Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The day of the Jackal

I'm not too big a fan of fiction but "The day of the Jackal" is one of the most beautiful thrillers I've read.  It's a story of Charles de Gaulle's murder plot by a professional assassin named Jackal, hired by the OAS.  The book's divided into three parts viz. Anatomy of a plot, Anatomy of a manhunt, Anatomy of a kill. 

The first part gives a brief history of de Gaulle's betrayal to his own country by freeing Algeria, locking horns with OAS, a futile murder attempt on de Gaulle, hiring of Jackal by the chief of OAS - Rodin, Jackal working on his logistics and the French ministry getting the clue of the plot by kidnapping the OAS messenger. 

Part two talks about how Claude Lebel, the investigating officer gets to know about the various false identities that Jackal uses to enter France.  There is a lot of communication among the heads of the various countries like Britian, Belgium, South Africa, United States etc. to find out about professional killers and finally Thomas, the British counterpart gets a promising lead by the Trujillo murder case and the various incarnations of Jackal starts revealing.

Part three is about Jackal's planning once he enters France and how Lebel eventually gets him.

First of all I felt the story was beautifully sculpted by the author, it had bit of history and whole lot of entertainment.  The reader could very well picture Europe when he reads the book...all the way from England to Belgium to Italy to France.  There's no unnecessary drama or spice up anywhere in book - be it a murder scene or a sex scene or the heated discussions in the ministry.  The language used is for the masses with a touch of French here and there.  Overall I felt its a very decent and engrossing book and a must read for fiction/thriller lovers.

On the same day I finished reading the book, I watched the downloaded movie which was based on the book bearing the same name starred by Edward Fox.  Like in most cases the book, I felt, was far more better than the movie, though the movie isn't bad at all.  I think the fame of the book was well tapped with just two years - the book was published in 1971 while movie was made 1973.

There were certain changes in the movie - fake name that Jackal uses (Alexander James Quentin "Alex" Duggan in the book Paul Oliver Duggan in the movie; Per Jensen in the book while Per Lundqvist in the movie), Viktor Kowalski's name changed to Viktor Wolenski, Alfa Romeo is abandoned in the forest in the book while it's abandoned after he's met with an accident in the movie, Marty Schulberg character is eliminated etc.  Well I understand that eliminating certain parts to fit into a movie makes sense but I don't get the point in changing the names of the character!

It's a technicolour movie that runs almost for 2 and half hours and it's well directed.  I would recommend people to first read the book and then watch the movie and not the other way round. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Puttu with KaaLu curry

It was my first attempt in making a Kerala dish and it turned out to be surprisingly delicious, though it was a bit tedious to prepare the dishes.  So here I publish my recipe...

Ingredients for Puttu:
  • Putti pudi (available in most mallu supermarkets)
  • Coconut - grated finely
  • Puttu maker (a steel container with a stean inlet at the bottom)
Ingredients for KaaLu curry:
  • Chick peas - a big bowl of it, well soaked
  • Onions - 3 medium sized, chopped
  • Tomatoes - 3 medium sized, chopped
  • Coconut - a bowl of it, ground finely
  • Ginger garlic paste
  • Curry leaves
  • Corriander
  • Turmeric - 1 tea spoon
  • Garam masala powder  - 1 tea spoon
  • Corriander powder (dhaniya)  - 1 tea spoon
  • Chili powder - 1 tea spoon
  • Pepper powder - 1 tea spoon
  • Oil - few table spoons
  • Mustard seeds
  • Salt
Method to make Puttu:

   Mix the puttu podi with salt and water, don't add too much water to the mixture. 

   With the perforated plate at bottom of puttu maker, alternately fill the puttu maker with grated coconut and puttu mixture.  DON'T PRESS THE MIXTURE HARD, FILL IT LOOSELY! 

   Keep it on the nozzle of a steaming pressure cooker for 3-5 min, take if off and push the perforated plate from bottom, nicely cooked puttus fall off the opening.

Method to make KaaLu curry:

   Pressure cook the chick peas and keep it aside.

   Heat 3 table spoons of oil and splutter the mustard seeds.  Add ginger-garlic paste and roast.  Add onions and curry leaves and roast.

   Add chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon each of turmeric, chili powder, garam masala, pepper powder, coriander powder, salt and cook the mixture for a while.  Add ground coconut mixture and cook further.

  Add the cooked chick pea, required amount of water (Make the mixutre a tad watery) and cook the mixture for about 10min.  

P.S:  All photographs taken using my wife's point-&-shoot camera, just for the sake of uploading, not with any photography intent.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dal Fry - South Indian style

It's hard to satisfy my folks with any north Indian dish, however delicious it is.  I decided to give a south Indian touch to dal fry knocking most north Indian elements off the recipe and here is how I did and it tasted pretty good.

  • Toor dal - 4 fist full
  • Tomatoes - 3 large ones chopped
  • Ginger - lemon sized chopped
  • Curry leaves - few of them
  • Corriander leaves - a bit of it
  • Green chilies - 3-5 of them
  • Coconut - a bowl of it shredded
  • Cumin seeds - few of it
  • Mustard seeds - few of it
  • Asafoetida - a bit
  • Oil - one tea spoon
  • Ghee - two table spoons
  • Turmeric - a bit of it 
  • Salt - to taste
     So you can see there's no garam masala, no dhaniya powder, no chili powder, no onions, no garlic...and there is asafoetida and coconut...which gives it a south Indian certificate. It's also called thovae (tho-way) in Kannada.

    Pressure cook dal with a bit of oil, salt and turmeric and keep it aside.  Heat 2 table spoons of ghee in a vessel, add mustard seeds and wait till it bursts.  Add cumin seeds and then asafoetida and then green chilies and fry.  Add chopped tomatoes, curry leaves, a bit turmeric and required salt, fry the mixture for a couple of minutes and then pour the cooked dal.  Add required amount of water, shredded coconut and leave the mixture to boil.  Once it begins to boil slightly add ginger and allow the mixture to boil well.  Just about a couple of minutes before switching off the fire add chopped corriander.

   Goes well with hot rice and a spoon full of ghee.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fluffy Tuffy

For quite sometime I wanted to click my new friend in neighbourhood, Tuffy, but always kept procrastinating due to busy schedules.  Tuffy is a 6 month old golden retriever pup who can jump upto my shoulders and pull a road-roller! Today I clicked few of his photographs but am still not satisfied fully.  I was alone while clicking him, so it was hard to make shoot any action shots.  He was so elusive and active that the cameras focussing system couldn't get him right, I had to use manual focussing and the success rate was quite bad.  All photographs were shot with 50mm/f1.8 on 20D, handheld, ISO 200 and post-processed using Aperture.  Here are the results...



Thursday, December 09, 2010

Digging into archives

I was terribly bored at office, to beat the slumber just browsed through my old photographs from the days of Konica Minolta.  It was nostaligic to see those pics, the days when I lugged my camera around whereever I went, days when I was struggling to set the right aperture, was consufsed about ISO, was dreaming of D-SLR, was unaware of editing.  Plain and simple - point and shoot.  Here are few photos from those days: