Friday, February 14, 2014

Giveaway of Monica Bhide's Modern Spice

Everyone who reads this blog, probably knows Monica Bhide. She is a very successful food writer with many books to her name. While her recipes are no doubt lip-smackingly delicious, what I like best is her writing. Her website describes her as "A storyteller at heart" and I can agree no less. 

To know more about her, you can read her bio.

Now, all of you know that today is Valentines' Day. It is a day after my own heart and I love the idea of cute teddy bears holding on to chocolates and hearts for dear life. Okay, just kidding, I love no such thing. So, to distract you from a bunch of over-priced red roses or diamond hearts or even teddies, I have decided to give away a copy of Monica Bhide's book "Modern Spice" to one lucky reader of this blog. After all, there is no love greater than the love of food. And after all, I love you all so much.  
The only problem being, at this point I can send the book to readers in USA only



To take part, leave a comment on this post, saying "what is your favorite spice and how you use it" and yes, don't forget to mention your e-mail id.

And here is a conversation with Monica Bhide which I had over e-mail.

Monica, I always find your story of changing careers from engineer to food writer very interesting. How did it all happen ? Little of the back story please.

Like many Indian immigrants, I came to the US to study. I earned two Masters' degrees and worked for a Big Six consulting company for a long time. The job paid well into the six-figures and I really loved the people I worked with but somehow at the end of the day, it felt as though something was missing. I kept feeling like I was placed on this earth to do something other than, say, leadership training! Mind you, not that there is anything wrong with that, it was just not my life's calling. Then, out of the blue, a very dear friend of mine passed away. She was only 35 and it really shook me to the core. It was a devastating loss and also a reminder of how short and fragile and precious life is. Her death made me rethink my whole life. So one day, I went in and quit. I gave up my engineering career to pursue my calling to tell stories.

When you took the courage to change your career, did you face any setbacks ? How did you overcome them ?
It wasnt really courage. It was not an option. I felt as though a part of my spirit was dying each day and I had to change something if I wanted to feel alive again. There were setbacks, there always are, but I think the key was to focus on the goal and not the obstacles. There were days that I would worry so much about how I would make this new career work, I lost so much sleep over how I would make money. It was a long time before I realized that all I could really do, all I could really control was my work. I had to work and write and keep writing. Eventually, the obstacles would take care of themselves.

Do you apply your scientific and engineering skills in your creative career too ? How?

I get in trouble when I do this! It works great for the how-to stories but I have to leave that part of my brain behind when I am writing essays. My agent always makes fun of me-- he says he can see the engineer come forth when I am outlining a book, and then disappear when I begin to write and the writer takes over!

You are an acclaimed writer with several books in your name and so clearly you are a success. But what is your advise to the food writers starting out ? Is it wise for them to give up their day job to pursue a career in writing ?
Ah, the million dollar question -- giving up the day job! I really dont know how to answer that one since everyone's circumstances are so different. In my case, we had saved up and I had a very supportive spouse who was willing to support me while I tried to find my legs in this new business. It is a tough choice and I think it is best to sit down and really make an educated, informed decision.

Do you have any pearls of wisdom to share with us food bloggers ?
Write daily, write consistently, write because you love to write and never, ever, ever give up.

Of all that you have written, pick a favorite.
Oh, this is hard, but I will pick this one - http://www.monicabhide.com/2012/03/counting-peas.html

Today if you happen to meet your 20 old self, what would you tell her ?
Have faith in yourself and remember that fitting in is way overrated

50 comments:

  1. Being a Bengali, my favorite spice is the Bengali five spice, lovingly called pnach phoron. I use it in almost everything, from daals to mixed vegetables to chutneys.

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  2. Hi, This is Chaya Kalita from Cincinnati, OH. It is extremely hard to choose just one spice because as we all know, a good dish is a combined effort of so many ingredients; LOVE being the most important of all! But, if I have to I think I'll have to say it is the 'Elaichi' or Cardamom seeds. They are a perfect blend of a sweet essence and a peppy zing! I use them in my regualr curries sparingly, which means I use it when I have to show my husband I took efforts to make something; but they are a must in my non-veg curries and our Saturday morning chai!! But they are the best in a simple pound cake.
    Thanks,
    Chaya
    chaya.kalita@gmail.com

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  3. 'Saffron': I know I have expensive taste but the aroma of saffron beats everything else for me. From bengali mishti polao to moroccan tagines..they conquer it all! But the best use of saffron that I have seen is a 'Saffron-date creme brulee' that I tasted in a restaurant in Abu Dhabi!! I can not forget the taste even after I die!!!

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    1. E-mail please and you are in USA right ?

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    2. Sorry! I thought you'd automatically get it from profile, didn't want to type it publicly. But here it is, tandra.roy@gmail.com. And yes, I am in USA.

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  4. My favorite spice is the very 'bong' bhaja moshla! I love it to death and I put it in everything... I cook for my punju husband all sorts of punju things and add bhaja moshla to give it that lift of flavor. I could die today peacefully and happily if I knew I could pack 2kg bhaja moshla with me when I went to heaven or hell (whichever is in store for me) :)

    Love your blog and your book. Keep up the good work!
    Debapriya Dutta

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  5. I love to entice with spice...n have a whole cupboard full of different home-ground spices in an army of ball jars! To pick a favorite is a tad difficult but ssssshhhhh I do have a personal favorite (please don't tell the other spices and break their hearts)...the one I am absolutely in love with is "JEERA"...be it in whole to be used as tempering or dry roasted and then coarsely ground to be spinkled on any to every dish that I so lovingly prepare for "muh 3 men"...be it the simple “adaa-jeera bata diye maacch er jhol” or the quintessential Bangali r “kosha mangsho.” “Jeera bin mera jeena mushkil”….there you go Sandeepa…now you know who my true “labh” is on Valentines Day. It’s the common (and very dear) “CUMIN” to me!

    This is Jayeeta and my email ID is jayeemukherjee@gmail.com

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  6. Long time browser, first time commenter:-)
    I really enjoy your blog, probably because I find nothing in it that clashes with my own thought process. And of course, LS and BS are such sweethearts; they remind me of little ones in my family on the other side of the planet.

    Coming to my favourite spice, it is 'garam masala'. I know its not one single spice (is that cheating? ;-)...), but I love it for its versatility. One can make different versions simply by changing the ratios of the constituent spices. I use it in varying quantities on a multitude of curries and I find that a subtle underlying note of garam masala simply lifts my mood and perks up all my senses. Its my happy spice.

    I look forward to many years of wonderful writing from you. Good luck!

    I am in the US and my email id is: dee04_apt@yahoo.com

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  7. My favourite powdered spice is coriander.

    I use it to make a 'dhoney r jhol' which consists of eggplant, potatoes, ridge gourd, and yard long beans(borboti) all cut into medium thin slices with a generous amount of shrimp.
    I fry all the veggies together with kaalo jeera and green chilly and then then add a very generous amount of coriander power to make this 'jhol' by adding wanter. To this I also add some red chilly powder and finally the fried shrimp. The aroma of coriander fills up my kitchen when its cooking and thus it gets higher and higher on my list of favourite foods.

    The best part is that is a healthy dish with a dash of shrimp and loads of jhol which we enjoy drinking up like soup.
    Suchana Sen - sensuchana@gmail.com

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  8. Cumin! It gives an appetizing fragrance and earthy flavor to almost every dish I use it in - Indian or otherwise. I love it on my vegetables, grilled fish, turkey meatballs, pulao, raita and of course all kinds of curries! Mmmm...

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  9. My favorite spice is coriander seeds. I never buy the powdered spice, just grind the quantity I need or roast and grind. I love the flavor, almost a lemony flavor, that the spice adds to any dish. I like that I can pound it coarsely, roast it, powder it finely and the flavor changes. I add it pretty much to everything I cook - from roasted vegetables to any Indian subzi or gravy dish.

    My email address for the giveaway is merchant.aparna@gmail.com. Thank you!

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  10. Kalojeere.. Quintissential bangali spice.. Be it patla musurir daal or dhonepata knachalonka diye machher jhol ba jhal, illishmacher patla tel jhol its ubiquitous presence is hard to ignore.. My favorite..
    Email: bandynandini@gmail.com

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  11. Great interview and wise words indeed. I love Bhide's recipe for coconut macaroons. To name one favorite spice, I'll go with kasuri methi because it helps me North Indian dishes with that "restaurant taste".

