Saturday, June 30, 2007

Friday night in

What a strange day - a defused car bomb in Piccadilly, helicopters circling around above our offices on Oxford Street, police sirens blaring, cordoned off sections in central London, the police cordoning off Fleet Street and instructing offices there - including my husband's - not to leave their buildings and to stay away from the windows... We were supposed to go to Whole Foods Market in Kensington after work and buy sun blush tomatoes, olive bread, Gorgonzola, goats cheese, a good bottle of wine and some other goodies to take home for tonight's dinner, but no one felt like going out on the town tonight. By 5.30pm, I was ready to go home before the ever-threatening downpour resumed or tube stations closed, mindful of 2005's experiences.

I popped into our local shops on Green Lanes and bought Alfonso mangoes, blueberries, raspberries, a 2002 bottle of Rioja, some very cheesy magazines - Woman & Home, Oprah and Grazia. M is back in an hour or so - his office evacuation meant he's got a lot of work to catch up on before the weekend. So I will settle in until he comes home and veg out with the magazines, some blogs and a cheesy Bollywood movie - Salaam-e-Ishq, about six very different young couples and their negotiations with love. When he returns, we'll most likely dine on yummy, greasy fish and chips from our local chippy.

Now I'm safely home, I feel chilled to the core. Such a lovely feeling to be inside and at home. It's the weekend!

Thursday, June 28, 2007


The things that have been thrilling and soothing me this week / My smooth as silk Nicole Farhi ti-shirt / Super sweet Alfonso mangoes / Super sexy and soulful Leonard Cohen's Various Positions album / Cucumber and houmous pitta sandwiches for lunch / My husband's smothering kisses and all-enveloping hugs / The sunshine when it finally decides to peek through the black clouds / The cold rain on my bare arms catching me unaware / The hearty juiciness of a 1996 bottle of Tempranillo / Super fattening homemade chicken and cheese fajita and guacamole / Super fattening spaghetti with bacon and butter beans / Reading lyrical evocations of Bengali life in India and in the US and reflecting on my own experiences of growing up Asian in Britain / A yummy chocolate mousse cake for a colleague's birthday / Indian School on BBC 4 reminding me of my own days living and teaching at a boarding school in Dehra Dun / A new pair of wedge heel shoes from Dune / Walking through the din of central London and still being fully at peace within my own space / Butter soft Turkish delight and gooey nougat from a colleague / Watching sloth bears eat watermelons and grapes in London Zoo at my husband's department party / The fact that today's Thursday and the weekend is just two days away!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I only popped into DKNY on Old Bond Street during my lunch break to buy a throw to wear over my sleeveless dress at my husband's company party this week. The weather is all over the place - one minute it is bright and sunny and literally the next minute it is raining hard. But then I saw "Sale" emblazoned across the windows of nearby Nicole Farhi and couldn't resist. I came away with three more tops. An expensive lunch break and I feel a little guilty at having flexed my credit card so vigorously. I try and tell myself, "Their clothes fit me so perfectly and the material feels so great against my skin!" and repeat it like a mantra. Then I tell myself, "I'm a grown woman, I earn my own money, I work hard." Now work is over and I'm back home trying on my purchases and showing them off to my husband and I feel great. I used to spend loads on clothes that rarely lasted out the year. A false economy. Then I met my husband whose wardrobe is filled with designer clothes that have lasted years. Nowadays, I rarely splurge on clothes but when I do, I do so in the knowledge that they'll keep a long, long time.

Here's an interesting article I read today:
Bridget Jones? She's got it easy
"Since when did skin shade, religion and the prospect of living with your in-laws become a concern for educated, career women looking for Mr Right? For British Asian females, who are facing a shrinking pool of eligible men, Bridget Jones had it easy."

