Category Archives: Random bits and bobs ..

Nairobi , and the misadventure at Wilson airport/ langata Prison

So when I lived in Dubai, one year my mum and dad or rather Aai and Baba as I call them we went for a fabulous Safari in East Africa. I had been inspired by my frined from a long time Chris Francis and his wife who went the year before and came back with hordes of videos on their handycam of sorts on mini dv tapes that we sat at their place near Lamcy Plaza and i said this must be done.

So the plan was I would set ff from Dubai and meet my folks in Nairobi and then we would go on a tour together to Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara, to see the big 5. To cut a long story short it was a great safari we saw all the big 5 , we cheetah’s chase down and make a kill everything was amazing. Unfortunately my brother couldnt make it, since he was caring for the dogs( we had 5 back then) at home ..

So the next year we planned to do the safari again this time with Deep and I. so everything was set, I booked it through a customised safari company called Suntrek Safaris and we would goto Mountain lodge , first then come back to Nairobi and thrn proceed to Masai Mara, and hopefully get to see the migration through the river.

Mountain lodge was great and we had a day to kill when we were back at the Hilton Nairobi waiting for the next day to go to the Mara.So through our company Suntrek i booked a day day trip deluxe of nairobi which included a trip t Sheldrick the animal orphange where we met delightful baby elephants and rhinos, followed by a trip to Giraffe Manor where we can hand feed the giraffes, a crocodile farm ,an ostrich farm where one tried to peck my toes .Luckily my red wing shoes saved me feet.What was going to come next was an overwhelming adventure which we never had thought would happen.

Since this was Deeps first trip out of india , naturally he was excited and was clicking photos on the 35 mm camera , like it was never going to end.

We finished the ostriches and were on our way to Nairobis most famous restaurant ” Carnvivore”, when we started passing Wilson Airport , Nairobis domestic airport. Now unbeknown to us, since 9-11 , British airways had cut all flights to Kenya and were restarting on that day, so there was heightened security around all airports.

Deep saw some red and yellow propellor kind of planes and wanted to photograph these. by this time i was fed up and said you go ahead and do it quickly , because we are already behind schedule. A few minutes later the driver got out to see what was happening an 5 minutes later i lost it and stormed out to see an airport police man with a big gun talking animatedly in Swahili to the driver. It turns out that photography around there isnt allowed and the guy wanted some baksheesh from the dirty foreigner tourists. I said ok i apologise but im not paying any money and if you want you can keep the film. so this goes on for sometime until there is a big truck coming up, and more policemen and more Swahili.

Then the three of us were sent to Langata which is the closest police station and apparently one with a ” reputation”.

The inspector there looks us over like were the scum from Waka Chaka land and interrogatedus, took our belongings and keep us in a room. Form here it got even more and more crazy. Then we were interrogated as a group and individually , to see if there are any inconsistencies in our story, which got very frustrating for us.

The drivers cousin brother is also at the same station and he informed the tour company, who in turn informed our uncles from a long distance who incidentally was working for USAID and an diplomat or some sort .

So by the time all these things had been worked out we had been put in a holding cell, with all our belongings taken away and a handwritten piece of paper given to us , with the warning, ( if we lose the piece of paper we dont get our stuff back) . The inspector wanted to know why i had the big swiss army knife with me and his eyes sparkled when he counted all the $$ in the wallet. we were also hobbled by being allowed to wear only 1 shoe/ boot so in case we broke through the walls we would not be able to run far or very fast.

The cell itself was wonderful , about 5 m x 2 m and 1 window 30 cm or so high up on the wall and a bunch of colourful folk inside who wanted to know what we were in for.with nt much to do we had to sit down on an ammonia scented floor ( God knows how many folk wouldve peed there).

Then in the evening we were summoned to the office where the tour companys people had gotten s some food ( but having used the toilet before ) i didnt want to get even close to there. Deep pleaded with the inspector for a better cell and the guy wanted to his palms greased which ” no way jose”, from me which peeved him off even more and he locked us away from the others in our own private cell. We were also able to talk with our uncle who said theat they would be able to do nothing until tht next day at the earliest , because there wasnt anyone to speak with .

