Friday, August 21, 2015

And I almost missed my flight

This is a work of Fiction written for Airtel 4G.

So, this is when I was on an official trip. I was sitting at the airport terminal for my flight. Since I was pretty early in reaching to the airport, to catch the 5:10 am flight, considering the fact that I had to reach the Airport which is about 15 kilometers away from my home, and I had to take up a cab or something to reach there, I left my home early. And luckily or unluckily, I got the cab as soon as hit the road, which in turn dropped me at the airport terminal in flat 25 minutes, pretty fast isn't it? Ofcourse, it was way too early in the morning for wise people to wake up, so, the roads were not clogged up as they are in the peak traffic hours, or even in the non-peak traffic hours and I was lucky here. Now I was in the terminal, through the security checks, in the boarding area, I was waiting for the boarding to begin. Getting bored, I decided to check out some videos on my phone using the Airtel 4G data network I had in my phone. I checked out Youtube, and scrolled and scrolled only to find what I wanted to watch. It was a comedy movie, and I still had around an hour and a half for boarding to start, or so I thought.

I began streaming the movie, in a full HD resolution, since that is quite a norm these days, and thanks to the great network and extremely high speeds provided by Airtel's 4G network, I was pretty much confident of a great movie watching experience before the boarding started, since, I had to kill time, while I waited to take off for my destination. I began watching the movie, half way into the movie, I realised something, and checked for the co-passengers who were all seated around. Time passed on, I again got engrossed in my movie, no distractions whatsoever, since the streaming was such great that there was not a single moment where the movie stopped to buffer the data, and appeared as I was watching from the phone's storage. People continued their movement, and I was busy with my movie. All of a sudden, I had a shocker. I checked out around myself. The faces had changed. No one familiar was there. To top it all, it was my name being announced, since I was the one who checked in but didn't reach the boarding gates yet, for the final clearance. I gathered my senses and came back to reality, out of the fantasy world of the movie. This was the last call. This was when I stood up, picked up all my belongings, and started running hastily towards the boarding gate, only to encounter a long trail of barricades making a snake trail for me to cover before reaching the boarding gate.

I had made it.

You too can experience the awesome network and blazing speeds of Airtel's 4G network . All you have to do is, if you have got a 4G phone, you live in one of these cities, and you are still on a 3G or the snail 2G network, you can reach out to Twitter, tweet with #GetAirtel4G, and a new 4G sim card will be delivered to your doorstep, free of cost. But please take care that you are not caught with a situation like I was in, and please do not use your phone, for whatever reasons, while you are on the road!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Confessions of a Foodie - Three Pepper Pasta

We Indians have been increasingly spending a lot on savouries, from other countries, be it Thai, Italian, Chinese, American, Mexican. It's almost always a delight to try out other cuisines, and for foodies, like me, who crave for good food, the hunt for something or the other to satisfy my taste buds has always been on. I have always been on the forefront to eat things, and if it is something that I cook and then eat, there’s nothing better than that. While I have been trying a lot of things in the Indian cuisine, and I’ve been doing that for a long time. I think if I say that I have been cooking (if it includes doing small things on the cooktop, like making tea), since I was say 12 or 13 years old, it won’t be an exaggeration. Much of the credit goes to my mother for encouraging me to cook, and again, ensuring that I am safe while I am in the kitchen. More or less, it’s been a good experience, though, I am not that good with turmeric powder, other than that, almost all other essential stuff like salt, sugar and chilli etc., almost always turn out to be in perfect proportion (barring a few instances).

Though, it doesn’t always turn out to be a good experience, trying to cook stuff that I don’t know much, by just following a few recipes off the internet or the food programmes, or recipes published somewhere else, so, I tend to add a pinch of my own twist to the recipe, wherever I feel necessary to do so, since many a times, I feel that things like cooking time in these recipes is a way lot less than what it actually needs. More than that, Cooking is more of experience driven than a text driven one. It is more of an art than being a work. You have to be creative and thoughtful when cooking for pleasure, or it will turn out to be a chore, which, almost no one likes.

Pasta, a dish thought to have originated in Italy, has increasingly been making way into the Indian palette, thanks to the fast growth of fast food chains and Pizza joints like Dominos, Pizzahut, Slice of Italy, etc. to name a few.  So, this was one when I decided to cook up something different at home. It had to be Pasta. I prepared the stuff, tasted it, and for whatever reasons, I liked it.

