I, Me & Myself

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Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
If you know me, you know about me and if you don't... well then read my blogs and you will find out

Monday, May 18, 2009

While at home in Darjeeling this past month, I happened to go through an old copy of Reader’s Digest which had an article about the Banoffi Pie. I hadn't heard of it but after reading about its story I have tried making it myself and can vouch for its very high ‘YUM’ factor. It is great because it is chewy, chunchy, soft & sticky all at the same time.

Credit for the pie's invention is claimed by Ian Dowding and Nigel Mackenzie of The Hungry Monk restaurant in Jevington, East Sussex. They claim to have invented - or "evolved" - the pie in 1972, and the restaurant's exterior bears a blue plaque to that effect. The dish, with various stories of its source, spread, and in 1994 a number of supermarkets began selling it as an American pie, leading Dowding and Mackenzie to offer a £10,000 prize to anyone who could disprove their claim

At the Hungry Monk which is a 14th-century property built for monks, the Banoffi Pie (originally known as Banoffee Pie), is still as popular today as it was the first time it appeared on the menu. There have been many imitations as far and wide as Russia and the United States; it is even rumored to be Mrs Thatcher's favourite pudding!

This is the Hungry Monk’s Chef (and original ‘inventor’) Ian Dowding’s story in his own words and after that I have attached my easy version of the pie.

The Completely True and Utter Story of Banoffi Pie by Ian Dowding

It's not as if I’d discovered the double helix or cold fusion, but it has been a phenomenon that this simple pudding has become world famous. I don’t talk about it much these days in case I sound like one of those old rock stars who only ever had one hit and insists on telling everybody at every opportunity. But if I’m asked I usually say this, which I happen to believe is true: Nobody ever invents dishes - they evolve. It may be a bit more mundane than most people think but I’d like to put the record straight . This then is how it happened. In the late 1960’s there were the seeds of a food revolution sprouting. Foreign travel and Elizabeth David were getting through to the British public that there was more to food than boiled beef and plum duff. I had completed a two year catering course at Swindon college, reasonably competently and had got a job at a small restaurant in Berkshire as an assistant sous chef. Actually there were only two chefs so I was also first commis, last commis and kitchen skivvy.

Russell used to do all the important things like main courses, pates and patisserie - I did all the rest. Russell had his secret recipes one of which was a dessert he had brought back from America called 'Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie'. However it was no secret that it rarely worked. The toffee was made by boiling sugar, butter and cream together to produce a smooth, thick toffee which was poured into a pastry case and topped with coffee flavoured whipped cream. Sometimes it didn’t set at all, other times it dried like concrete. The tantrums Russell threw when it didn’t work schooled me well in the art of profanity if nothing else.

I moved on to a head chef’s job at a small restaurant just opening in Sussex. I took all Russell’s secret recipes with me but quietly forgot about BCT pie as it was known in kitchen chit abbreviation (the BC standing for something else entirely). When I say head chef what I really mean is the only chef - so I now got to do the main courses along with everything else. This was the early seventies and the food revolution was in full swing. There was more to life even than Prawn Cocktail and Steak Garni. I was encouraged to get inventive so ratatouille, taramasalata and moussaka appeared on my menus. Then in a conversation with my sister she told me about boiling cans of condensed milk unopened in water for several hours which produced a soft toffee. A light bulb lit up in my head - I would resurrect BCT pie. The owner of this restaurant, a Mr Nigel Mackenzie, was never one to let me bask in the light of inventive glory for long. The words ‘surely we can make this even better’ still ring in my ears today. He decided that it required something else, a new dimension, a bit of a tweak here and there. We tried some different variations, some were OK, some were downright disgusting, but I have to say that the day we made it with a layer of bananas we knew we had a hit on our hands.

