partnered up with one of my favourite inclusive supermarkets, the Real Canadian Superstore, who have generously offered to host this giveaway for me. Superstore, particularly the one on Calgary Trail in Edmonton, is one of my favourite places to shop for my Indian groceries, and they have a really extensive collection of Asian spices, fruits, vegetables and is a one stop shop for me. In fact, I joke that you can even get products there that you can't even find in India sometimes. They have a great collection of Indian ready meals and sweets as well, including one of my personal guilty pleasures, Nanak Rasmalai, so with this generous giveaway, you can all indulge and make your own Diwali special too.

Giveaway (Closed) 

Congratulations Elyse Chatterton. I'll be in touch :)

This giveaway is sponsored by Loblaws who own Superstore and is only open to residents of Canada.

One reader will win a $100 prize pack which includes a $50 gift certificate to Superstore (valid all over Canada) and a pack of Diwali essentials to help you celebrate with your East Indian friends and family.

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave me a comment, telling me what your favourite holiday is. 

I will pick a winner on Friday 13th November, and Superstore will ship the prize directly to you, if you are the winner. The winner may have to answer a skill testing question before claiming the prize.

In the meantime, enjoy the recipe below.

(Printable Recipe)

4 pears (I use Bartlett)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Generous pinch of saffron
3 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon rosewater 
1 sheet President's Choice All Butter Puff Pastry (225 g), thawed if frozen and kept chilled in the refrigerator


Peel and halve pears. Core, then rub all over with the lemon juice. Keep aside.

Sprinkle the sugar into a tarte tatin pan, or a heavy oven-safe frying pan. Cut in the butter and place on a medium low heat.

Stir together until the butter has melted and the sugar is dissolved, about 5 - 7 minutes. Stir in the saffron.

Pop the cardamom pods, and remove the seeds. Crush the seeds using a mortar and pestle, then add to the butter-sugar mixture.

Simmer gently for another five minutes, then sprinkle in the rosewater.

Arrange the pears, cut side up, packed tightly against each other, in the pan.

Preheat the oven to 400 F (205 C). 

Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, until the caramel is thickened and the pears begin to soften.

Take off the heat and leave to cool. 

Meanwhile, unroll the sheet of pastry from the fridge and cut into a circle to match the tarte tatin pan.

Carefully drape the pastry over the pears, tucking in the edges. Transfer the pan into the oven and bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

Take the tarte out, and let it settle for a couple minutes. Carefully place a large plate over top of the pan, and invert.

Serve warm.

Disclosure: I was provided with a gift card to Superstore as payment for this recipe. All opinions are my own, as is this fabulous recipe.

Friday, 2 October 2015

In the past few months, we have heard so much about refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. It's election season here in Canada, and the rhetoric is out in full swing. We hear about immigrants not assimilating into 'our' culture, issues with niqabs, about #PeopleLikeNenshi and #BarbaricCulturalPractices. Racism, islamophobia, homophobia, immigrant hate, divisive politics - all par for the course.

Then we have a picture of a little boy washed up on a beach. Things change for a few days, as we rediscover our compassion, but then they're back to the usual. Fear, loathing and hate.

Stop the world. I want to get off.

I am an immigrant to Canada. It is probably a little more obvious in my case, as I am brown. I know a lot of people here in Edmonton, and I daresay, I am well liked. But in the world out there I am an immigrant, a face among millions that move from the country of their birth for reasons ranging from love (in my case) to fear, to escape, to seek a better life.

I am an immigrant. So –

Do you hate me? Is it because I am brown?

Do you hate that I took a job that should have belonged to a 'Canadian'?

Would you deport me if I failed to pay my library fine, especially if I become a second-class Canadian citizen? (see Bill C-24) Would you deport my daughter, because she was born in England, despite the fact that she was a Canadian citizen first?

Why are you surprised when I speak fluent English, while also being able to converse with my mother in my native language?

