Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Flags of Our Fathers- A review

I have grown up on Clint Eastwood in adolescence and later when a little bit matured admired Speilberg. So when the two blend their cinematic creative juices, nothing could stop me from viewing the film – Flags of Our Fathers.

Flags of our Fathers follows the lives of three surviving members who raised the American flag in 1945 a second time atop a hill in a tiny island Iowa Jima and how the government used these three individuals and the media to sell war bonds to the American public. The film is very critical on the way war is sold to the public.
The film depicts war scenes to make the viewer understand that there's nothing glorifying about killing or to be killed on the battlefield. The only thing that matters is that you protect your friends in the battlefield and that they protect you. One of the characters, Ira Hayes , the native American ( Indian) says in the film, “ They fight for their country but they die for their friends.”
Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach played by John "Doc" Bradley, Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes respectively were partly responsible for the second American flag raising that graced newspapers and magazine covers all over the world.The photograph has become an iconic image of hope and American victory in WWII. But hold your breath- it is literally stage managed. When US marines took over the Island Iowa Jima in the Pacific off Japan in 1945 after a fierce and brutal battle , the American flag was raised on top of the hill. The flag was small and not imposing. So the commander sends a larger flag later and Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped off this shot when the flag was being raised a second time. The photograph was all over the front pages of the US newspapers. The US government quickly sizes up the nations’s mood and parades the surviving members of the flag raisers in a cross-country tour to sell war bonds.
But the applause for heroism showered upon the three men is at odds with their own personal realizations that thousands of real heroes lie dead on Iwo Jima, and that their own contributions to the fight are only symbolic and not deserving of the accolades heaped upon them. Each of the three must come to terms with the honors, exploitation, and grief that they face simply for being in a photograph.
Clint eastwood uses flashback such extensively that one gets sometimes confused. The film is not an anti-war film but comes close to that genre.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Prawn Curry - The Source Code Recipe

Prawn Curry - Recipes Galore

One of my cousins, Jag, living in Australia wanted me to post in my blog recipes for curries in addition to pickles. He has specified the curries he wanted too. He said that both he and his wife have forgotten the recipes of these curries as they were too busy all these years cooking software code. His mother, my mother’s youngest sister, who was also my school mate will certainly be livid, if she comes to know that her beloved son has asked me recipes, while she is considered in our family circle as a very innovative cook.

While I may take small pleasure for such requests coming to me thereby acknowledging me as a cook of repute, if not par excellence, there is a flip side to all this labeling. Now-a-days, my wife gladly gives up her position in the kitchen to me in contrast to her earlier stand of yielding it very reluctantly. She must be bragging to her friends that she has one of those truly amazing creatures in her home ...... an Indian husband who loves to cook!

Cooking comes very naturally to me and I do it with great gusto, whenever I get into the mood. There is a great advantage in cooking when you don’t have to worry about cleaning dishes and the mess afterwards. When I try something new, I prefer not to use a fixed recipe and cook almost entirely according to the whim and taste. Usually it turns out to be tasty and exotic but occasionally a disaster. Then it will take all my ingenuity to repair the dish and make it edible.
Source Code:
So here is the code for a prawn curry. All measurements given here are approximate. As long as one sticks to moderation in adding ingredients, any curry will come out tasty. So consider this recipe as source code. As long as you don't corrupt the source code, you can develop N number of variations.

If you can get only whole prawns, don’t get disheartened. Removing head and shell is easy if the prawns are frozen for some time. Remember that Prawns have to be de-vined at home if de-vined prawns are not available in the market. Vine is nothing but the black thread like intestine of the prawn. At the junction point of the head and torso, one can see the black thread like intestine inside, which needs to be gently pulled out. If you find it difficult to remove, make a small slit at the back of the prawn and pull out the vein.


1 kg prawns ( after head, shell are removed weight will be approx.600 gms.)
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
2 tsp powdered spices ( masala )
1 tsp salt to taste
1 tsp chilly powder to taste
3 to 4 green chillies- sliced vertically

Thaw the prawns at room temperature for an hour if they are straight from the fridge. Wash them thoroughly in water 3 to 4 times. Mix the prawns with a couple of tbsp curds and wash. This will remove any unpleasant odours the prawns might be emitting. Toss a big pinch of turmeric powder, mix well with prawns and wash for the last time. Drain the water thoroughly.
Mix salt and chilly powder with the prawns and keep aside.

Heat a saucepan. Add 2 tbsp oil. When oil is heated, toss in the sliced green chillies. After a few seconds, toss in the onions and fry until slightly brownish. Add garlic and ginger paste mix and fry together in a low flame for a minute till the garlic and ginger paste loses the pungent odour. Add the prawns and stir well so that onions and garlic ginger paste gets mixed well with the prawns. As you begin to fry, the prawns ooze water. Keep the lid and let them simmer for 10 minutes.
Water gets evaporated and a thick gravy is formed. If you want the curry to be completely dry, fry for some more time stirring well.

Put off the heat and sprinkle the powdered spices ( ready-made masala ) on the curry and stir once.

Garnish with fresh coriander if desired.