So, guys, lets catch up with the Three Pepper Pasta-My Style


Ingredients (for 4 persons)
Preparation time (1 hour)
Ofcourse, Pasta (Your choice, I chose Chifferi Rigati pasta) - 200 grams
Cheese - 100 grams (I chose to go with Processed Cheese Cubes)
Refined Flour (Maida) - one cup
Milk - 400ml
Water - to cook (boil) the pasta.
     Some veggies like Capsicums (Green, Yellow and Red) - 1 each
     French Beans - 100 grams
     Onions - 2 medium
     Garlic - 2-3 cloves
     Ginger - 1 inch piece
     Tomatoes - 2 medium
     Cabbage - 100 grams (We will need some undamaged (whole) layers for serving, and some more cabbage, finely chopped for pasta)
Salted Butter - 100 grams
Clarified butter (Ghee) - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Seasoning (Oregano, Chilli Flakes, Thai Seasoning)

First and foremost thing, the Pasta. As directed on the packet the pasta is to be boiled in water for a while, around 7-8 minutes. Once you have added the pasta in the boiling water, add half a teaspoon of salt to the boiling water. This enables the pasta to take in the salty taste while it is boiling. Doing this greatly enhances the flavour of your pasta. While your pasta is boiling, you can star chopping down the vegetables.  An important part of pasta is made up of fresh vegetables. Cut all three capsicums into square pieces. Once the capsicums are diced, move it aside and take up the onions. (TipIf you are new to the kitchen, let me warn you in advance, chopping onions will make you cry, quite literally. So, while you are at it and need to chop onions, you can use my trick. Before, you begin chopping the onions, you can peel it off, and cut it into two halves and dip the halves in water for a while, say around 5 minutes. This will make sure that the nasty onion isn't able to make you cry while it is being chopped.)

The three peppers.
All the ingredients at one place.
It's a go!
Cabbages, finely chopped.Onions, halved and dipped in water.
French Beans, cut in 1.5 inch pieces.
Finely chopped onionsTomatoes
All the veggies, ready.
So, now you know what to do with the onions. Dip it in the water, let it cry for a while in the water while you happily cut the French beans into ~1.5 inch pieces. By now, your pasta might have got boiled properly. To make sure, take out a pasta from the pan, and let it cool down for a while, and then try pressing it between your index finger and thumb. If it feels like made of rubber (i.e. bounces back and retains its shape, in case of tubular shaped pastas like macaroni, or penne, or this Chifferi Rigati), it's fine enough. Now, take a bite of your pasta, if it's cooked uniformly, you won't find any dryness inside. If there is dryness, cook for a few more minutes, else take it off the flame, and drain out the water. Congratulations, your pasta is boiled to be cooked further. The only things now remaining are tomatoes, that are to be cut into 8 pieces each, onions, which we had halved is to be finely chopped in long pieces and the piece of ginger, that is to be finely cut into long pieces, that will enhance the taste of the pasta. The garlic cloves are to be grounded well.

Now we've done most of the things, lets move on to preparing the Pasta base (or Pasta Sauce). Take a frying pan, preferably with a heavy base. Add the clarified butter, 1 tbsp. and let it heat up for a while. Once the clarified butter melts, and heats up considerably, add 1 cup refined flour, and now roast it for a while. Make sure that it doesn't turn brown, and doesn't form lumps. After a while, just as it starts turning brown, take it off the flame, and let it cool down for a while. Now your pan is empty. Add the milk, all of it, and let it boil for a while. Once the milk boils add the roasted flour and mix it well, again making sure that lumps don't form. And now add the grounded garlic cloves. Cook for around 5 minutes.  Now add grated cheese. 3 cubes will do pretty well, you can add more if you want.  Each cube is approximately 25 grams. Once you have added the cheese, cook this for a few more minutes, until the cheese melts.  If you somehow feel like the consistency of the sauce has become too thick, add some more milk, and cook it all for a while. Now add some salt. Half a teaspoon would do. Don't add it too much, just a bit less than what you usually like to have. Now add some seasoning, oregano, chilli flakes to the mixture and mix it well, an remove from the flame, into a bowl. You might want to clean up the frying pan, or kadahi you're using, as the next step will need a clean one or the stuff will stick in the pan. (TipIf even after trying too hard to make sure that no lumps form, you find lumps in your pasta sauce, you can take out the mixture, off the pan, let it cool for a while, and then make it go through a food processor or a blender, and everything will be sorted out. However this needs to be done before you have added any spices.)
Checking the PastaGrated Cheese

