Thursday, August 11, 2011

Holy Guacamole by the Ganges

Birthdays when I was a kid were simplistic affairs. It was the 70's. The most glamorous birthday song I had ever heard was Johnny Walker singing "Happy Birthday To You" on Binaca Geetmala. It was a good thing that we hadn't watched the movie and there was no YouTube to see the song. Other than Johnny Walker and Joy Mukherjee no one seems to enjoy that birthday party, not even Saira Banu in her parrot green saree and complicated hair do.

Anyway even watching that movie would have had no effect on my parents. They are Bongs and Bollywood is not their forte, at least it wasn't until cable took over. Birthdays in our home meant a silver bowl full of paayesh studded with plump raisins, a new dress, touching feet of elders, blessings that wished for a long happy life, limp ten rupee notes shoved into reluctant and eager hands and a special dinner of yellow pulao, cholar dal, doi maach and chutney cooked by Ma.Most years a couple of my neighborhood friends would join in for dinner when Ma would invite them casually with "Aaj raat e amader barite kheye jas"(Have diner at our home tonight). They would come, their hair neatly tied in plaits, their hands clutching some book by Russian authors wrapped clumsily in a red paper and they went back happy with no expectation of a return gift.

Nothing about those birthdays had to be pre-planned. The only point of contention was whether it was Cadbury's Eclairs or Parle Orange candy or Ravalgon chocolates that would be taken to school. In fact the high point of my birthday between the age of 8 to 12 was distributing candy in school. We spent many a days discussing, which other girl I would take, other than the best friend of course, with me doing the rounds of other classes. Also when we went to other classes, which girls we would ask to come out and share the sweets with. This was a difficult task since every other class had a sister, a cousin or a friend of my classmates and they expected to be called out.

Birthdays thus seamlessly fitted into our daily schedules and we got an year older just like that.

Now stories of birthday parties in India scare me. Apparently kiddie parties are handed over to event management companies and it involves an emcee and bollywood dancing. Yikes !! How do you celebrate a kid's birthday party wherever you are, would love to hear.


A few days back the littlest one turned a year older. She wanted a cake, a party and a teapot. So a party was had, at our home, in the backyard.Sprinklers were turned on, water guns were used in full force,water balloons were filled and busted in a matter of seconds and much fun was had. I decided to cook most of the stuff at home and it wasn't easy given that there were 40 grown ups with 20 kids amongst them. I had some pointers from Indo last year and I tried to keep the menu simple. I also outsourced some stuff like shingara(samosas) and vegetable chops. It is not me who fries a batch of 50 samosas with nary a glazed look in her eyes. Those things are better left to professionals.

But I did cook huge quantity of mutton in 4 batches in my Pressure cooker. The fact that I decided on the Mutton Rezala, made it easier. I marinated the huge quantity of mutton with all the spices a day ahead.The mutton soaked up all the spices with 16 hour of marination and cooked fast and was very flavorful. Then I made the Goan Shrimp Curry. Again the spice paste, the star ingredient was made at least 2 days ahead and on the day of cooking making the gravy was easy peasy. Then I made a Fulkopir Roast with Coconut, the recipe was part Ma's and part from my FB readers. It was a big hit.

One of the things that eased the load on day of cooking was making the wet masala pastes , the dry masala powders all in batches through out the week. I had also fried huge quantities of chopped onions and made a paste of them two days before the actual cooking. Using this fried onion paste shortened the time of cooking and there was this one less thing to do.

It was a fun birthday party and Little Sis loved all the attention. I have no picture of foods from the day obviously so what I am going to share instead is the Guacamole that I made as a dip for the starters.


Choose ripe, fresh avocados. How to choose, I don't know. I just bought them some days ahead and the were right on the day.