Serves for 4 to 5 persons in steamed rice or roti.

There are umpteen ways of adding colour and spice to the same curry by adding something that gives a distinct taste. Depending on the added ingredient, adjust salt and chilly powder. Remember that the added ingredient should never be more than half of the prawns volume for best results.

Tomato prawns:
After the garlic and ginger paste is fried along with onions, add 4 medium sized tomatoes cut into pieces and let them simmer in their own juices for a few minutes before prawns are added. Add the juice of a lemon to the curry just before masala is added. Tastes better in a gravy curry.

Cucumber prawns:
Chop a cucumber to fine pieces, add to the saucepan when prawns begin to simmer and let them cook along with prawns. It turns into a fine gravy and tastes excellent. Those who want to retain the taste of cucumber can cut it to ¼ inch pieces and follow the same process. Tastes better in a gravy curry.
Snakegourd prawns:
Scrape off the thin outer filmy layer of the snake gourd with the blunt edge of a knife or a steel spoon. Slit it vertically and remove the seeds with a spoon. Cut into small pieces. Boil the pieces in a little bit of water ( pieces themselves ooze lot of water ) for five minutes. Put the pieces in a thin cloth and squeeze hard once or twice to squish out the juice. If the juice is not squished out, curry might have pungent odour but some like the odour. Add to the curry when prawns begin to simmer. Tastes better in a gravy curry.
Coconut prawns:
Grate half a medium sized coconut. Add when prawns begin to simmer. Fry the thick gravy till it is dry. Grated coconut can also be added after the gravy is fried to near dryness. Fry for a couple of more minutes. Tastes better in a fry curry.
If you want the coconut taste but wants gravy too, then put the grated coconut in a mixie and strain the coconut milk. When prawns begin to simmer, coconut milk can be added. Once the gravy becomes thick, curry is ready.

Chilly prawns:
Add 6 to 8 sliced green chillies after the curry is fried. Continue frying for a couple of minutes till the pungent smell of the chillies reaches you. Tastes better as a dry snack. It will be hot.

You can make a mixed prawn curry with ay vegetable you like.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Drumstick Pickle

Drumstick tree known as Kalpataruvu ( giver of everything)

The drum stick tree is a very popular tree in villages. It gives the yummy vegetable year long without anyone taking care of the tree and every part of the tree has numerous benefits. Drumstick is a popular vegetable and is widely used in vegetable curries, sambar and rural folk use drumstick leaves for a variety of purposes from making curries to using as a natural antibiotic, anti-fungal to getting rid of leg spasms and ankle sprains. Drumstick leaf curry is a frequent dish for pregnant and lactating women for its high iron and Vitamin A content. A drumstick tree in each and every back yard with scores of drumsticks dangling is a common sight in villages. When I was a kid many drumstick trees in the backyards of my village were said to be more than 20 years old and I am surprised to see many of them still intact and in full productivity. That makes those trees more than 60 years old.

During the caterpillar season, no one goes near the tree. Hundreds of caterpillars swarm the tree and polish off the leaves in a few days time. May be those which eat the drumstick leaves will turn into a beautiful butterfly without fail.

The Pickle:

The recipe given here is unique as raw drumsticks are used to make the pickle. Raw Drumstick pickle, on the face of it, appears unusual and daunting. Though not very common like tomato or lemon, it is not unusual. It is also very tasty. The marinaded juice of the drumstick piece is heavenly and oozes non-stop as you munch and munch not wanting to part with it.

The pickle is also very easy to make.


One KG drumsticks ( about 25 medium long fully mature drumsticks)
2 tbsp turmeric powder
250 gms tamarind
150 gms Chilly powder
150 gms crystal salt
100 gms garlic

2 tbsp fenugreek seed powder
500 gms oil for seasoning


Take about 25 drumsticks ( one Kg ). Select those that are not tender and the seed is a bit hardened. This will help the pieces to retain their shape even after pickling. Tender drumstick pieces, some time after pickling, will get soft and even soggy.

Wipe the drumsticks with a damp cloth first and then with a dry cloth. Cut the drumsticks to about 11/2 to 2 inches long pieces. Transfer the pieces to a non-metallic container which has a proper lid. Add a tsp oil to the pieces, 2 tbsp turmeric powder and mix well. Add salt to pieces and mix well. Peel the tamarind lump to smaller pieces and place at the bottom of the container. Place the lid firmly and let the pieces marinade overnight or for a day. Due to salt, the drumstick pieces will ooze water and the tamarind becomes soft.

Next day, take the drumstick pieces out.

Mix chilly powder, fenugreek seed powder and garlic paste with the water that has oozed and the tamarind turned soft in the container. For better mixing, you can put all the ingredients into mixer / grinder for a minute. Add the drumstick pieces and mix well.


Heat the oil in the pan. Toss in 10 red chillies, 10 garlic flakes, 2 tsp polished green gram, I tbsp mustard seed and a handful of curry leaves.

After oil is cooled, mix well in the pickle. Transfer the pickle to glass jars / plastic bottles.
Wait for a couple of days before you start polishing it off.

The shelf life is one year.