Christmas Leftovers

Christmas time is usually not a very busy time for us. But this year was different. We bought a house and moved in to this house the same week that led to Christmas. So ho ho ho…was it tiring and busy or what!

Surprisingly enough, we managed to make the house presentable and the guest rooms ready as this Christmas was to mark our very first Christmas hosted by us at our own house.

Christmas was busy, I cooked Turkey (a giant one), that fed about 8 grown ups and will feed the four of us for the next two weeks.

Although it is a joyous time and one looks forward to having family over, cook massive meals, smell the wine mulling away and exchange presents ofcourse; it is also very nice to have your house back to yourself after Boxing day.

The house can be a bit quiet, but somehow being able to wake up without worrying about the guests who might have woken up first, the elderly ones who probably need some tea, basically the conundrums of being a good host. Being back to the sloppy home-maker and a lazy git is freedom!

One other thing about post Christmas time is cooking the leftovers. Today’s post is about one of those left-over cooking recipes.

This morning when I took the dog out for a walk, one of my dog walking friends who also happens to be a chef said that he is going home to cook some Biryani. And that inspired me to cook biryani with the leftover turkey and some chicken that I had in the freezer.

Biryani is a wholesome meal, served best with cold yoghurt. Traditional biryani takes ages to cook and is to e honest hardwork. But my recipe is quick but not quick enough to be called a cheat. It still can claim respect and love that most mum’s hour long Biryani calls for.


Here’s the recipe…


2 medium chicken breast (or leftover turkey)

3 onions, sliced and browned

1 onion sliced

1 tbsp ginger garlic paste

2 whole green or red chillies

2 medium tomatoes

100 grams of yoghurt

1 ½ tsp turmeric

¾ tsp chillie powder (or to taste)

Fresh mint leaves and coriander

1 tsp Sugar

Salt to taste

One stick of cinnamon

4 cloves

4 cardomans pods

2 bay leaves

1 star anise

2 tsp cumin seeds (preferably caraway seeds)

1 tsp garam masala

oil or preferably ghee

1 ½ cups of cooked rice (cook and set it aside)

Rose water (optional)

1 lemon


Heat oil and butter or some ghee in a pan, sauté cloves, cinnamon, cardomans, bay leaves, star anise, cumin seeds for half a minute. Add onions, chillies and fry till translucent but not browned. Then add the chicken/ turkey and ginger garlic paste.  Fry it until it loses the pungent smell of the ginger garlic paste. Then add turmeric and chilli powder along with sugar and salt. Then add tomatoes followed by yoghurt. Now make sure that the heat is on high when adding yoghurt to prevent it from breaking.  I also added some dried mint leaves as I didn’t get to the supermarket on time to get some fresh ones.

Now cook away until tomatoes melt completely and the meat is cooked. There should be enough gravy, but if you are worried add some stock. In my case, I simple ladled some Turkey stock that was bubbling away on the next stove top.

Once cooked add some garam masala and juice of a whole lemon. I say 1 tsp but all the spices are honestly to taste. Some like it hot some like it mild. If it is too hot, increase the amount of yoghurt – simple!

Now the last step is my favourite. Spread the cooked rice in a big flat plate or pan or even baking tray (like me). Then pour the chicken base we cooked on top. Fork  it a bit until it is mixed. Don’t mix it too well leave some whiteness visible! Then I added a few (more than a few actually) drops of rose water everywhere, then sprinkled the browned onions all over and garnished it with some coriander (or parsley).

And voila…..home-made biryani is ready to warm you up in a cold winters evening, serve it with some yoghurt (slice some cucumber in the yoghurt).


My cheat is that I didn’t really layer up my biryani. Traditionally, one would divide the rice into parts and add different colourings to it.

Then in a big pot layer up white rice, followed by the gravy, oions, mint leaves, rose water, saffron, some coloured rice and repeat. There are usually about 3 to 4 layers and then cooked for another 10 minutes (bear in mind that the rice in this case is only ¾cooked.  They fork it after cooking it and when served once can see these amazing colours and smell the richness of spices, rose water and saffron.

If you have the time, add all the above. It definitely makes a difference, but a quick fix is enough to make your appetite feel well-looked after.


Can a five year old be a THIEF??


Look at that cute little cheeky face. Butter wouldn’t melt. But…..SHE IS A THIEFFFFFF!!

No it isn’t the step-mother talking! Read on…

Having had my stepchildren with me since they were two and four, I have been responsible for their social, physical, psychological and moral upbringing. Now if I had a biological mother involved in our situation, I could have happily been just the friendly amazing partner of daddy’s. But no, I am now meant to be everything. I am getting used to it but not quite used to the situations where I have to teach moral values.

So a new thing that I had to face today was stealing. Our youngest who is five now, has been caught with a few pennies in her pocket previously that she “found” in the house, not even outside. I have been trying to explain how she needs to bring them back to mummy (that’s what they call me now) and daddy as money isn’t for playing with.