Peel and de-seed. Check this to see how to cut an avocado. Scoop out the pale green innards. With a back of a fork mash it up.If you want it chunky you can keep it this way. You can also pulse it in a blender if you want a smoother version

Add the following

few drops of of Mustard oil(optional, I like it)
some lime juice
throw in some chopped red onion
finely chopped green chili next
a sprinkle of cumin powder
some tangy chaat masala
a pinch of sugar
and lots of fresh corriander.
Just go with your instinct with the quantities and adjust spices etc. according to taste.

Mix everything together and cover tightly with a cling wrap. I refrigerated for a day and it was good. The acid in lime juice helps in keeping the color intact(else it tends to go brown) so be sure to put enough of it

Serve with pita breads, chips or with Pametini, oven toasted Italian bread; my current heartthrob


  1. U r so right about birthdays,this is wht I do for weekend cooking prepare paste and keepnit ready,saves lot of time

  2. Sandeepa I very much share the same thought as u ... so true that birthdays used to be such a simple affair in the past.
    Although I don't have a kid yet ...but I have kind of observed the change in the way birthdays are celebrated these days.
    I had written a post sometime back on my blog on Birthdays ....... Hope you will enjoy reading it.

  3. You cooked for that many folks?! Impressive, San! Very much! Happy birthday to the li'l sis.
    M's birthdays here have been quick and easy. Last year it was - invite her friends from the colony, order food & cake, some games. Done. This year, same thing but with the number of kids exponentially gone up (a very kid heavy colony this), I had an emcee to manage the games and a balloon artist for entertainment. The good part of being here - the luxury of being able to outsource everything, at a not-so-great cost. Which reminds me, I do have an update for you. Will email :)

  4. Happy birthday to Little Sis! This post struck a chord - distributing sweets, going up on stage during Assembly so that everyone else could sing Happy Birthday, new clothes permitted that day, no uniform. But some of us had parties for every birthday with friends and cousins - all the snacks were home-made, I think, but we would have bakery cake and some decorations. There were no return gifts.
    I know someone working in a party supplies place and she says we'd be shocked at the amounts people spend on kids' parties. I think there are a variety of reasons and influences - more affluence, busy parents, smaller homes that can't fit in too many kids, and kids' expectations themselves.
    And it's not just kids' birthdays, even functions we have not done earlier - all kinds of pujas, traditions we never followed are being revived on some super mega scale, like marriages these days - the common opinion is that NRIs are doing this to hold on to their traditions and stay in touch with their community, and, of course, they have the money to spend. And Indians in India are following suit.

  5. I loved reading you post,Sandeepa and everything in it sounds so so familiar.The 'Happy Birthday' song, the 'Ravalgaon sweets' - you just have the right words for everything, don't you?;)I was stifling a smile while reading all these!And yes,the gaudiness at today's birthdays really irks me.I don't have kids of my own yet,but I greatly dislike this handling of kids' birthdays by event management companies - seems to have become a trend!Feels like we are so desperate to smother out the innocence from our kids' lives...a worrying thought, don't you think so?


  6. General opinion, I mean, dunno where I got common opinion from!

  7. So very true, my birthdays were so simple...a new dress and payasam which mom made were the only special things.
    But now for my son... phew.. an exclusive cake.. with his fav design, a big party, return gifts.... i have to start planning ahead a month or two :-)
    BTW happy birthday to lil Sis.

  8. When i hear about the b'day parties for kids in India I am like whmy god. I have seen a picture from a firends sons b'day party he is some 3 yrs and then there is a stage etc.. then a big hall and there is numerous ppl sitting in row etc.... then i am like what is the use.
    Here when i is Shyama's b'day from the time she was little, we just ask our family and no firends at all, then from the time when she stated school, on the day of her b'day we did a party home with us and Hans family and then few days ater she was allowed to ask 6 friends home for a party.
    And from highschool she asked always her 4 best friends, that is it.
    Ok Now Happy belated brhday wishes ti Lil Sis. And you have cooked so much, i would go mad :-) if i have to cook so much but then i have a small kitchen.
    Same when i was home b'day, we got a pair of new dress and a pack of sweet which we could take to school for the class kids and then a payasam.

