Still deciding your Christmas menu? We got your back!

With the year drawing closer to an end, we find ourselves rushing to get on top of things. Only now do you finally get to spend some quality time with your family and what better occasion can there be to impress them with your lockdown cooking skills! If you’ve had the time to plan for an amazing dinner spread this Christmas, great! But for the rest of you who have been struggling with work until the last minute, or those confused about the menu, we want to help! We’ve got a menu for everyone, from Traditional (Mashed Potatoes, Roast Turkey and Plum Cake), Vegan (Grilled Mushroom Skewers, Vegan Lasagna and Chocolate Brownies) to Contemporary (Potato Au Gratin Stacks, , Smoked Salmon Pasta and Chocolate Mousse)! Without wasting any more time, here are a bunch of no-nonsense recipes so you can keep your loved ones happy.

#1 Traditional

Mashed Potato

Ingredients ● Roughly 2 kg potatoes, peeled and quartered ● 1 cup heavy cream ● 1⁄2 cup butter ● Salt and pepper to taste Method Place potatoes in a large pot with enough water and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, and cook for 20 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain, add butter and mash using a potato ricer. Gradually beat in heavy cream and add salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.

Roast Turkey

Ingredients ● 1 turkey, about 5kg ● Sea salt and black pepper ● 2 onions, peeled and halved ● 1 lemon, halved ● 1 head of garlic, halved ● 6 bay leaves ● 8 strips of smoked bacon ● For the infused butter ○ 375 grams butter, at room temperature ○ 2 tablespoon olive oil ○ Finely grated zest and juice of 2 small lemons ○ 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed ○ Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped Method Preheat the oven to 220°C. Prepare the herb butter by putting the butter into a large bowl and seasoning with salt and pepper. Add olive oil and mix well. Add lemon zest and juice, crushed garlic, and chopped parsley. Mix well to combine. Season the turkey cavity well with salt and pepper, then stuff with onions, lemon, garlic halves, and 2 bay leaves. Loosen the skin on the breast and the legs. Stuff half the butter mix into the opened spaces under the skin. From the outside of the skin, gently massage the butter around so that the meat is evenly covered. Finally, insert the rest of the bay leaves under the skin of the breasts. Place the bird in a large roasting tray, breast side up. Spread the rest of the butter all over the skin. Season well with salt and pepper, then drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast the turkey in the oven for 10–15 minutes. Take the tray out of the oven, baste the bird with the pan juices, and lay the bacon strips over the breast to keep it moist. Baste again. Lower the setting to 180°C and cook for about 21⁄2 hours (30 minutes per kg), basting occasionally. To test whether your turkey is cooked, insert a skewer into the thickest part of the leg and check that the juices are running clear, rather than pink. As oven temperatures and turkey shapes and sizes vary, it is crucial to check your turkey about 30 minutes before the calculated roasting time. If the juices are pink, roast for another 15 minutes and check again. Repeat as necessary until the turkey is cooked. Transfer the turkey to a warmed platter and leave it to rest in a warm place for 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaves from under the skin before carving.

Plum Cake

Ingredients ● For the soaked fruit mixture ○ 200 grams dark raisins ○ 200 grams golden raisins ○ 320 grams mixed unsweetened dried fruit, chopped ○ 160 grams dried unsweetened black figs, chopped ○ 160 grams dried unsweetened tart cherries, chopped ○ 120 grams dried unsweetened prunes, chopped ○ 180 ml dark rum ● For the fruit cake ○ 180 grams all-purpose flour ○ 1/2 teaspoon baking powder ○ 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon ○ 1 teaspoon ground ginger ○ 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg ○ 1 teaspoon kosher salt ○ 120 grams unsalted butter, softened ○ 160 grams packed light brown sugar ○ 5 large eggs, room temperature ○ 1 tablespoon grated lemon and orange zest ○ 120 ml freshly squeezed orange juice ○ 1 apple, peeled, and coarsely grated ○ 90 grams chopped walnuts ○ 3 tablespoons finely diced crystallized ginger ○ One batch soaked fruit mixture ○ Optional add-in: 100 grams chopped dark chocolate chips Method The day before baking, combine the dried fruit in a large mixing bowl. Add the dark rum, cover, and allow the mixture to soak at room temperature for a minimum of 12 hours, or ideally 24 hours before preparing the fruit cake batter. To prepare the fruitcake, preheat the oven to 150C with a rack in the center position. Set aside two 8×4 inch Loaf Pans. Lightly grease and line with parchment paper. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the softened butter and light brown sugar together over medium-high speed for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating until each egg is incorporated. The mixture will look slightly broken, that’s ok. Over low speed, slowly add the flour mixture until it is absorbed. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Add the lemon zest, orange zest, fresh orange juice, grated apple, chopped walnuts, diced candied ginger, soaked dried fruit mixture, and chocolate. Stir the mixture with a large spatula until all of the ingredients are incorporated evenly. Transfer and divide the batter evenly among the loaf pans. Use an offset spatula to smooth the batter into an even layer. Set the loaf pans on the center rack, several inches apart from one another. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway, or until the cakes have set. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely before removing from the pans. Storing and Aging: Once the cake has cooled, carefully remove the cakes from the loaf pans and set them upright. Soak two large pieces of cheesecloth in medium sherry (the cloth should be slightly damp, not wet). Wrap each cake tightly. Cover loafs with wax paper and foil before transferring to a Ziploc bag. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 to 8 weeks. Unwrap and re-soak the cheesecloth once a week.