I'm lucky in that I had little pressure, both from myself or my parents, as to whom I should settle down with. My parents are non-religious and at no time did they stipulate I should marry "within my culture". There were pressures of course - as I had a PhD and a good job, they wanted me to marry someone who was my equal academically and professionally. However, I know in my heart they would have accepted my husband even if he hadn't been a lawyer with a science PhD from Oxford - so long as he was "a good boy".

But a friend of mine is really struggling to find a boyfriend let alone a husband. She's from a strict Muslim family and although she is a Cambridge PhD, a scientist and living away from home, she is completely obsessed and stressed out by her pursuit for the ideal man. She grills every man she meets and assesses him for marriage potential. He must be a Muslim, he must be Bengali, he must be highly educated, he must come from a good family, he must want children, he must have a good job, he must, he must, he must... She can never relax not even for a second. She is always fighting with her parents but at the same time she wants to please them. Moreover, she agrees with them that marrying within her faith and culture is important. It means the pool of men available to her is very narrow and shallow indeed. It amazes me she hasn't broken down with a nervous breakdown yet.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Far out

Saturday began with a breakfast of Chinese doughnuts, deep fried sesame balls stuffed with red bean paste, orange juice and instant black coffee at the Far East Bakery, watching the Chinatown shops and restaurants receive their deliveries. Boxes of bean sprouts, lychees, dragon fruit, shrimps, long beans and dried egg noodles all passed by our window as we ate. We watched the cheery girls serving a steady stream of local shop and restaurant workers and Chinese tourists a variety of Chinese baked goodies. And we planned out our day.

Our day was to consist primarily of shopping. We wandered around Selfridges, Browns and Martin Margiela, and M managed to find two pairs of Dries Van Noten trousers, one black and one brown, a dark brown Prada tie, and an amazing light coloured Martin Margiela suit that looks so sexy on him I couldn't stop taking photos. I didn't find much for myself but I was okay with this as I'd found more than enough at DKNY in Manhattan last month. I was happy trailing along because M has signed up to an unlimited internet plan on his cellphone and I could now surf the net to my heart's content while waiting for him to try everything on. I did manage, however, to pick up a luscious Frederic Fekkai glossing shampoo with olive oil from Space.NK. in Soho.

Then we hopped onto a heaving, rubbish-strewn Jubilee Line train to North Greenwich and a private opening of The O2 entertainment venue. We didn't wait for the show as I'm not bothered about Basement Jaxx, the Kaiser Chiefs or Tom Jones, but we enjoyed wandering around the complex. The O2 features a multi-screen Vue cinema, a 20,000 seater music arena, a smaller music hall and a long circular avenue featuring numerous bar and restaurant chains. The venue felt like a mix between Arsenal's The Emirates stadium and a large shopping mall in the middle of nowhere - only the football pitch and clothes shops were missing. Soon there'll also be a theatre, an ice rink and more outdoor space. It's a very good concept and we'll be back for a Youssou N'Dour show in July and a Prince show in August. And if there's a good movie on and some outdoor space to chill out in then who knows, perhaps we'll make a day of it, as the venue owners hope.

We ended Saturday with some lovely home-cooked tomato sauce with spaghetti and some griddled courgettes with balsamic and basil, washed down with some very good wine. M has been bringing back some delicious wines from France. I always used to drink Latin American or Spanish wines only but through M I've rediscovered the richness, complexity and maturity of good French wines again - particularly Cahors and Margaux.

And now it's Sunday, which can only mean drinking gallons of freshly brewed coffee, eating huge bacon sandwiches with lashings of ketchup for brunch, salivating over this month's The Observer Food Monthly, shopping locally for groceries for next week's meals, watching DVDs, reading books by Bengali writers living in the West, doing a bit of laundry, blogging, roasting a large chicken for dinner, doing a few beauty treatments on my hair and face, and generally just chilling all snug and warm inside while it pours with rain outside. Who could guess we're coming into July already!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Friday date night