Are you scared of me? Am I scary? Am I the 'other'? Do I look like a 'terrorist' if I protest, say, for the environment, or gay rights or equal pay for women?

Do you hate that I write about Indian food?

Should I go back to where I came from?

Are you scared that I won't assimilate into 'Canadian' culture? What is 'Canadian' culture?

Does your family have a 'secret' recipe that came from your immigrant grandmother?

Do you absolutely dislike that I am going to take on a hallowed, traditional dish like stuffing and add my own little twist to it? Am I thumbing my nose at 'old stock' Canadians?

The absolute worst is when people look at me and say, but you're not the kind of immigrant we're talking about. I look at them with pity as I think, no, I am exactly the kind of immigrant you're thinking about. I should be the person you think of when you think of immigrants.

Perhaps all this is a bit too political for just a thanksgiving stuffing recipe. But I am angry. I am angry, and hurt and sad and upset. I am angry that this is the world I am handing over to my daughter.

I am like you, but I am not really, am I? What would it take for me to be seen as 'me' and not the 'other'?

Happy Thanksgiving from my immigrant kitchen!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Roti/ Chapathi/ Phulka - How To Make Soft Rotis

In India we have a saying that all one needs for a comfortable life is roti, kapda aur makhan (food, clothes and home.) It is one of the truths of life that you can be pretty comfortable with very little and with the basic necessities of life, and there are a lot of people in India and in the world who live with just that.

I was chatting with my mum about money. As she put it, she worked all her life, and while she made enough money, she also spent it all on us and our education and to give us a comfortable life that lacked for nothing. Now that she is retired, she made a conscious decision to travel and stay with us, and to spend any money she had on experiences and family. It made me think about my own life and the role of money in it. I am a lucky woman. I have a husband who makes enough money to provide me and my family with a wonderful living, and I also have a job that enables me to have luxuries like being able to attend conferences, spending money on props and eating out, and generally having a very comfortable life. I also understood that I take this very much for granted, and talking to my mother about this made me understand how privileged my life really is.

It also made me realise how important it is to be grateful to the people who make our lives comfortable, happy and fulfilled.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

There are times when I feel that just yesterday was the beginning of summer, and as I sit down to write this, we are almost in the middle of August. These precious, fleeting days of summer are almost at an end, and this year I took a break from blogging to work on a personal project that is close to my heart. I have also been cooking, and eating a lot, and one of the joys I have rediscovered is cooking just for the sake of cooking – not to photograph or write or think deeply about what I was making. I needed this break for many reasons, not least because I was also mentally and physically exhausted and not taking the time to recover my joy of living and just being.

Monday, 27 July 2015

How many of us remember when flying was special and magical? The days when you dressed up in your best clothes, packed carefully, counted down the days to that flight, arrived that airport four hours in advance, were all excited to go through security, bounced all over duty-free, and then... joy of joys, walked into the plane, fiddled with all the buttons, thought long and hard about what to eat and drink and how to sleep well. Perhaps, if you were lucky, the captain would let you come on deck and show you the controls too.

See, I didn't grow up with aeroplanes and airports. For me, it was rickety buses and rattly trains all the way. While they had their own magic, flying was still out of reach for the ordinary people, so you can imagine my excitement when, at age twenty, I was offered the chance to head to Thailand and South-East Asia on a plane. On. A. Plane. For the first time. Oh, the squeals of excitement!

The first time I flew, I asked if I could head in to the pilot's cabin. And I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to do so. The pilots were amazing, as we flew over the brightly lit cities in India, they pointed them out to me. The stars were huge in the sky, as they told me which ones were planets and all the constellations. It was certainly a magical first flight, a truly memorable one.

Ever since then I have flown many times, across continents and oceans, as flying has become more and more common. But through this all, a small kernel of excitement has always remained, and I certainly wish that more people felt the same, instead of just seeing flying as being just another way to get from one place to another, with a few sides of grumpiness and annoyance and frustration.

Well, it doesn't have to be that way now, does it?