Roasting the flourChecking consistency of the pasta sauce

Adding the grated cheese to the pasta sauceAdding spices to the pasta sauce (oregano, Thai seasoning, chilli flakes)
In a clean frying pan or kadahi, add 50 grams of salted butter, and let it melt properly. Now start adding vegetables, begin with the finely chopped ginger, then add finely chopped onions, fry both till the onions start turning golden brown. Now start adding the remaining vegetables, French beans, fry it for a while, then add the capsicums, fry it all and finally tomatoes, and then the finely chopped cabbages. Make sure that the veggies are not cooked too much, just cook them enough so that when you have them, it doesn't feel like having raw veggies. Doing this will retain crunchiness in the capsicums and beans, and will taste good. Once all of it is added, fry for around 2 minutes, and then remove all the vegetables from the flame, on to a plate. Again put the frying pan on flame, add another 25 grams of butter (yes, salted butter), let it melt and then add the boiled pastas, and fry it all for a while (doing this for a minute or two will do). This is to provide a salty flavour to the pasta, and frying it in butter gives it a peculiar taste. Now add all the vegetables, some more grated cheese, 2 cubes will be good enough, cook all of it for a while, and then add some more salt to the pasta and vegetables. This one looks way colourful. One it's time to add the white pasta sauce we prepared a while ago. Add all the sauce to the Pasta, and the veggies, and mix all of it well for a while. Take it off the flame and your three pepper pasta is ready.

Crushed garlic clovesFrying the crushed garlic cloves and chopped ginger in melt butter.
Chopped onions added to the butter, to be fried.
Adding rest of the vegetables to be fried.
All the vegetables fried and ready to be taken off the flame.
Fried vegetables off the flame.
Frying the boiled pasta in butter for a while.
Add the fried vegetables to the pasta to be cooked.
Add the pasta sauce to the mixture after cooking the pasta and the vegetables for a while.
The Pasta is ready to be served hot.

You can serve it in traditional way, in plates sprinkled with seasoning like oregano, chilli flakes, Thai seasoning and some more grated cheese, or in a different way, using the cabbage layer as a bowl to contain the pasta, again sprinkled with seasoning, grated cheese and mint leaves. Enjoy it hot.

Plating the pasta, in a plate garnished with sliced capsicums, grated cheese, seasoning, and mint leaves.
Plating the pasta, in a plate garnished with sliced capsicums, grated cheese, seasoning, and mint leaves.
Plating the pasta, in a plate garnished with sliced capsicums, grated cheese, seasoning, and mint leaves.
Serving the pasta, in a whole layer of cabbage garnished with sliced capsicums, grated cheese, seasoning, and mint leaves.

Okay, now since you have spent around an hour and a half in the kitchen, it somewhat appears to be like been hit by a storm. Do make sure that you clean up the mess before your mum or your wife comes and finds out the mess you've created in the kitchen. Don't blame me afterwards! As for the pasta and its ingredients, you are free to experiment with veggies, and other ingredients, like if you could get your hands on olives, black and green, you can add those. Then, you can choose to add other ingredients such as exotic herbs like thyme, rosemary, basil, or other exotic veggies like Zuccini among others. Bring in your own twist, afterall cooking is all about experimenting. Do let me know how did you find the recipe, if you prepared it at home.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Fastest Network is Here!

What's the most frustrating part of browsing internet over the phone?

Yeah, I know, its the speed. It pains you even more if you are a youtube freak like me. You like watching videos on the youtube, you use the capability of your phone to stream HD videos over to your phone, but it all goes waste once you hit the speed barrier.

Let me announce, your wait is over!

The much awaited launch of the 4G internet is here. Airtel, country's largest telecom service provider has launched its largest 4G internet network in major cities throughout the country. With the pan India presence, Airtel 4G is surely going to change the way we have been browsing the internet. With download speeds of upto 100Mbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps, you are surely going to experience a thrilling rollercoaster ride on your phone.

You bought a swanky new phone, one of the flagships, that features the new generation 4G LTE technology, you take it to your college and this is when your friends ask you to stream a high voltage live match between India and Pakistan. This is when you realize that your current internet network is no match for your brand new phone's capabilities. It has got the capability but you can't stream the match in full glory thanks to the slow internet speeds.

Prepare to get live streaming of youtube videos, high definition movies and live telecast of matches, right on your phone, at blistering speeds, with Airtel 4G. What more? Airtel 4G is being offered at the prices of 3G packs! So, what are you waiting for? If you've got a 4G enabled phone, you can get Airtel 4G sim delivered at your doorstep that too for free.

All you have to do is, go over to your twitter account, and Tweet for a 4G SIM using the hashtag #GetAirtel4G and request a new 4G sim for your brand new 4G phone to take advantage of its capabilities, and just astonish your friends with what your new phone can do!