Now of course it couldn’t be called BCT any more and Nigel came up with the word ‘Banoffi’. We thought it was incredibly silly but this was in the days when ‘Lucy Moxon’s Lemon Posset’ and ‘Tipsy Pudding’ were common menu parlance. Without that name we would not have been able to trace the rise in popularity of this concoction. It started by feedback from customers who rang to book and to check that it was still on the menu so it got to the point when we couldn’t take it off . Within a couple of years I began to see it on a lot of menus of other restaurants, (chefs always check out menus wherever they are - you can read a lot more than just food from a menu). People we knew coming back from abroad reported seeing it on menus in Australia and America and there were even stories of it being served at No 10 and Buckingham Palace. That was a long time ago and now every supermarket has a version and there are Banoffi ice creams, biscuits, chocolates and sundry other items - and no, we have never made a penny from it. Even if one of us had been canny enough to trade mark the name, and besides any firm wanting to use the idea would have just thought up another name. You can’t get a royalty from an invented dish, although I can’t see that it would be any more unenforceable or complicated than in the music business. But that is not the point, I just don’t mind. OK it would be nice to get a penny for every Banoffi made world wide. I don’t even mind that I won’t be remembered I just like the fact that many years hence someone somewhere will be making a Banoffi pie. Anyway I didn't invent it - it evolved. Nigel Mackenzie eventually had a blue plaque made to go on the outside of the restaurant saying Banoffi pie was invented there and when asked, usually tells a different story every time about how it came about, probably out of the boredom of repetition. My favourite is the one about how a can of condensed milk accidentally fell into a stock pot one day - bless him.

The Vishal Version of the Banoffi Pie
(which logically should be now called the Vanoffi Pie)

To serve 8-10 you will need:
250gms Digestive Biscuits (some say Marie biscuits but this works better I feel and i've tried both so just take my word for it)
3 tbsp melted butter (salted makes the pie more balanced)
1 tin condensed milk
3-4 large Bananas
250 ml cream (plain, unsweetened cream or else it becomes too sweet)
Chocolate scrapings for garnish (dark chocolate works best)

Put biscuits in a plastic bag and crumble with a rolling pin (or anything hard) till it’s a coarse powder. Add melted butter and mix well.
In a tray, make a layer of this mixture and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. This is your pie base. Refrigerate for 15 min to set.

Now the secret of this delicious pie lies in the condensed milk.
Immerse the can (unopened) in pan of boiling water. Cover and boil for 3 hours making sure the pan does not boil dry (see CAUTION below). Remove the tin from the water and allow to cool completely before opening. Inside you will find the soft chewy toffee filling.

Whip the cream until thick and smooth. Peel and slice the bananas and lay them on the biscuit mixture. Now spread the toffee over the bananas. Return to the fridge for 20 min more and then spoon the cream onto the pie. Garnish with grated chocolate and serve chilled.

It is absolutely vital to top the water frequently while boiling the can. 3 hours is a long time and if it is allowed to boil dry, the cans can explode causing you to forget about the pie and concentrate on renovating your kitchen and maybe even your limbs.

BTW: The toffee mixture stays indefinitely in your cupboard unopened so its best to boil several cans at a time.

I hope you enjoy and think of me when you feel it melt in your mouths.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Oprah Winfrey was invited to give the commencement address to the starry-eyed, graduates of Duke University recently.

After the usual dose of her 'sofa-motivation' speech she decided to “inspire” them further.

Her message to them: I really love my private jet!

"It's great to have a nice home. It's great to have nice homes! It's great to have a nice home that just escaped the fire in Santa Barbara," she told the students. "It's great to have a private jet. Anyone that tells you that having your own private jet isn't great is lying to you."

Of course from her nearly 1000 word speech this part was what was remembered and picked up by the media.

And then the backlash followed.

Here is a selection of comments from the different US media.

* This is NOT the first indication ever that Oprah is selfish and out of touch. Doesn't anyone remember how she sent a courier to her mother's house to take back tupperware or how she once laughed at how she takes her Bentley to McDonald's?