    E-mail: onehotstove AT gmail DOT com

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  12. Choosing a favorite spice is probably as difficult as choosing a favorite among your children. However if I had to pick, I would go with shorshe or mustard. In bata (paste) form for shorshe ilish (Hilsa in mustard sauce), or as a whole spice, or for the oil it produces that no self-respecting Bangali can resist :) Also it is an essential part of the Bengali paanch phoron or five spice. I guess it embodies Bengali palate in many ways, and is therefore a favorite.

    Email: kingkini.arend@gmail.com

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  13. Well I am not an expert who has experienced the enormous list of Indian spices.. But I think I like Nigella/Kalongi, as I tend to put it in some unexpected dishes.. :p I use it in kachuris, fries, chechkis n where not.. I like the smell of it I suppose.. n often my experience went too wrong in a funny way and when you asked for favorite spice this is the one came to my mind..may be because my husband has a special filter in his mouth that he always takes out the nigella from any food while chewing and stores it at the corner of his plate and we make fun of that... :)
    Best Wishes,
    Jayashree (jayashree.a2010@gmail.com)

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  14. @Bongmom: I have been an ardent follower of your blog though hardly comment, blame it on my lackadaisical attitude! Couple of months ago, I made a garam masala that I received from one of your blogs, Its the home made garam masala that needs all ingredients freshly roasted and powdered. However, I have kept all the masalas in individual containers and use them in collaboration or individually depending on what I am cooking. The convenience of using them as and when required and the freshness add that extra zing to my food.

    I also gave them to friends in cute little pouches.

    Interestingly your masala has also travelled overseas recently :). A close friend was visiting India and I sent multiple pouches of the masala for my extended family there. The feedback has been tremendous!!!

    Thanks to you!!

    I am in US
    my email is: 2011.achoudhury@gmail.com

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  15. Loved the interview...
    Love almost all the spices but if asked to choose only one amongst the rest I would choose 'Jeera'/Cumin seeds (whole). Maybe because when I started learning the nuances of cooking from my husband that was the first spice I got introduced to and even today I can not get over that aroma I got that day when I put some of the cumin seeds into hot oil. Now most of the time I wouldn't waste time smelling the aroma of cumin in hot oil, but when I do, it always reminds me of my first cooking days in a much smaller kitchen with a much basic setup. Those were the days when I would use cumin seeds in almost every dish that I prepared.

    I am from US and my email id is pamela.kanjilal@gmail.com

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  16. ouch! forgot to mention....I am Amrita from Connecticut :)

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  17. Star Anise! The flavor that it brings is undeniably aromatic. The reality of bring a grad-student makes it a necessity to cook with items that are multifaceted i.e. which I can add to different kind of things and yet manage to cook something that is unique in its taste. I add the powder as a seasoning when I make vegetables, I add the seed to meat and I never fail to add it when making steaming hot soup! Of course I add other spices as well but the versatility that this spice brings to the very hurried-end-of-the-day-post-lab work day is worth praising! My email ID is sengupta.19@osu.edu and I am based in US.

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    1. Eh...typo...should have been "being" instead of bring...tch tch...

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  18. Favorite spice is Cinnamon..use it everywhere from Chicken Korma/Mutton to every prep which uses Garam Masala, Biscuits and Breads and also in Christmas cakes :) My email id is ghosh.suchismita@gmail.com.

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  19. Kalojeere! I love a simple patla machher jhol !

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  20. Mine would be Black pepper!
    Mail ID spicyquirkyserendipitous9@gmail.com

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  21. My favorite Indian spice is Cumin. It has a distinctive bitter flavor and a strong, warm aroma. It is earthy and smoky and works really well with chili. Roasted cumin can be used in raitas, guacamole, grilled meats and cumin seeds tempered in ghee take all Indian dals or foods to another level. Not only is it tasty, it brings health benefits to the table too. Cumin is apparently reduce blood glucose levels. Another study found that cumin extract reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and pancreatic inflammatory markers in diabetic rats. Hence,my vote goes to Cumin!

    Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/cumin/#ixzz2tLqO77yD

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  22. Nutmeg.... I just love the smell and flavor of this spice. I use it in a lot of dessert, sweet and side dishes. I have created recipes like pumpkin roll, chocolate chip bread.
    I'm Moumita and I'm from Atlanta, Georgia
    mail id : mou27d@gmail.com

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  23. My favorite spice is Gorom Mosla - I love using it in the end for mutton, dimer jhol, chicken, shrimp and in any kind of non veg preparation. It gives a beautiful aroma to the dish.

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    1. My email is mahuac@yahoo.com

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  24. Kalaunji or kalo jeere is my all time favourite spice. I use it for masoor dal, bati chochori, palang saag bori diye and in almost every thing i can use it. I usually use it to create the aroma when i miss home, my mom, my grandmom (who is no more). I am born in kolkata but brought up in Jabalpur, MP and visited kolkata every summer during our school's summer vacation. During that time, the moment I entered my grandparents' house in kolkata, this aroma of kalonji along with the smell of unun (kerosene stove) would greet me and make me smile and it still does. So, i often use kalounji to cook something in the morning and come home to that aroma in the evening after course work to feel at home, all over again :).
    I am Ragini, from Houston, Texas and my email id is meetrags@gmail.com

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  25. Kalaunji or kalo jeere is my all time favourite spice. I use it for masoor dal, bati chochori, palang saag bori diye and in almost every thing i can use it. I usually use it to create the aroma when i miss home, my mom, my grandmom (who is no more). I am born in kolkata but brought up in Jabalpur, MP and visited kolkata every summer during our school's summer vacation. During that time, the moment I entered my grandparents' house in kolkata, this aroma of kalonji along with the smell of unun (kerosene stove) would greet me and make me smile and it still does. So, i often use kalounji to cook something in the morning and come home to that aroma in the evening after course work to feel at home, all over again :).
    I am Ragini, from Houston, Texas and my email id is meetrags@gmail.com

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  26. My favorite spice is cumin/jeera because of its flavour and versatility.

    Living in Southern California, I use it for both Indian cuisine (snacks, non-veg dishes and veg dishes) and Mexican cuisine (fresh salsas. fajitas and quesadillas).

    Sonia Das
    Long Beach, CA
    soniadas@yahoo.com

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  27. My favourite spice is black pepper; I add it to just about anything I make and I call it the golden touch.

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  28. My favourite spice is methi dana.I use it to temper oil. It renders a nice aroma to the Indian cuisine. I even make a powder of methi touse inIndian style gravies.
    Nivedita from Falls Church,VA.
    My email id is niveditadutt@yahoo.com

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  29. My favorite spice is Pink Himalayan salt. The first time I tasted it (a few years ago) I realized what REAL salt is and nothing comes close. Thanks
    Pembroke Pines Fl
    jrosemey@email.com

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  30. Love your blog, Sandeepa. The email which says you have penned something in your blog is the very first one I go to among the hundreds of 'to do' list of emails. So, keep writing, you have quite a large fan club :-)
    To select one spice out of our array is really a difficult job. I was reading all the posts above mine, they all are my favorites too! I thought of adding a new interest which I learned a few days back. I had a veggie dish to prepare, not much time, but had to make it delicious. I had cauliflour in the fridge. I called an aunt who is a fantastic cook (she can prepare 20 different dishes in one morning for lunch). She said, take methi seeds, roast them and then grind them. Same with coriander seeds. Roast separately and grind. Then cut caulifour into florets. Add a little oil in the pan, as soon as it is hot, add turmeric and green chillies as many as you can stand. After a min add the caulifour, stir it so that the oil covers it. Then put a cover in the pan. If you have potatoes, can use potatoes too. But I wanted to leave out the starch. Check in a few minutes to see how far the caulifour is done. Once the caulifour is 90% done, add the salt, leave the pan uncovered. Stir it occasionally, but keep an eye on it until it is done and dry. Take a tsp of the powders each and sprinkle on top. Mix it up, taste it, if you need more add in pinches now. What turned out was a beautifully fragrant veggie and very tasty too. It was a big hit.
    My email id is kakolidutta99@yahoo.com, I live in the US.

