Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

Of coriander and winter



I love winter. The nip in the air, the warm jackets and feel of soft woolens, long long walks just before sunset, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, four-hour long brunches where you eat more than your stomach can hold really… there’s something about this season which makes me feel so nostalgic. Joyous that after long summers and drenched monsoons, the cold chill (in the good way of course) will make everything alright. It also helps that Christmas recipes, cards and decorations can be found everywhere.

I love food, especially in winters when jackets and over-sized, but sexy, sweaters hide the bloated stomach after long brunch sessions. And come 25th, I’ll be gorging on roasts but during the few months that Delhi succumbs to winter, my favourite meal is soup. Be it a light broth or heavy with cream, I can eat soup all day long. (I go with the traditional eat rather than drink, the intensity of the debate has gone beyond imagination really.)

Walking by the vegetable market recently, I came across a seller displaying only greens and gorgeous herbs. Of course I stopped because when fresh mint, coriander (cilantro, dhania), parsley and spinach call out your name, what other choice do you have? Anyway I bought a lot of coriander among many other things because I love the smell. The freshness it adds to dishes just takes them beyond the realm of ordinary. Sprinkle some over salads or lentils (dal), or give it a starring role, everything just tastes that much better.

So here I was with a LOT of coriander and winter engulfing me. The only sensible thing to do was to make soup! So, I made lemon-coriander soup to tickle my tastebuds with, but of course, a twist.

Lemon coriander soup (for those wonderful winter days)


(Serves 6)

Handful of coriander (stalk et al, chopped)

1 Lemon

1 small onion (chopped)

2 cloves of garlic (crushed)

1 teaspoon chilli flakes


Stock cube (You can make your stock from scratch if you have the time)

1 litre water (heated)

The process

In a pot heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add onions and garlic and saute till translucent. Add the stock (handmade or stock cube mixed with hot water). Add salt and chilli flakes and bring the liquid to a boil. Throw in 3/4 of the chopped coriander and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon. Simmer for 1 minute and take the pot of the heat. Garnish each bowl with fresh coriander, pour the lemony liquid over and serve hot. A treat for the cold winter days or nights.

PS: Feel free to add vegetables like corn, mushrooms, capsicum or herbs such as oregano, basil and thyme. I often make this soup adding dried basil flakes with corn and extra lemon to make it more zingy.

When Hyderabad beckons…

I first visited the City of the Nizams during my teenage years. My parents had decided I hadn’t travelled to southern India enough and that it was important to know the history and culture of the existing states to help understand what India truly consists of. So, there we were, travelling for a month across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and finally Andhra Pradesh. I loved biryani even then but there was something about Hyderabad which made me really like the city. Whether it was the food, the museums or rich traditions, I’m unsure, but I really enjoyed myself.

Years later I often travel to Hyderabad for work. Thanks to a hectic schedule, I don’t get time to visit or do things I love but I try to do at least one of the things I like. But, if you ever find yourself in Hyderabad, do not leave the city without trying at least one from my must-do list!

Visit Old Hyderabad for a history lesson

There’s nothing like visiting the Charminar. The symbol of the city, the structure built by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah in 1591 has people from all over the world stopping by for a visit. Yes, it’s very crowded but that makes it even more special. It has a hundred and forty nine steps that lead to the top and is beautified by many flowers and animal motifs.

The gorgeous Charminar!

The gorgeous Charminar!

But the Charminar is not the only historical spot in Old Hyderabad. If you have time, book a ticket for one of the many Heritage Walks conducted by AP Tourism to relive the glorious past. You will get to visit Kali Kaman, Mecca Masjid, Chowmahalla Palace and Jama Masjid among many lesser known sites.

Shop at Old Hyderabad

From pearls to perfumes to bangles, you need a bit of time to shop here. While you’ll find exquisite glass bangles at Laad Bazar with gracious shopkeepers making you feel special. One of them told me last time that glass bangles will never go out of fashion with women flocking to buy sets during marriages and other functions.

Pretty bangles everywhere

Pretty bangles everywhere

Then you have the Perfume street or Ittar as its commonly called. They are locally produced perfumes which are sold in various quantities in glass vials. Expertly named after a lot of tongue twisting, you often forget which one you tend to buy because you smell so many! My father gets me to buy him Musk every time I’m in the city.

How can you visit Hyderabad and not buy pearls right? A friend even went there for a day to purchase pearls for her wedding last year! Thanks to the Nizams’ patronage, pearls became symbolic. Funny but these days the pearls are imported from all over the world and drilled in Chandanpet. Prices vary according to shape, size and sheen. It’s the simply string which is most popular but I love my pearl studs. Gives you a regal feeling I tell you.

Want to buy one of these?

Want to buy one of these?

More pearls... Use your imagination to create magic

More pearls… Use your imagination to create magic

The museum/fort trail

The Salar Jung museum is probably the most famous in the state. It holds the largest one-man antique collection in the world. For scholars, its a must visit destination. Thanks to Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan or Salar Jung III, the collection includes art from India, Europe, the middle East while delicate Persian carpets and porcelain from China enthrall visitors. You will find Aurangzeb’s sword and artifacts from Jehangir and Shah Jahan’s time. Benzoni’s Veiled Rebecca will leave you breathless.

The AP State Museum is also popular. Exquisite pieces housed in a grand building, what’s not to like? From Buddhist artifacts to sculptures from the Vijayanagara period, the museum also has the mummy of Nasihu, the daughter of the sixth Egyptian pharaoh dating back to almost 2500 BC.

The Golconda Fort was one of the strongest in India. Though the fort dates back to the Yadava dynasty, it came to be during the Qutb Shahis (1518- 1687) and then it was conquered by Aurangzeb. Apparently there used to be a secret tunnel leading all the way across the city to the Charminar for the safe passage of the nobles. Oh how I wish I could go there! Take time out to visit the light and sound show in the evenings. It will be worth your time.

Eating like a royal

Biryani is food for the soul. With many versions all across India, the one found in Hyderabad is served with Raita and Salan. The fragrant rice combined with succulent pieces of meat melt in your mouth. While Paradise is the most popular joint, locals prefer Hyderabad House or Bawarchi. A friend says, “The tourists are enamored by Paradise but ask any local, they would prefer a less known eating joint any day.” Well I leave the local biryani battle to the experts.

Deliciousness at Paradise

Deliciousness at Paradise

You can’t leave the city without picking up biscuits from Karachi Bakery. They have a stall in the airport so indulge in the tasty fruit biscuits on the plane too!

For the water babies

Hussainsagar Lake connects the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. An 18m tall white granite Buddha statue stands in the middle which can be seen from miles away. Go for a walk around Tank Bund (the common name) and watch the sunset. You’ll find peace.


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