#2 Vegan

Grilled Mushroom Skewers

Ingredients ● Roughly 1 kg of mushrooms, sliced lengthwise ● 2 tablespoons olive oil ● 1 tablespoon soy sauce ● 3 cloves of garlic, chopped ● 1/2 teaspoon thyme, chopped ● 1 tablespoon parsley, freshly chopped ● 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes ● Salt and pepper, to taste Method Marinate the sliced mushrooms in the mixture of the remaining ingredients for 30 minutes. In the meantime, soak wooden skewers in water to prevent burning. Skewer the mushrooms, grill until just tender and slightly charred, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the grilled mushroom skewers to a serving platter and sprinkle some chopped parsley. It is now ready to serve.

Lasagna

Ingredients ● For cashew cream ○ 2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours ○ 1 cup of water ○ 2 tablespoons lemon juice ○ 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar ○ 3⁄4 teaspoon salt ○ 1⁄2 teaspoon Dijon mustard ● For vegetables ○ 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil ○ 1 medium-to-large yellow onion, chopped ○ 2 large or 3 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 cup) ○ 200 grams mushrooms, cleaned and chopped ○ Salt and pepper, to taste ○ 150 grams baby spinach, roughly chopped ○ 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced ● Rest ○ 2 1⁄2 cups marinara sauce ○ 9 no-boil lasagna sheets ○ For garnishing, parmesan and fresh basil Method Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In the meantime, drain and rinse your cashews until the water runs clear. In a blender, combine the cashews, water, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and mustard. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. If you’re having trouble blending the mixture, slowly blend in up to 1⁄2 cup additional water, using only as much as necessary. Set aside. To prepare the vegetables, in a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once shimmering, add the onion, carrots, mushrooms, salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring every couple of minutes until most of the moisture is gone and the vegetables are tender and turning golden on the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add another splash of olive oil if necessary to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add a few handfuls of spinach to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently until the spinach has wilted. Repeat with remaining spinach and cook until all of the spinach has wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread 3⁄4 cup tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of a 9×9 inch baking pan. Layer 3 lasagna sheets on top (snap off their ends to fit, and/or overlap their edges as necessary). Spread 1 cup of the cashew cream evenly over the sheets. Top with half of the veggies. Top with 3⁄4 cup tomato sauce. Top with 3 more sheets, followed by another cup of cashew cream (save the leftover cream). Then add the remaining veggies. Then, top with 3 more sheets, spread 3⁄4 cup tomato sauce over the top to evenly cover the sheets. Wrap a sheet of aluminum foil around the top of the lasagna, making sure it doesn’t touch. Bake, covered, for 25 minutes, then remove the cover, rotate the pan by 180°, and continue cooking for about 5 to 10 more minutes, until it’s steaming and lightly bubbling at the corners. Remove the pan from the oven and let the lasagna cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Drizzle leftover cashew cream on top (if it’s too thick to drizzle, thin it out with a small amount of water first). Sprinkle vegan Parmesan and fresh basil on top, then slice and serve.