After work, I met M at the Sadler's Wells for a spellbinding dance performance by Taiwan's Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Cursive: A Trilogy. Organic, amorphic, primodial movements set against the sound of the sea, the rain, the howling wind, foghorns, bird song, bells. Dancers spinning like dervishes, pulsating like a slow heart or undulating as one amoebic form while scrolls of rice paper unfurled and streams of ink dripped down to the floor. True to the spirit of chance as set forth in the I-Ching or The Book of Changes. The dance was inspired by kuang chao or wild calligraphy, considered the pinnacle of Chinese calligraphy in which all the rules are broken and the characters set free from form. You can immediately see the diverse mix of influences in their artistic approaches, from the kinetic alacrity of martial arts and the meditative motions of tai chi, to the graceful fluidity of ballet and the chaotic exhuberism of modern dance. Oh, to have that level of command over my body - no, not command as such, but for my limbs and joints and muscles and bones to be as limber and as supple and as fluid! Perhaps it's back to the yoga studio I go. I first became aware of this dance company at last year's sublime Sacred Monsters performance with Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan - partly choreographed by Cloud Gate founder Lin Hwai-min. This is what I can't wait to see - Akram Khan's collaboration with the group for Lost Shadows.

Having just missed one of the many rain showers we're suffering in London of late, we walked to the bustling Exmouth Market and had rosy apple cocktails and beers at The Ambassador. The Kasteel Cru beer was deliciously clean and sparkly and I learned that night that it was brewed with Champagne yeast. Then across the road to Sam and Sam Clark's unpretentious Moro. Only the wait staff looked under 30. The diners looked like they read The Guardian, grew organic vegetables in their allotments, were lecturers or senior public sector workers, and only wore fine-knit woolies - no suits. The food was rustic and robust, though a touch too oily and fatty for my liking. We started with grilled sardines and baby broad beans with slivers of dried tuna and mint dressing. For mains, I ate wood-roasted pork with salsa mojo and new potatoes and M ate a meaty hake cooked in salsa verde with peas and clams. We finished with chocolate and apricot tart and Malaga raisin ice cream with Pedro Ximenez. We washed everything down with delicous glasses of dry sherry and red Massaya wine. Too tired and inebriated for a bus or the Tube, we hailed a black cab to take us home.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Shingara, paayesh and baba ganoush

My parents were visiting over the weekend. We only have one bedroom, so M and I slept on futons in the living room, under a beautiful silk throw M's dad gave us as a wedding gift.

We visited my mother's friend in Essex. In the 1960s, they were both studying at rival medical colleges in Calcutta - my mum at Nilratan Sircar Medical College and her friend at National Medical College. We ate deliciously authentic Bengali food - shingara (samosa), paayesh (spiced rice pudding), lal saag (red leaves curry), okra posto (okra and white poppy seeds). Her older brother and his wife were visiting from Calcutta. The three of them had just returned from New York, where the son of my mum's friend works as a business director for a major museum in Manhattan. He and I were childhood friends. We were both only children and we bonded over a mutual love of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Now he lives directly opposite the United Nations on the east side of Manhattan, over-looking the East River.

My mum's friend is in her 60s, is a retired paediatrician and travels the world several times a year - Poland, Slovenia, Alaska, the Galapagos islands, Japan, the Amazon. Sometimes alone, or with her family, sometimes on an organised tour group with Saga. Her home is filled with books - from paediatrics textbooks and Chinese language books, to histories of Calcutta and novels in Bengali. Her greenhouse houses a contemplative Buddha from Homebase and her garden is ablaze with colour. A truly remarkable woman. We had so much fun.

On Sunday, we relaxed at home with my parents. We watched a mindless but fun British Bollywood movie set in and around Brick Lane, chatted and flicked through food magazines together. Then we met M's sister at Tara, the Kurdish restaurant on Green Lanes. Surrounded by Kurdish rugs and hookahs, we tucked into kebabs, lamb chops, humous, flat bread, baba ganoush, grilled sea bass and bright red Kurdish tea served from a chipped teapot with a rather dapper, extravagantly moustachioed soldier hand-painted on the side.