I have been dealing with it quite calmly up until this morning when she came downstairs all dressed up for school and unfortunately for her, coins clink. And I noticed a few pound coins, not even pennies. I wondered where she could have “found” them as she always uses the term “found”  as an excuse (and I blame myself for leaving them on the table). But turns out they were from my bag. Somehow 8am in the morning, I am slogging to get their lunch boxes ready, whilst in the middle of making breakfast and making sure they are cleaning their teeth and getting dressed etc, I couldn’t bear the fact that my child was turning into a child thief. She has taken this money treasure hunt to an altogether different level.

After using my high pitch at her, I banished her into her bedroom. I did that only because, this might sound bad, but the very sight of her was making me more angry and helpless as to where the hell did I go wrong? Where is she learning or developing such impulses?

I had to cool down before I could think of how to deal with the situation like an adult and to assess it from a child’s perspective.

After about 10 minutes of her throwing herself on the bed, crying, kicking and saying a hundred sorry’s in agitation at the wall; I was calm as well and I invited her to come downstairs and talk to me. I explained her that stealing money is the worst mistake ever and that money is not for playing with. I asked her if she knew what is the purpose of money and she very cleverly admitted ‘to buy things’. Well, having realised that she is not a silly little girl, she obviously knows what money means, I then asked her if she had to get something from the shop with that money but she said no, she only wanted to play. Fine, again money is not for playing with. Not real money. I explained her that if she wants to buy something, she should ask us for money and if she finds money on the kitchen counter, mum’s dressing table or even bag and she picks it up just to have a look but by impulse puts it in her pocket, that is fine as long as she returns them back as soon as she realises she has them.

Now Reuben is seven and much more clever and so he asked if children can be put to jail for stealing. I didn’t want to lie; and scary as it may sound, I said yes if you steal from someone who is not feeling particularly forgiving, they can complaint to the police. To mellow it down a bit, I further said, “But we don’t have to worry about that because from now on we will try not to take money from anywhere and if we find money, we will give it to mummy and daddy. And if we forget, we will apologise when we return it back to them.”

I think they understood. Or so I hope!

It is difficult when you have parents from two different school of thoughts. My partner was very lenient with money and it’s value etc when the kids were very very young. Children have a box where they put all the pennies (which hold no more value to us than copper weight in the purse). Their daddy often let them play with those coins. I was against the whole idea, because I strongly believed that children cannot differentiate between a copper coloured one penny from a pound coin. Collecting coins has become a hobby and now their impulses probably ask them to pick up any coin they see.

Another school of thought would say if one isn’t so rigid about money and let children have a little play with the money, rather than kept as a high value item of treasure, it won’t create a lot of curiosity in kids to either find them or keep them. But I believe there is a risk with that is children as young as 5 and 7 who cannot reason or rationalise, and hence will use money as a commodity. They do not see stealing the way we do. For them, stealing could be something as fun as a treasure hunt without realising that it means something to someone else. The basic value of caring for other’s emotions, hard-work and showing kindness.

It is very easy as a parent, to blame oneself for what children do especially something that is wrong. But one has to remember, they are young and adaptable. So a mistake must not be treated as a crime. A mistake or a behaviour can be altered. Children can be moulded into what you see them to be like in a few years, of course they will have their own characteristics and personality. But think about it, no body is born with the skill of stealing – it is definitely something in the environment you are exposing them to that has developed such an impulse. It could be anything from friends in school who may be bringing in money, or trying to impress someone in the park, or trying to buy a toy off a older child who has asked for money (kids know that won’t be allowed and hence take the plunge), or something could be as simple as what my little one wanted to do – play (she loves playing shops in her bedroom)!! It is our job, hence to identify that element and talk them through it. Or perhaps alter things in their environment if need be.

One of my solutions now is to try and buy her a few fake coins. Hopefully, once she owns them she will stop scouting for real money in the house or elsewhere. And we shall take it from there.

This was a new experience for me this morning and I was totally phased by it but also learnt something more about little children.

Raphael – The High Renaissance Hero


Raphael was a very talented young artist of the High Renaissance, known around the world for both his glorious paintings and architecture. The High Renaissance was a time of the development of arts, science and technology. More and more artists, including Raphael were showcasing precision, perspective and use of science in their work.

The High Renaissance, was dominated by the three artists – Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Raphael Sanzio was the youngest of the three artists. He was born in 1483 to the painter Giovanni Sanzio. Giovanni Sanzio, was a painter for the court of Federigo da Montefeltro and had taught Raphael the basic techniques of painting before he died, when Raphael was only 11 years of age.

After his father’s death, Raphael went to the town of Perugia and worked as an apprentice under the mentorship of the then famous painter Pietro Perugino. Pietro is known to have created the masterpieces like Christ Delivering the keys of the kingdom to St. Peter and The Deposition. Raphael learnt various techniques and use of shade and light; depth and perspective for which he would later become famous. Raphael soon started creating works recognized as masterpieces himself, although still as a student of Perugino.

marriage of virgin

One such masterpiece created by Raphael is The Marriage of the Virgin. In this painting, Raphael has captured the mood and emotions of the scene in a very realistic way. The background has such depth to it, yet it does not over-power the figures in the foreground. These people in the foreground are shown to have emotions and a natural movement, a highlight of the High Renaissance.