Chocolate Brownie

Ingredients ● 1 cup plain flour ● 1/4 cup cocoa powder ● 1 cup powdered sugar ● 1/3 cup vegetable oil ● 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ● 1/2 cup vegan or normal dark chocolate, melted ● 1 cup almond milk ● 1/2 cup chocolate chips, optional Method Preheat the oven to 180 C. Then line an 8-inch square baking tin with baking or parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, cocoa powder, and sugar and gently whisk to mix. Next, add oil, vanilla, melted chocolate, and almond milk. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth and combined. Add chocolate chips and mix gently. Transfer brownie batter to the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Try not to over bake the brownies. For a crusty exterior, let the brownie set in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.

#3 Modern

Potato Au Gratin Stacks

Ingredients ● Oil spray ● 1 kg potatoes, large long ones ● 2 tablespoon butter ● 2 garlic cloves, minced ● 1/2 cup heavy cream ● 1 teaspoon dried thyme ● 1/2 teaspoon salt ● Black pepper, to taste ● 1 cup grated melting cheese (cheddar, mozzarella) ● Fresh thyme leaves for garnish, optional Method Preheat the oven to 180C and in the meantime, spray a standard 12 hole muffin tin with oil. Peel the potatoes, stand them upright, and cut them into cylinder shapes. Then slice potatoes into thin slices around 2mm thick. Place butter, garlic, cream, salt, pepper, and dried thyme in a microwave-proof bowl, then melt in 30-second bursts. Stir and set aside. Place the potato slices into the muffin tin so they go halfway up the muffin holes. Try to match by size to make them into neat stacks. Drizzle each potato stack with 1/2 teaspoon of the cream mixture you made earlier. Sprinkle half the cheese over these potato stacks and then top the muffin tin with the remaining potato slices. Drizzle with the remaining cream mixture and thyme. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and bake without foil for 10 minutes or until golden and the potato is soft. Let stand for 5 minutes before removing. Use a tablespoon or butter knife to help scope them out.

Smoked Salmon Pasta

Ingredients ● 350 grams tagliatelle, or any pasta of your choice ● 1 tablespoon olive oil ● 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced ● 5 tablespoon crème fraîche ● 1 lemon, zested and juiced ● 2 tablespoon grated parmesan ● 200 grams smoked salmon, torn into strips ● 30 grams fresh chives or dill, finely chopped ● 70 grams bag rocket, to serve Method Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than pack instructions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes until softened but not colored. Stir in the crème fraîche, lemon juice, parmesan, and 2 ladles of pasta cooking water. Allow to bubble gently for 1 min. Drain the tagliatelle and mix it into the sauce in the frying pan. Cook for a further 2 minutes or until reduced to a creamy sauce that coats the pasta. Stir in the smoked salmon and chives, season with black pepper, then divide between 4 bowls. Garnish with the lemon zest and top with a handful of rocket. For an extra-creamy sauce, add 2-3 tablespoon mascarpone along with the créme fraîche.

Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients ● 3 eggs ● 125 grams dark chocolate, 70% cocoa ● 10 grams unsalted butter ● 1/2 cup cream, full fat ● 3 tablespoon powdered sugar ● For toppings: ○ Whipped cream ○ Chocolate shavings Method Separate eggs and yolks while the eggs are cold. Place whites in a large bowl and yolks in a small bowl. Leave whites while you prepare other ingredients. Whisk the collected yolks. Place chocolate and butter in a bowl and melt in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring in between, until smooth. Set aside to cool. Beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Add sugar and beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Fold egg yolks into the cream using a rubber spatula (8 folds max). Streaks are ok. Touch the chocolate and check its temperature. Should still be runny but lukewarm. If too thick, microwave 2-3 seconds until runny. Pour chocolate into cream yolk mixture. Fold through (8 folds max) Add 1/4 of beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold through until incorporated, smear the spatula across the surface to blend white lumps in (aim for 10 folds). Pour chocolate mixture into egg whites. Fold through until incorporated and no more white lumps remain – aim for 12 folds max. Divide mixture between 4 small glasses or pots. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight. To serve, garnish with cream and chocolate shavings. And with this crash course on gourmet cooking, we’ll be out of your hair until next year. Happy holidays and we hope to see you soon!

The Holy Grail of Christmas Gifting

How often have you found yourself making frowny faces amidst carefully shredded wrapping paper during Christmas? Don’t feel guilty, we have all been there. You cannot control what people get you. But to save your loved ones from the same fate, there i s one solution. Gift better. We have compiled the Holy Grail of Pro Tips for Christmas Gifting into a single article, and here’s what we found:

On Sleuthing For Ideas:

● Take to social media! Check what they are liking on Facebook, posting about on Instagram, or hinting at in their Amazon wish list. ● If you truly wish to hit home with your present, pay attention to what they complain about. And if you find something that proves as the perfect solution, go for it. ● Offer something that helps with their hobbies if you find out what they do in their free time. Something like online pottery lessons or a subscription to Masterclass should do the trick. ● Even after leaving no stone unturned, you still can’t think of the perfect Christmas present, ask someone close to them or directly ask them yourself.

On Finding The Special Something:

● We all have that one quirk we’re famous for. Maybe you are the tech geek of your squad, or the sophisticated wine aunt of your lot. Pick something from your niche that you know they would appreciate, like the latest SmartWatch. ● If you wish to give something memorable that will last forever, instead of diamonds, arrange for an experience . A scuba diving lesson or a unique dining experience, or even a stay at our Boutique Hotels in Poes Garden! ● If you know them well enough, a very kind, Christmas-y thing to do can be donating in their name to a cause that you know they are very passionate about. ● Lastly, the most intimate gift you can give someone you love is your time. Offer to pitch in your time to help out or cook dinner for two. They will appreciate this more than anything else you can give them. ● You can also try shopping based on shared interests. This way, you have a better idea of what they might need, and what would be held in high regard. ● Gift cards do not have to be necessarily unthoughtful. Instead of just handing over the card, personalize it with a handwritten letter and gift wrap it in pretty packaging along with something cute! ● If you wish to go that extra mile, it makes good sense to include a greeting card along with the gift to add a personal touch. Hunting for gifts is always fun. All in all, we hope this keeps you busy and excited in the coming weeks leading up to Christmas. For those of you who have family in Chennai, we really hope you’re making plans to stay with us for the holidays, and until then, happy shopping!

12 Tips To Make Sure You Never Hate Mornings

Experts believe the real secret to great mornings starts with planning your day the night before. The easiest way you can do that is by completing mundane chores the previous night that otherwise would force you to start the day in a rush. Read on to find other hacks to rewire your brain to love Monday mornings.

The Night Before

● Clean your workspace right after you finish work. Polestar, a Swedish automotive brand known for minimalism sets a brilliant example on maintaining office spaces – their employees are asked to clean their workspace whenever they leave the desk, even if for a short while. ● Plan for the next day. Arrange the clothes you will be wearing, plan out your breakfast. Make a To-Do List for the next day. This way, you will have defined goals to work towards throughout your day. ● When you set the alarm for waking up, choose a time earlier than you need. Doing this will give you enough time to hit the snooze button a few times before finally waking up. ● This one might seem counter-intuitive but set an alarm to go to bed too. Doing this will ensure that you clock in enough hours so that you inevitably wake up feeling refreshed. ● Setting a pleasant alarm tone as opposed to blaring ones that induce anxiety also helps. They both wake you up just as effectively but having a disruptive tune does more harm than good. ● Avoid checking your phone as soon as you wake up. The blue light from digital displays disrupts your waking cycle. Before going to sleep, leave your phone in a place you can’t reach from your bed.

The Morning After

● Find time to make your bed. This seemingly simple task will give you a sense of accomplishment with which to kickstart your day. ● A warm glass of water first thing in the morning jump-starts your body’s systems like nothing else. Adding a squeeze of lemon juice to the water not only cleanses your stomach of toxic residue but also acts as an immunity booster. ● Stretching your body helps your muscles wake up from the grogginess. It will also wire your brain into realizing the day has started. Opt to go for a jog or add in a morning workout session if time permits. ● Having a clear mind helps you to deal with the day better than usual. Meditating for at least 10 minutes will prove beneficial when done repeatedly or as part of your morning workout ritual. ● Instead of checking emails or the notifications on your phone, start the day with an interesting podcast or audiobook. Motivational stories are a great way to get you in a productive mood. ● Finally, have a breakfast fit for kings. Everybody knows it’s the most important meal of the day, but for most, it is also the least prioritized meal. This guide is by no means exhaustive, but it is a great place to get started. Figure out what works for you and incorporate those into your daily routine. The rest will fall into place.

Staying Productive During COVID: 17 Tips That Actually Help

Who would have thought that we would miss going to the office? Yet, here we are – closing in on the year and learning new habits. Granted, we have seen better days. But all of us have come to terms with the new world we live in. As things slowly start getting back to normal, we have been trying to find workarounds for our daily habits and rituals. Everything seems to be ​almost​ back to normal, but if things get too overwhelming, we urge you to take a break. And for other days, here are a few things to help you deal with weekdays better and hopefully keep you less stressed.

On Accountability

● Sleep and wake up on time. Besides setting an alarm to wake up, set another to go to bed. Being well-rested is just as important as starting work early. ● Establish morning rituals. They will help you set the mood to work. Creating work-triggers like a warm cup of coffee or a quick workout session helps the day get started. ● Create and honor schedules. There is no one to hold you accountable so the responsibility falls to yourself. Maintain handwritten To-Do lists – Striking off tasks makes you want to get more done! ● Maintain work hours. We have a tendency to forget the time and work well into the evening when we are at home. Try to work when you are the most productive. We all have ebbs and flows of efficiency, find yours. ● Use the technology you have at your disposal. Opting for video calls whenever possible helps a lot with collaboration. ● Follow an eating schedule. Chances are you have been working till your stomach reminds you that it is lunchtime. If you are done with your meal early, it is completely okay to kick back for a bit before getting to work.

On Wellbeing

● The biggest threat you face is sitting in front of a screen all day. Counteract mundanity with a change of pace. As often as possible, take a brief walk on your terrace, or use the scenic route back from your grocery store. ● Take advantage of your perks. Most companies offer incentives for people working from home. Do not feel uncomfortable to request them, they are meant for you. ● Guard your time. Some people forget that even though you are at home you are still working. If they make plans with you, it is okay to say no to them. Help them understand that you are indeed busy. ● At any point, if you feel you are not coping well with the situation, give online therapy a shot. You can find a lot of therapists who can help you make sense of what you are going through. ● Control your exposure to news. Staying updated on the latest happenings might have a negative outcome. Restrict your TV time and block distracting apps and websites on your devices (using ​https://freedom.to/​) ● Create a change of scenery. Resist brooding atmospheres by growing plants in your house or around your workspace.

On Workspaces

● First, set up a dedicated workspace. This single act does wonders for your productivity. If you want some Pinterest-y inspiration, look up ‘zen workspace’ and ‘minimalist wfh setup’. ● Do not overlook privacy. Use a VPN to access your work and emails, and get a separate work number for your colleagues to contact you. ● Isolate yourself from external stimuli. Invest in a good pair of headphones like the Bose QC 35 or Audio Technica M50x. Club this with your favorite Spotify playlist or head over to ​https://asoftmurmur.com/​ for calming ambient sounds. ● Do not give yourself reasons to get out of your chair. Have all the stationery you would need handy, and prep some snacks along with a bottle of water on your desk. ● Always remember, ‘Clutter isn’t better.’ Clean your workspace either before your day starts or after your day ends. But be sure to keep it clean every day! This concludes our To-Do list of sanity. We hope our tips help you through the month, if not longer. And if you decide it is time for a workcation or weekend getaway, you can visit our Boutique Hotels at Poes Garden or Wallace Garden anytime! Feel free to DM us @hanureddyresidences and tell us about your productivity experiments or to let us know if this helped you!

Love in the time of Corona

We, as a community, are finding it difficult to adapt to the current situation, and social gatherings are still a big no-no. However, the pandemic doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. While most of us seem to have come to terms with it, weddings, on the other hand, are oftentimes a necessity. Fortunately so – we need something to brighten our lives with, and what more deems life worthy than finding happily ever after? There could be a million reasons as to why a wedding might be unavoidable, spouses traveling abroad, people missing the auspicious date and time, being the most common ones. But even so, a pandemic wedding is a great idea mainly because you are in control. A wedding during the pandemic can help you in so many ways. You can have a limited guest list, and nobody will raise their eyebrows. People are more understanding nowadays.

On organizing weddings

As millennials, you can finally have your simple sweet wedding with only your closest family. A great benefit of that is a reduced carbon footprint with lesser people opting to travel from all over the world and lesser wastage. We have done some research, and this is a great place to get started on making decisions regarding your big day: ● Actively look for an outdoor venue. The more space, the safer it is for everyone around you. ● Communicate your expectations clearly with your guests. Inform ahead about masks, travel and stay arrangements, and other necessities. ● Send out an RSVP to all your guests and get the exact number of attendees so that you are not overwhelmed on the big day. ● Provide an adequate amount of masks and sanitizers for every guest – and at all common areas, especially the dining area. ● Ensure the safety measures taken by the vendors – such as masks and gloves on the caterers, etc. ● Check the local government’s rules on weddings/events in your area. ● Be mindful of the venue and how many people it can host comfortably. ● Lastly, thank your guests for attending your wedding. Regardless of the endless security measures you took, it is a big deal that they are willing to attend and share memories.

On attending weddings

In case you are attending a wedding, as opposed to organizing one. We do have some helpful tips for you too. A lot of people are taking pandemic precautions seriously, but there is still a small percentage who have not wrapped their heads around the current situation. In such cases, the responsibility to be safe falls on you. Here are a few things that you can do to keep yourself as safe as possible, ● Ask your hosts a lot of questions before you leave – specifics about how they have arranged for your safety. ● Make safe travel arrangements. For more information, take a look at this post about travel from last month. ● If social distancing is not maintained, consciously keep a safe distance from everyone else at the event. ● If you have the option, prefer to use disposable cutlery always. Additionally, carry your own water bottles. ● Regardless of how safe you play it, have a backup plan just in case. Look up hospitals and possible self-quarantine options. If you are looking for a quaint, lush green venue with the essence of old-world Madras, our venues at Hanu Reddy Residences offer you a unique option of using a combination of our Banquet Hall, Terrace Gardens, and Courtyard to conduct your wedding within our premises. For a more picturesque outdoor setting, you could also take a look at SPP Gardens. The elegantly landscaped outdoor wedding locations are perfect for your Instagram! We would like to stress that all the things we spoke about go for weddings with a limited number of guests. The days of grand gala weddings are indeed over for now. If your heart rests on a Bollywood wedding, our solution is to have a simple wedding now and conduct the reception on a later date. After all is said and done. If there is no way around it, and you do have to get married during COVID-19, we understand. And we are here to help you every step of the way.

The Season of Melodies – Carnatic 101

The traditional South Indian musical artform is known for having a melody for every mood, time, and season. And the opportunity to become a discerning patron is once again upon us with Margazhi season just around the corner.

For example, Bilahari, a morning raga exudes refreshing happiness, while the raga Amruthavarshini is said to bring showers. Each raga is potent, weaving magic through a specific sequence of notes. Each engenders an experience that is intimate with nature, and the divine.

In a typical performance, a solo vocalist brings to life mythical tales of bhakthi, love, and salvation, supported by the graceful tunes of a veena or a violin, and set to resounding tala (complex beat cycles) emanating from hand drums such as mridanagam or ghatam. The singer, eyes drawn close in surrender, explores the emotive force of the raga to its fullest. With the Kalpana sangeetham every rendering arises from the imagination, allowing room for soulful improvisations.

A rendezvous with the grand ragas

Over the ages, many composers have crafted masterpieces, but a few have become the quintessential rendition of the raga in which they are composed.

Raga Sankarabharanam is considered the adornment of Lord Shiva himself; Kalyani, the queen of ragas ushers in auspiciousness, and is the melody often played in weddings; the deep and sombre raga Thodi inspires humility that leads to wisdom; Kamboji has given birth to devotional masterpieces such as ‘O Rangasayee’ – the song is an earnest appeal to the Brahman beseeching grace and union with godhead; ever rich Bhairavi is likened to a prayer booming forth to the supreme consciousness. These constitute the 5 grand ragas of Carnatic tradition, and have given birth to the most number of compositions.

In one of the lighter and playful songs composed in Chenchurutti, in a song addressed to Lord Krishna, mother Yashoda tries to coax him out of going out in the open to herd cows. The rest of the song is an endearing repartee between the mother-son duo. Does it come as a surprise that the son has the final word? Listen to this infectious, and heartening song vocalized by famed singer Aruna Sairam.

For a taste of the popular ragas all packed in one song, look to mainstream cinema where the song Oru Naal Podhuma, masterfully rendered by late singer Balamuralikrishna makes an appearance in the 1965 Tamil epic, Thiruvilayadal. Appreciate the genius as the song effortlessly meanders from Thodi to Darbar, Mohini, and Kaanada.

A one of a kind music festival

But, come Margazhi, it rains all kinds of melodies all over Chennai.

Every year, between Dec 15 and Jan 15, the city hosts around 1,500 to 2,000 carnatic music concerts with an assortment of panel discussions, themed performances, harikathas, and jugalbandis, all accompanied by delightful food from the sabha canteens. This sparkling event is a one of a kind celebration of classical music in all of Asia dating back to 1927.

If you are a music lover fortunate enough to be in Chennai this December, here is a roundup of all the happening places of the city. The top sabhas are located around the cultural centres of Mylapore, T Nagar, and Alwarpet.

The Music Academy: Chennai’s Margazhi kuctheri season took roots in the Music Academy. One of the biggest sabhas in the city, it is a reputed cultural landmark which has A-listers vying for a spot to perform. It needs no mention that the institution draws huge crowds every year. This year, stalwarts like Kunnakkudy M Balakrishna, Sudha Ragunathan, Dr S Sowmya, Ranjani and Gayathri, Aruna Sairam, Neyveli R Santhanagopalan, Bombay Jayashri Ramnath, and other artists of renown are set to captivate the audience with their enthralling musical renderings.

Naradha Gana Sabha: Located in TTK road, the sabha features both upcoming and established singers. This year, there are kutcheris by Unnikrishnan, Dr. K J Yesudas, Sid Sriram, Nithyashree Mahadevan, Shobana, and other lead singers.
Brahma Gana Sabha, and Kalakshetra foundation are other prominent institutions which curate interesting art, theatre, music, and dance performances.

Chennai truly comes alive every Margazhi. And, there is no better place to catch it live, and experience the divine music as it unfurls into the human realm.

Kozhukattai Recipe

Kozhukattai is a South Indian dumpling made from rice flour, coconut and Indian spices. Though normally made sweet, it can also be prepared for savoury palates. While the dish is prepared during the Indian festival of Vinayaka Chaturthi (celebrating the birth of Lord Vinayaka), it is also a favourite during Janmashtami which marks the birth of Lord Krishna.

Ingredients

For the rice dough

● 1 cup powdered raw rice flour
● 2 cups of water
● A pinch of salt
● One spoon of oil

For the sweet stuffing

● 1½ cups of coconut
● ½ cup of jaggery
● ½ teaspoon cardamom powder

How to Make

The stuffing:

1. Add 1 portion of jaggery for every 3 portions of coconut.
2. Mix the coconut and grated jaggery in medium flame.
3. Continue to stir the mixture. You will see the jaggery begin to melt.
4. Cook the mixture until the moisture from the jaggery dries up.
5. Add crushed cardamom and set the mixture aside.

The rice dough:

1. Add 2 cups of water to a cup of raw rice flour in a bowl.
2. Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the mix.
3. Stir the mixture on a medium flame for up to 15- 20 mins, until it forms a soft dough.
4. Close the pan with a lid after removing from the stove, and let it sit for about 5 mins.
5. Knead the dough to make soft and smooth balls without any cracks. Rub your palm with water to get them smooth and round.

Putting it All Together

1. Flatten the dough balls and fold inwards with your fingers to form a cup. Start from the circumference and keep the center thick.
2. Fill the flattened dough with the coconut and jaggery stuffing.
3. Bring the sides together to form a tomb in the center, and close the dough around the stuffing.

Set the dumplings in a pan greased with ghee or oil. Steam the dumplings for about 10 mins, and serve warm.

The Birth of a Star

Krishna is the most endearing of Gods. His life, as told in the songs, ballads, and epics of India, speaks of the life-affirming thought that defines Indian spirituality. Is there any other God that embodies the joys of life as gracefully, playfully, and as captivatingly, as Krishna? It must come as no surprise then, that he continues to command the love and imagination of so many people.
Janmashtami, Krishna’s day of birth, is the first of many stories that define his time amongst the mortals. The torrential rains that herald his coming into this world, are reflective of the turmoil the people live with, and the ensuing calm, a reflection of the new dawn soon to follow. Through the course of his childhood, he vanquishes many a demon, ultimately slaying the demon king, Kamsa.
Of Krishna, there are as many stories as there are stars in the sky. What makes them so enchanting and captivating is that we learn the simple lessons of life in these stories. His playful nature tells us to not take life too seriously, even if there are much larger things at play.