M's in France again tonight and tomorrow night, so I'm home alone, eating defrosted leftovers (chickpea, spinach and pomegranate stew), doing laundry, flicking through Grazia and Time, and dipping in and out of American Bengali writer Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter Of Maladies short stories. Enjoying time in on my own, but missing my husband more than I care to admit.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Feeling fruity

It's been a good week for fruit. Lemons, limes, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, Alfonso mangoes, papaya. I'm feeling very virtuous. I never used to be a fruit person (fruity maybe) but my husband loves fruit and always has varieties of it in the house. So I'm growing to enjoy fruit too.

Yippee, it's Friday - and my parents are coming tonight!

Simple as it gets

1 x medium size diced red onion
2 x cloves of garlic, diced
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
200g young spinach
1 x 400g tin chickpeas
1 heaped teaspoon whole cumin
Splash of Tabasco
Squeeze of 2 lemons
Salt to taste

1. Saute the onion in a heavy based saucepan.
2. When translucent, add cumin and garlic and stir until the aroma is released.
3. Add chickpeas, tomatoes and water to cover.
4. Bring to the boil then simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes.
5. Season to taste then add lemon juice and Tabasco.
6. Stir in spinach until it wilts.

Serves 2 with hot flat Turkish bread.

This is as simple as it gets for me. Both my husband and I have been having some crazy days at work. This dish takes 30 minutes at most to prepare and cook, and is perfect after a long and intense day.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Inflatables, charcuterie and cleaning

/ Lamb kebabs with pomegranate jus for me and lamb kebabs with pistachio and cheese for M at a bustling Antepliler on Green Lanes / Two episodes of Sex And The City - Season 4 - my favourite season / Slobbed out on the sofa, unable to move after an intense work week.

Saturday / Breakfast of Monsoon Malabar coffee, mega-sized croissants and "shredded wheat" baklava dripping with honey / Into town for pop art superstar Jeff Koon's Hulk Elvis exhibition at the Gasgosian in Kings Cross / Large-scale, photo-realistic oil and canvas depictions of the Incredible Hulk, inflatable monkeys, geisha girls, The Liberty Bell, landscapes, illustrated steam engines and horse-drawn carriages painted by Koons' army of assistants in New York's Chelsea / The landscapes looked like they had been originally photographed then imported into Photoshop where various filters were applied and then printed and painstakingly copied onto canvas with good old-fashioned paint / Audacious, vivacious, vivid, pulsating with energy / M had dragged me to this one because I've always disliked Koons' posturing and kitsch art, but I admit this show had me salivating as if I was being sucked into a maelstrom of Opal Fruits.

Through the muggy heat to Liverpool Street and the Martin Parr exhibition at Rocket in the awesome Tea Building / So much bleaker and starker than Koons' work but no less intense and all-consuming / I was rivetted by Parr's photos along Scotland's A8 road, with every image stuck in a 70s timewarp - jowls galore in an old man's club, a hunched-shouldered waitress looking out the window in a tea room, a lone swimmer in an open-air swimming pool on a grey and rainy day, an elderly man splayed on the damp pavement outside a pub / Parking Spaces featured 41 photos from 41 countries, including the Czech Republic, the UAE, India, the USA and Syria, of parked cars and parking spaces / What captivated was the life unfurling between the spaces, in the background / So simple, so everyday, so mundane, so absorbing / Rocket represents Parr in the UK and we had a good chat with the owner / Came away with two books - a limited edition signed copy of Parking Spaces and a book on Istanbul.

Through the humidity / My blouse sticking to my back / To Spruth and Magers and Cindy Sherman's A Play Of Selves from 1975 / Sherman is famous for her photographic self-portraits exploring female identity and these 72 photographic assemblages told the story in three acts of a woman overwhelmed by her own alter-egos in her pursuit of love and self-acceptance / I love Sherman's older, more natural work and find her recent stuff overly stylistic and stiff / As such, this show was wonderful.