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  31. Favourite spice.. hmm.. that's a tough one. The first one that came to my mind when I read your question is fenugreek seeds. They add a lovely deep flavour and a tinge of bitterness to South Indian curries which I love. I just made a large batch for the coming week and my fingertips have a lingering of fenugreek seeds still :)
    Email: naagu.v at gmail dot com

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  32. I hope the contest is not over yet....my fav. spice is Cumin...love the aroma of it when u add it to hot pan with little oil/ghee for dal tadka...also can't think of everyday rice without cumin that's how my mom made it & I started making it too that way too.....

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  33. & I forgot to leave my email Id : spicebuds@gmail.com

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  34. my favourite spice is panch phoron , it adds such a nice flavour to stir frys and dals and reminds me of my childhood in Kolkata . My email id is cookiejar0731@gmail.com

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  35. Hi Sandeepa, Love your blog!!
    While it is tough to choose a spice, I am going to have to go with Turmeric (Both powdered as well as fresh) !!!! I love it because it can make a very simple dish very visually appealing. My kids love it when the Daal is golden yellow or the pulav or sabzi looks inviting!! I cannot imagine a desi who can do without this spice in their kitchen. Even the fresh variety when grated and added to brine with chillies makes for an excellent palette cleanser not to mention the Je na sais quoi it adds to a veg/ non veg dishes like a mix veg Korma/Chicken curry.
    My email id is Sangeeta_kalle@yahoo.com and I am from Phoenix.

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  36. Jeera/Cumin. It is generic and can lift anything up a few notches from a simple dal to a raita, even a black bean burrito. I am not comfortable giving out my email address in public but I will check back to see if I won.

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  37. My favorite spice is kalojeere. I use it for almost all vegetable stir fries, machher jhol, palong shaker jhol etc. Sometimes I would have a doubt whether to use panch phoron or kalojeere, but I would always reach for kalojeere because its subtle aroma wins over the strong flavor of panch phoron. Also, it does not overpower the natural flavor of veggies or the main ingredient. I am Amita and email id is royamita@yahoo.com.

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  38. My favorite spice is actually a combination of spices that is paach foron. I use it in my Musur daal, kumro chhokka, shak bhaja, achari murgh, chutney and in many more dishes. :-) My email id is mausumiray@yahoo.com

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  39. My favorite spice is Pumpkin Pie Spice! I use it in almost every rub I make for pork on the grill or smoker! Gives it a awesome little extra

    king_nickolay @ yahoo . com

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  40. Abar ektu ektu kore blog hop korte parchi boley khub bhalo lagchey.
    Tai tomar ekhane o unki diye gelam. :-)

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  41. If I have to choose a spice, it would be cardamom.. I love your blog keep up the good work.
    k_sritharan@hotmail.com

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  42. My fav spice is Mouri (saunf or fennel seeds). I sneak it in either whole or dry roasted and ground in almost everything from masala chai to kumro-r chhokka, rajma to mangsho. But I enjoy it the most by throwing a few dry roasted seeds in my mouth whenever I am motion sick, bored or homesick for India. Love your posts, share your likings and thoughts...makes me wonder if we grew in the same place in India. Also have two little girls like you. Just can't write like you!! Waiting to read your book some day. Mahi Biswas r_mahua@yahoo.com

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  43. Hello Bong mom,
    commenting on your blog for the very first time, but reading your blog since I was a graduate student!(plain procrastination) Recently got a copy of your book, absolutely love your writing style! I was reading it on my train journey from NJ TO NYC , and it got me so hungry that I just wanted to go to Jackson heights and get my dose of bhalo bangali ranna!
    Kasoori methi is my favorite spice, being a bong but have spent most of my life being a probashi bangali, I always try to put a twist to my bong food, with either ginger powder and fennel powder (usually used in kashmiri food) or make my own dim torka but with a dash of KASOORI METHI.
    The aroma takes the taste to a different level.So I'd vote for Kasoori methi Don't you think so?

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  44. Panch Foron. I use it to temper almost everything from shaak bhaja to shukto to chatni, even chicken at times! goldthread@gmail.com

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