In 1504, Raphael moved to Florence, and that is where he first truly made a name for himself as an artist. In Florence lived and worked some of the geniuses of the High Renaissance including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Raphael studied Michelangelo’s work of anatomy and Leonardo’s use of light and shadow. Raphael used all his newly developed knowledge and skills into creating paintings of the Madonna. He became famous for his style of portraying the Madonna.

Raphael’s Madonna are very human. She has emotions, grace and beauty. She has movement and was almost always in a natural environment sitting on a rock in the middle of Mother Nature. Many popular artists had portrayed the Madonna as an angel-like woman, but Raphael brought perspective; he combined spirituality with reality in a way that everybody could relate to.


One such popular painting is The Madonna of the Goldfinch. In the painting, Madonna is shown holding St. John and baby Jesus on a rock. St. John is found holding a Goldfinch for Jesus.

The tiny bird Goldfinch is a symbol of Jesus’s suffering and the painting shows Jesus stroking its head. It is almost as if foretelling the sufferings of Jesus’s future. But the painting is also about a mother and her son, where St. John has the expression of an excited child wanting to show a pet and Jesus wanting to touch it while Madonna looks at her son protectively. It has this tender emotion of children being very child-like and the bond of mother and son is also expressed very tenderly. If one looks carefully, St. John has his foot on his mother’s foot, leaning on his mother to show the bird. Here, one can see the skin-to-skin human contact bringing in the element of reality in divinity.

Another aspect of this painting that is interesting is the portrayal of baby Jesus. In the painting, Jesus does not look like a child having fun or expressing innocence. Although a child, Jesus’s face shows wisdom and knowledge. Raphael has communicated this very beautifully through the grace, body posture and the child’s expression. Unlike in 13th century paintings, where baby Jesus was always given a face of a grown up man in the body of a child, here Raphael has expressed this through the incredible body language of the Christ. The Christ is show stroking the Goldfinch with his arm raised, head tilted back and standing in this incredible contapposto that no child is found in.

In the painting of the Madonna of the Goldfinch, Raphael also embraces the reality of Mother Nature. Unlike in the early Renaissance, where Madonna was always shown sitting on a throne, in this painting Madonna is sitting on a rock, with a beautiful atmospheric perspective in the background as if to say that nature itself is her throne.

The painting has a pyramid composition of Madonna with St. John and Jesus on both sides of her showing balance, yet another important element of High Renaissance art.


Raphael had established his own unique style in painting but one could see the influence of Leonardo and Michelangelo in his painting. Madonna of the Goldfinch appears to be influenced by Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the rocks. Raphael uses the influences of Leonardo’s light and shadow; and Michelangelo’s perfection of human anatomy. He makes it unique by keeping the tone light and colourful.

Raphael was also invited to the Vatican to paint some stanza’s in 1508 by Pope Julius II. Of all the stanza’s he was commissioned to paint, the one he drew himself was the Stanza della Segnatura. Stanza della Segnatura comprises four walls representing theology, poetry, law and philosophy. One of the most famous stanzas is The School of Athens, representing philosophy.

school of athens big

The School of Athens is an exquisite expression of the catholic world of the High Renaissance embracing the classic world. The painting has brought the world’s most renowned scientists, mathematicians, philosopher and scholars of the ancient Greece under one roof.

all figures

The School of Athens has a rather unique composition, as it brings High Renaissance Roman architecture together with the ancient Greek scholars. It is a fantasy as if to say that these people are legends and shall live in every era moving forward.  Its linear composition is such that it brings the attention to the centre of top centre of the wall, where one can see the most important figures of western thinking Plato and his student Aristotle. Plato in red is pointing upwards representing the spiritual world that transcends the everyday and Aristotle is pointing down, representing his philosophy of observation with our senses, things that are tangible as opposed to Plato’s philosophy of seeing beyond tangible things.

linear image

The painting has a nature of duality lingering around the two central figures. And it can be seen in its architecture as well. On Plato’s side, one can see Apollo on the wall representing music and poetry whereas on the other side there’s Athena representing war and wisdom.

The splendid architecture alleviates the characters and helps tell the story. It helps celebrate the whole painting as an achievement of human beings potential. The painting has so many important figures, like on the left bottom one can see the great Greek philosopher Heraclitus resting his elbow on a metal box wearing heavy boots an writing something. Now, at this point Raphael didn’t know how Heraclitus looked and hence, he replaced him with Michelangelo. One can almost see it as either a mockery or tribute to Michelangelo’s splendid seated figures.

Amongst various other astronomers, Raphael has painted himself looking straight at us. Raphael has created a real genius in this painting and it narrates a story that resonates till date.