To the Old School exhibition at the grand old Hauser & Wirth Colnaghi on Old Bond Street celebrating a re-engagement with Old Master modes of representation / Mixing and matching Old Masters and the modern / Works by the likes of Jan Brueghel the Elder, Jan Brueghel the Younger and Carlo Dolci hung alongside modern day painters inspired by them such as my favourites Jeff Wall, Michaƫl Borremans and Karen Kilimnik / The gallery itself is sumptuous and traditional, with a wonderfully musty and congested library, heavy doors, woodpanelled walls and ever-so-slightly faded jewel-coloured wallpaper.

Lunched on cheese and dill pickles (M) and egg and anchovy (me) rye bread open sandwiches at the Nordic Bakery on Golden Square / Saw Zadie Smith's husband Nick Laird rummaging through his rucksack with a friend on Golden Square / Light and fluffy Portuguese custard tarts and coffees in Soho's Fernandez & Wells on Beak Street / Soho eerily quiet and the sky darkening with clouds / DVDs from the Virgin Megastore on Piccadilly - Death Wish, Melinda Melinda, Spider, A History Of Violence, The Cooler.

To the new 3-storey Whole Foods Market in Kensington / A long queue to get in but we were inside within 5 minutes / Busy but not uncomfortably so / Wonderfully air-conditioned / Abundance of beautifully displayed stock from organic peas in their pods to eco-friendly cleaning products / Attentive service / We could easily have bought everything we ended up buying in various shops around Soho or on Green Lanes, but the experience of buying it all under one roof was fun / We bought an Argentinian Malbec and French Medoc from their comprehensive wine section; manchego cheese, fig-wrapped soft goats cheese, gorgonzola piccante and quince jelly from their Neal's Yard Dairy concession; lomo curado or dry-cured pork loin from the bulging charcuterie counter; sun-blushed tomatoes, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, almonds marcona, dried spaghetti and orecchiette, rye bread and kalamata olive bread; oh, and a book on yoga!

To home, where we ate a selection of our Whole Foods goodies, watching the charismatic Charles Bronson in the rivetting vigilante thriller Death Wish, followed by Woody Allen's entertaining Melinda Melinda on DVD - both set in and taking us back to NYC.

Sunday / Browsing the internet / Cleaning the house / Doing laundry / Shopping locally for meat, vegetables and fruit for this week's meals / Sorting through unwanted clothes and clutter - eight dustbin bags of stuff! / Chatting to my parents on the phone and planning their trip to London next week / Reading novels, magazines, the newspaper / Eating sun-blush tomatoes and goats cheese on rye from yesterday's Whole Foods Market trip / Cooking a Mexican dinner of homemade guacamole, beef strips, roasted red peppers and a tomato and cucumber salad, all wrapped in tortillas / With refreshing bottles of Corona / Followed by green tea and mixed berries / Watching the always brilliant and disturbing Taxi Driver on DVD / Doing a little facial micro-dermabrasion and slapping on the best face pack I've ever used at home / Getting an early night - good night!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Busy doing nothing

Work is so busy and stressful these days, I have little energy to do much after work except collapse at home. I start counting the days down to the weekend on a Wednesday, for it is at the weekend that I am able to rouse myself enough to go out and about.

Another reason for not going out on a weeknight much more is that I am finally enjoying a good home life - in a house that's all mine and M's - our space, our things, all of it. When I used to flatshare and was either single or dating, I was always eager to go out after work, more often than not because all I had of my own was a cramped little room.

These days, I love chilling at home by myself or with M. I look forward to a night of doing nothing after a day of being frantic and breathless. It leaves me little to blog about as a result.

This week so far has been a typical week: sipping wine by candlelight, flipping through magazines, being engrossed in novels, surfing the blogosphere and, of course, cooking and eating comfort food such as peas and fried eggs on bacon. Blissful.