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On morning routines, winter cooking and hello Kolkata
Is there a downside to morning rituals?
Morning rituals are one thing every productivity guru advocates, to set the tone for the day. It is believed that having a consistent routine at the start of the day leads to greater focus and motivation in everything we do in the day.
I don’t know if it is because I’ve clicked on a few of these vlogs, or if it is just the sort of thing the Youtube algo seems to love that I get a lot of morning ritual videos in my recommendations. There’s a standard template to these videos - perfectly clean, aesthetic rooms, still dark outside the windows, soothing background music, petting the pets (no vlogs without pets), drinking warm water, meditating, journaling, a walk/run or yoga session, coffee time (it’s always from the beans, nothing else will do) and then drawing the curtains to let in the sunlight.
I wonder if all this is just to make a beautiful film or if people manage to do all this every single day. It is possible that you get that kind of uninterrupted time if you live alone with no other responsibilities for anyone else, but for someone with a family to manage, I doubt it is very practical.
Watching these videos makes you feel warm and cosy for sure, but they also make you feel a tad inadequate for having such a hasty morning where you are just rushing to get things done – a few deep breaths, squeeze in a walk, a few moments with your kids before they are off to school and then get on with the day. Even these would be a luxury for working moms.
If you list down too many things to do as a part of your morning routine, you could be starting your day on a stressful note. You might feel that the morning ritual takes up too much time from the premium morning hours. Even if you have some routines that you absolutely want to stick to, not being able to follow it on some days for whatever reasons, should not stress you out or frustrate you. Move on with your day the best you can and try not obsess over it.
It is important to find the right routine that works for you and your lifestyle. Everyone's needs and schedules are different, so it's important to find activities that suit your life.
It is more likely that you can stick to a routine if it’s simple. In all probability, you already have a routine. See what you can add to tag along to your existing routine. Just one small thing. Let that settle in and then think of what next you want to add instead of adding a whole new list to your mornings all of a sudden.
I have just 3 things for my mornings and even if I can do 5-10 minutes of each, I’m going to be happy with myself. Meditate or practise some deep breathing, get out in the sun and read a few pages of a book. That’s it!
Do let me know what’s on your list and what’s the one morning routine you swear by.
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A no-recipe recipe for saag - winter greens
Sarson ka saag which is one of my winter favourites, dare I say, even more than gaajar ka halwa. If it is also your favourite, then I have just the thing for you minus the complex time consuming process.
The one thing you do need for this is LOTS of peeled garlic, so if you can get ready peeled cloves of garlic, then do so. Because it is the only flavouring used in this recipe, you cannot afford to skimp on it.
Also traditionally, the saag is cooked in a pot that could well take an hour of cooking and mashing to get a smooth puree. I use the pressure cooker for this weeknight recipe and it takes just 10 minutes to cook. Adding a pinch of baking soda breaks down the fibres well and retains the green colour. If you are someone who freaks out over the use of baking soda, avoid it and increase the pressure cooking time by 3-4 minutes.
Here’s how I make it. Take 500 grams each of spinach and mustard greens. Use only the leaves and the tender stems. Wash well and place in a large pressure cooker with minimum required water. I use less than ½ cup. After one whistle (full pressure) reduce the flame and cook for 5-7 minutes.
After 5-10 minutes release the pressure and let the cooked greens cool for a bit. Transfer to a blender and blend to get a smooth puree and return to the cooker or a pan. Taste and add salt accordingly as the greens as inherently a bit salty.
In a pan, take 2-4 tbsp of butter (salted Amul is fine). Add the generous quantity of finely chopped garlic and fry on a low flame for 5-6 minutes. Towards the end, you may add finely chopped green chillies, as per your liking. Transfer this over the pureed greens and bring it to a simmer. Serve hot with rotis.
Some additions to the saag could be a handful of boiled peas or small diced paneer.
Take a kilo of mixed greens - mustard + spinach, and separate out the leaves and tender stems.
Wash and pressure cook this (one whistle followed by 7-8 mins on sim) with ½ - 1 cup of water and a pinch of baking soda that helps break down the greens and retains the bright colour.
Remove and puree in a blender. Return to the pan.
Fry 3 tbsp of finely chopped garlic in 3-4 tbsp of butter on a low flame for 5 mins or so, transfer over the puree. Salt the dish as needed. Bring to a simmer and serve.
Winter specials from my latest book The Great Indian Thali
Gajar Gobhi Shalgam achaar to preserve the freshness and flavour of winter veggies in a jar, great with plain parathas or with curd rice :)
There’s a make-along with me Highlight on my Instagram or watch the video here
Sindhi Sai Bhaji - a one pot dish with lentils, greens and seasonal vegetables
Yellu sadham - Tamil style sesame rice
Mallika’s special Rajgira Halwa
Get these recipes and more seasonal vegetarian recipes from around India in my book The Great Indian Thali.
India - local bookstores, signed copies in Higginbothams bookstore, MG road
India - Amazon
India + International - CMYK bookstore online
Instagram post spotlight
Make time and spend money on things that are important to you. Our mind works in crazy ways. We think nothing of spending 4-5K on a regular dinner but think 100 times before buying a new appliance or investing in some good piece of clothing for the same amount, when the latter two can be used over and over again for years. Put your time and money where your priority list is.
I’m excited to visit the city of joy after over 3 decades.
Kolkata friends, I’m in your city for the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival. My session is a panel on how to stay positive and it is at 2.30 PM on 14 Jan / Saturday at Park Mansion. I would love to see you there. Come say hello and buy signed copies of my books or just come say hello.
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