  9. Happy Birthday to the little one. Nothing like sprinkler and water to make them happy. No management company can come close to that kind of enjoyment.

    I want to taste that mutton rezala so bad.

  10. Happy Birthday to little one.Your post reminded me my own birthdays.Thank you.
    I celebrated my son's first birthday in India and it was celebration with home-made food with both side grand parents in day time. We invited a group of 20 grad students(then myself was grad-student)and 4 diaper-dwellers(son's friends) at it was fun and snacks-cakes.thats it.
    last year, here in USA,it was a celebration at day-care,believe me I did not feel that attachment at all.
    I read that post that linked with your post,and really shocked by the extent of celebration.I think it has become more like status symbol and we are putting our shoes in that rat race.
    by the way, some Chinese friends are coming on Sunday and I am repeating ur birthday menu.Thanks for that.

  11. Hi, I have been a long time reader and first time commenting. Love your blog. I got all nostalgic reading it today. How I loved eclairs and ravalgaons. I have a 5 month old...hoping to keep her birthdays a simple affair as well, at least till she understands what birthdays are.

  12. Did I say you are awesome!! Every piece you write is so touching and heart-warming..
    Belated wishes to the little one.

  13. This guacamole looks wonderful and innovative
    deliciously done

  14. Happy birthday to the little sis and big pat to Bong Mom for organising things for a group of forty! Now about the birthday parties being organised in India. From the time I have come to India I have participated in many kinds of B'day parties.
    You will find all sorts of them. There are the hifi ones, there are the mid level ones with puppet show and mid level catering company taking the charge and there are simplest ones were parents cook the stuff, only children are invited, eat cake and kneerr/payesh and eat pulao and pander/chicken and cut the cake, dance, get some return gift and go home merrily.
    It very much depends on Parents India about organising a B'day party.

  15. You are as great for so many people.........

  16. Happy Birthday to the princess.. time flies. and a birthday party at home with sprinklers sounds perfect. (Thanks for reminding me of the yellow pulao, and Russian books:) I still have some of them. The only regret i ALWAYS had was i could never distribute candies in school; my bday was in summer vacation).

    i don't want to think of the ways bday parties of kids are celebrated in India.. yikes.. we are way better of here with our kids.
    i am going to try the shorsher tel in the guacamole next time!

  17. Hah, your write up reminded me so much of my birthdays during childhood. Sweet times those were.

  18. Wow, nice post. Belated happy B'day to the little one. I've came across many desi food blogs but found yours one very engaging. Best wish for all of your future endeavors.

    For food and cooking related tips n facts visit:


  19. littlest one is a year older :) Happy belated birthday. Sounds like a fun birthday and what a great menu!

  20. Please give the recipe for Cauliflower roast that you said came out very well.

  21. Seema

    e-mail me, I don't have exact measures for the recipe, I will send you the rough recipe

  22. yes definatly birthdays are no more a simple affair.i remmember the birthday menus were usually fixed, cake ,biscuits,and a toffee or two infact same gift got circulated & came back....this post is right on tjme as i hav my 3yr sons birthday dinner though,,but making all starters at home needs lot of head scratching,thanks for the avocado recipie,last time i made this dip it turned out bitter will try again this time

  23. I just love this blog.... every time we try these recipes they are successful. Thank you...

  24. The distribution of sweets was such a welcome time killer! Loved it - they don't do it anymore :(

    I have stuck to home parties for the past 6 years, with themes which I have managed to keep to by making invites and decorations and food at home. K has bought it till now and thoroughly enjoyed the parties- but I dread the day she's going to ask why she doesn't have her party at pizza hut!

  25. This was so so nice. I also shared it with Anando, who mailed back saying "
    very very nice! That Russian author thing is so real. I am still smiling!" :)

  26. This is so nice .. anyway thanks for the post ..

  27. Tomaar Fulkopir Roast er recipe kothaye? I looked up the Blog, but can't find it.

    P.S. I cant post on your Facebook page/write on your wall.


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