* In all fairness, she did build her Ompire from the ground up. I don't listen to her advice, buy the crap she sells, or read her books (books, not literature) but I really do admire her for what she has accomplished. It's not her fault the bored and unfulfilled housewives of America lap it up, and would wait in line to do so

* Oprah lost me when she sent Anderson Cooper, Maria Shriver, and herself out to cover "Poverty In America." The 3 of them, with more money than many countries, put on their serious-concerned-journalist face that always seems a little too patronizing for me. The lecture on how bad it "really is" in this country was the last straw for me. I know people are poor. I'm one of them. This was hardly surprising. Perhaps Oprah ought to get off that jet every so often. She's lost touch

* I think, given her age, that Oprah might not have been admitted to Duke when she was of college age, so I don't blame her for rubbing it in their face now.

I’m not old enough to be counted among the ‘wise’ (yet) but I can guess that one of the virtues of wisdom, is knowing what NOT to say.

But then again, if I had a Billion $'s, I’d probably say and do things that normal people don’t.

And one should also not forget that this audience was a group of elite uber-rich kids of Duke University and not some small community college

Its all a matter of perspective.

What Say?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009



I usually dont pay much attention to the chain-mails but this one is a keeper.

In this commercial world, sometimes we just need to take a pause and a breather.

Lets just say a COMMA.




I arrived at the address where someone had requested a taxi. I honked but no one came out. I honked again, nothing. So I walked to the door and knocked. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets..

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. 'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, and then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated'..

'Oh, you're such a good boy', she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, 'Could you drive through downtown?'

'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly.

'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice'.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued. 'The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired. Let's go now'

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. 'How much do I owe you?' she asked, reaching into her purse. 'Nothing,' I said

'You have to make a living,' she answered.

'There are other passengers,' I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. 'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.'

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?

What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.

I've always thought that my life would revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.


Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance

Sunday, May 10, 2009


A very topical and interesting article came out in this week's TIME magazine and i thought i'd share it with you. If you've ever been on FB you'll know what its talking about.




For many people, the manner in which they present themselves on Facebook has come to mirror how they see themselves in real life. Photos broadcast the fun they're having, status updates say what's on their mind and a change in relationship status announces their availability, commitment or something in between.

Of these mini-declarations, relationship status is the only one that directly involves another person. That puts two people in the social-networking mirror, and that, to borrow a Facebook phrase, can make things complicated.

There are six relationship categories Facebook users can choose from: single, in a relationship, engaged, married, it's complicated, and in an open relationship. (Users can decline to list a status, but Facebook estimates that roughly 60% of its users do, with "single" and "married" the most common statuses.) The first four categories are pretty self-explanatory, but when should you use them? A Jane Austen of Facebook has yet to emerge, let alone a Miss Manners, and no one seems to have a grip on what the social norms ought to be.

"You change your Facebook status when it's official," says Liz Vennum, a 25-year-old secretary living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. "When you're okay with calling the person your girlfriend or boyfriend. Proper breakup etiquette is not to change the status until after you've had the 'we need to talk' talk. Then you race each other home (or back to the iPhone) to be the first to change your status to single."

Not everyone agrees, of course. Some couples are together for years but neglect to announce their coupledom to their social network. "Some moron tried to convince me that [my relationship is] not legitimate because I don't have it on Facebook," says Annie Geitner, a college sophomore who has had the same boyfriend for more than a year. "So that made me even more determined to not to put it up there."

Others, like Trevor Babcock, consider the Facebook status a relationship deal-breaker. "I'm not willing to date anyone exclusively unless she feels comfortable going Facebook-public," he says.

One common theme among romantically inclined Facebook users is that there are almost infinite ways for the Facebook relationship status to go awry. There's the significant other who doesn't want to list his or her involvement (causing a rift in the real-world relationship); the accidental change that alerts friends to a nonexistent breakup (causing endless annoyance); but worse than both is when the truth spreads uncontrollably.