To celebrate Krishna is to celebrate love.

From the divine love of his consort Radha, to the spiritual longing of Mirabai (the Rajput queen who renounced royal life for the Lord), Krishna has won many hearts, both within and without his leela (act or play). Mirabai’s poems are a testament to Krishna’s emphasis on bhakti (devotion) as a way to salvation.

Come to my Pavillion

  • Come to my pavilion, O my King. I have spread a bed made of delicately selected buds and blossoms, And have arrayed myself in bridal garb From head to toe. I have been Thy slave during many births, Thou art the be-all of my existence. Mira’s Lord is Hari, the Indestructible. Come, grant me Thy sight at once.

    Mirabai

Utterly, Butterly, Simple.

It is no secret that butter was Krishna’s mainstay in Gokul. That is why, on Janmashtami, the special offerings (prasadam) include a sumptuous serving of butter with flattened rice and jaggery.
And as we savour the concoction, we reminisce about the story of butter tax which was levied by Krishna. Krishna made sure to collect his dues from the Gopis (cow herds) of the quaint village by any means necessary – persuasion or coercion. Yet he remained dearly loved by all. If that isn’t evidence of how good intentions outweigh actions, what is?
Today, in parts of India, particularly in Gujarat and Maharashtra, the Dahi Handi (Pot of Curd) is yet another imitation of Krishna’s never-ending antics to have butter. Just as Krishna relied on the support and strength of his brother and friends, during the game of Dahi Handi, boys and men find new brethren among strangers, as they give each other a hand or leg up in pursuit of a common goal.
From the confines of high art, to calendar portraits, and Gokul Sandal tins, Krishna truly permeated modern life in all its nooks in the subcontinent. His stories are so popular that the one about butter tax is captured in a beautiful painting titled “Daan- Lila” in the Harvard Art Museum.
This Janmashtami, we urge you to revel in the simplicity of the Lord’s ways and persevere on this journey that is life, as you celebrate both the little things, and the big things.

Celebrating Holi the Eco-friendly way

Holi is perhaps the only festival in India to have a tagline of its own. Bura na maano, Holi hai! (Don’t be offended. It’s Holi!) captures the essence of this festival. Celebrating the triumph of good over evil, the origins stem from Hindu mythology – the slaying of the demon Hiranyakashipu, and his sister Holikai. Also considered to be the day Lord Kama released five arrows, there is every reason to get in on the festivities – whether you’re taken by the colors, the season, or good old-fashioned love.

This culturally loaded festival is naturally accompanied by a practice that has been around for years. And with the passage of time, the way Holi is celebrated has changed in more ways than one.

Today, Holi comes with its fair share of environmental endangerment. There are rising concerns about pollution – smoke and toxic substances released by fireworks, noise created by large gatherings, and the usage of megaphones, water pollution, so on and so forth.

Other concerns include the skin problems caused by commercially manufactured colours, and how children, stray animals and even pets are exposed to these synthetic materials leading to short and long term damage.

So, let’s resolve to make Holi this year an environment-friendly festival. With climate change in tow, it is imperative that we do so, in what little ways we can.

One of the simplest practices to begin with, is making the gulaal (Holi Colours) at home. Grinding dried hibiscus flowers for red, crushing fresh mint for green, mixing turmeric powder and gram flour for yellow, or simply adding food colour to rice flour are alternatives that are not just good for the environment, but are also a lot of fun to make.

Another way to celebrate a sustainable Holi is to play it dry this year. The thrill of dousing friends with buckets of water, or throwing water balloons at them, may seem irresistible. But, the growing water crisis calls for us to be more reflective and responsible. Spare the pichkaris and play Holi with dry colours.

Holi bonfires from burnt wood are also a major source of environmental degradation as they reduce the much needed green cover provided by trees. Burning organic substances like cow dung or other waste materials instead of wood, prevents trees from being cut down.

At the end of the day, Holi is all about community. So, pledge as a collective to use organic, dry colours and build a grand communal bonfire, rather than one too many around your neighborhood. More the merrier.
May this year’s Holi be a celebration of a life, for one and all.