Lesley Spoor and Chris Lassiter got engaged the night before Thanksgiving. The couple thought about calling their families immediately, but instead decided to wait a day and surprise everyone at Thanksgiving dinner.

The problem, of course, was Facebook. The morning after the big night, Spoor changed her relationship status. "I got all giddy since I'm old and engaged for the first time," says Spoor of her switch from "in a relationship" to "engaged." "I thought it had to be confirmed by [my fiancé] before it would update, though. Apparently not."
The wife of a guy who went to high school with Spoor's fiancĂ© — a woman Spoor barely knew — was the first to post a congratulatory message on Spoor's Facebook wall. Spoor realized her mistake and deleted the message, but by then it was too late; her future in-laws had seen the message, and the status update, and called to ask what was going on. How do you explain to your family that you told the Internet you just got engaged before you told them? "It caused a huge fight," she says.

But relationship status doesn't have to be a source of confusion and despair. Emily and Michael Weise-King were in complete agreement about their status: they decided to change themselves from "engaged" to "married" in the middle of their February 2009 wedding reception.
"It was after cocktails but before the first course at dinner," says Mrs. Weise-King. Still in their bridal attire, the couple whipped out their iPhones — they'd done a test run ahead of time and determined that they had to use the web browser and not the simple iPhone app — and switched status in front of bemused wedding guests. (They also uploaded a photo.) Throughout the rest of the night, Weise-King would occasionally glance down at her Facebook profile, "the way I'd glance at my ring when I first got engaged."

Their status has not changed.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009



Swine Flu hasn't spared even the classic Winnie the Pooh.

And what about the wiseass who said:-

"There were people in America who said 'a black man will become the president of the US when pigs can fly' but just see what has happened. Obama just completed 100 days in office and swine flu"

(catch the pun in "flu" if you dont get it)




Sunday, May 03, 2009


Dear All,

Enough of the Fingers and Tomatoes.
Just something light to start off the week.

This is courtesy: Samir Sharma.



These are actual comments made on student report cards by teachers in the New York City public school system.

All teachers were reprimanded but, some of these are really funny!

1. Since my last report, your child has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.

2. I would not allow this student to breed.

3. Your child has delusions of adequacy.

4. Your son is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.

5. Your son sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.

6. The student has a 'full six-pack' but lacks the plastic thing to hold it all together.

7. This child has been working with glue too much.

8. When your daughter's IQ reaches 50, she should sell.

9. The gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming.

10. If this student were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered twice a week.

11. It's impossible to believe the sperm that created this child beat out 1,000,000 others.

12. The wheel is turning but the hamster is definitely dead.

These 16 Police Comments were taken off actual police car videos around the country.
Thank goodness, in spite of the perils of the job, they still have a sense of humor!

16. 'You know, stop lights don't come any redder than the one you just went through.'

15. 'Relax, the handcuffs are tight because they're new. They'll stretch after you wear them a while.'

14. 'If you take your hands off the car, I'll make your birth certificate a worthless document.'

13. 'If you run, you'll only go to jail tired.'

12. 'Can you run faster than 1200 feet per second? Because that's the speed of the bullet that'll be chasing you.'

11. 'You don't know how fast you were going? I guess that means I can write anything I want to on the ticket, huh?'

10. 'Yes, sir, you can talk to the shift supervisor, but I don't think it will help. Oh, did I mention that I'm the shift supervisor?'

9. 'Warning! You want a warning? O.K, I'm warning you not to do that again or I'll give you another ticket.'

8. 'The answer to this last question will determine whether you are drunk or not. Was Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?'

7. 'Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy and corn dogs and step in monkey poop.'

6. 'Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven.'

5. 'In God we trust, all others we run through NCIC.'

4. 'How big were those 'two beers' you say you had?'

3. 'No sir, we don't have quotas anymore. We used to, but now we're allowed to write as many tickets as we can.'

2. 'I'm glad to hear that the Chief (of Police) is a personal friend of yours. So you know someone who can post your bail.'


1. 'You didn't think we give pretty women tickets? You're right, we don't. Sign here.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Giving India The Finger


The Indian Elections are going on and yesterday was the turn for Bombay to vote. With Bollywood and the stars there it usually turns into a big hoopla with papparazi following which stars have voted and who haven't. Ofcourse the stars who do vote have to come out and have the mandatory photo-op showing the ink stained finger.

For some reason Bombay decided that the finger this time would be the middle one and unlike pretty Miss Sonam Kapoor (below) they decided to give the world the 'finger'.

Now i am pretty sure that most of our stars know the cultural significance of holding up their middle finger but they seem to have gone ahead irrespective of the image it would project.

Or maybe this was their way of protesting against the politicians.

What Say?



Miss Kapoor showing how its done.

The Bachchans obviously enjoying their moment in the sun.
There is no way Rahul Bose didn't know what he was doing.

Wonder what Shabana had to say when he got home.

Now these are 2 people who dont look out of place doing this.

One of the worst ex-MP's India ever had. Up Yours Too Govinda.

Good Girl Bhagyashree isnt good anymore.
(P.S. Isnt it a wonder that the paps are still interested in her)

Maybe this is meant for Shahid Kapoor for dumping her.

The Finger with a Rose is still a Finger

Take this Dhoni, Ronaldo and everyone else who is after Bips....

Tibet in Europe and Vice Versa


After the invasion by the chinese, the Tibetans had to settle in different parts of the world but mostly in and around India/Nepal.
So most of us in India and Nepal are aware of the presence of Tibetans friends in our lives.

Last year as i travelled through Europe i noticed only a few Tibetans scattered around but more than the Tibetans, what was surprising was the prominent presence of the Tibetan Flag all over Europe.

Here's just a few that i managed to see and click.

Its a small world afterall and blocking YouTube, censoring the media etc isnt going to help the chinese much.

And if you ever happen to be in Amsterdam and on a visit to the Red Light District (dont worry it is actually a tourist spot now) then do visit the Tibet Restaurant on Lange Niesel 24 street.

You get wonderful Nepali-Tibetan food there and with soothing Tibetan music playing in the background (just like in Thamel) and the thankas and colorful tapestries transporting you back to distant Himalayan villages, the delicious Nepali food, after weeks of Pasta & Baguette will seem like manna from Heaven.

Just a point though. Dont try to order and speak (as i did) to the Tibetan staff in Nepali.

NOT all Tibetans speak Nepali is what i found out from their blank expressions. They do speak Hindi though.




In the gallis of Murano (a small town off the coast of Venice)

Clean laundry and the Flag both fly high.

In a public building in the middle of Rome.

This one was above a roadside cafe in Florence.

A prominient poster in Paris

Above an adult shop in Amsterdam

In Helsinki, Finland of all places.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Is the Tomato still a Tomato?


Seriously do scientists have too much time on their hands?

Isnt there better things they can put their minds to?

And who in hell funds such experiments?

Are we too lazy to be careful while eating?

What next?

You be the judge.


Drip-free tomatoes to go on sale in UK!

The Guardian. London. 28 April 2009

Soggy sandwiches will soon be history, for the world's first non-leaking tomatoes are about to go on sale in the UK.
Leading retail-chain TESCO will be selling drip-free tomatoes by the end of the week.

The packs of four will be on shelves for 99p.

Usual tomatoes leak eight per cent of water after being sliced.
Tesco buyer Emma Pettitt said: “It’s the best thing since sliced bread.”

The non-leaking tomatoes were grown in Holland and are part of a long-term tomato seed breeding programme that began in 1986.

After trials using more than 100 varieties the breakthrough came last year when through natural breeding methods the growers developed one that held its shape when sliced, baked or diced