We then went back to our cell to suffer in silence .Luckily our passports were safe in our hotel safe and I used to at time carry a miniaturised photocopy of mine in my wallet, but never the original.

The maybe at 10 pm we were woken up.I had decided to goto sleep because there was no point in sitting and worrying. Then go back to the desk and put on our shoes , but no belongings yet.

Then we have to go in the back of an army truck with three soldiers, by which time Deep says” now they are going to do an encounter with us and we are gone” . I said well if they do would be your fault i think for taking those stupid photos..or something along those lines.

Those army dudes kept taunting us saying hey you guys are from this and that and then we stopped at the petrol station and were asked to get down. Next we get into a car with some plainclothes guys and we drive to the Hilton and goto reception and upto our rooms.

The guy who took is in the car checks ur passports and then returns them and says ok , you can stay here now and come tomorrow to Langata and then the secret service office or whatever they have t collecect your stuff.

Pheww , was like a spy movie gone wrong . we then got a knock on our door and was the owners son Nish Lakhani. they had to pull a lot of strings to get us out but they did it. Thank you once again .

The advnture though had not ended until the safri was done and we were back at the airport to go back , me to Dubai and Deep to India.

At the airport , the immigration police guy tells me i dont have small pox vaccination so i cannot board the flight and by now i know what they are wanting , but im nt going to budge an inch. I said i need yellow fever vaccine and heres the boklet for that which says clearly i dont need the other. He says i can help you if you help me. i said no.. i can wait here at the ariport and u arrnage the vaccine for me , and ill just take the next flight to Dubai,…hehehe.. the dude decided i was to stubborn and the Emirates guys came to look for me and he said ohhh just get out of here..

Im waiting for the next chapter when i go the next time , with Viraaj and Ananya my kids and get them introduced to the wildlife outside the Mara river ..

The backpack which never gives up ..

or as the fine folk from Cactus climbing and space exploration/ not the companies name anymore but used to be say” Gear that wears in , not wears out”

When i first moved to Nz , i had a backpack, which was about 1.5 yrs old but was wearing a half decent company Jansport, but wasnt as durable as i thought could be. At the point of time i stumbled on this Kiwi company called ” Cactus Climbing “, they are now named Cactus outdoor and they make really great quality backpacks and a whole lot of things.

and this s what i bought from them in 2008 . I was jobless at the time and my wife screamed at me for buying the most expensive bag ever. I went with me everywhere, carrying all the groceries walking back home( to save money for the bus being jobless)

Forward to 2018 and the hydration bladder was getting a bit munted as they say in Kiwi land, and these blokes and gals fixed it for no cost and sent it back to me.

I paid 175 $ then but its 2020 and still showing no signs of giving up, Why put in the bin when it can go on and on..For me thats being eco friendly.

Last week i had inside 1 x 5 kg bag of potatoes, butter, broccoli, one bottle of olive oil,one 1kg carrots , my saw, deo spray and was on my back for about 5 kms..

my only suggestion would be to keep the sternum strap as a fixed accessory and not as an optional.

And no im not getting any freebies from Cactus to promote their stuff, i just think its great quality stuff , and over the years ive added more ( custom made knife roll(10+), messenger bag,( 2nd hand about 20 +yrs ) laptop bag, sleeveless vest (8 yrs +) .Go and get their things, they are great quality and made in New Zealand!

The care and maintenance of knives and other sharp cutting tools.

If you have reached this stage , you must’ve realised by now that you want to be here and cooking good stuff .Now for that to happen you need good cutting implements like knives ,and these need to be sharpened.

Most folk don’t or go the expensive route of using a knife shop which could be ok if they are nice guys like Shannon at house of knives .

These guys have been around for many many years and ive only known Shannon since 2010, but hes a top guy and will give you good advise regarding knives and sharpening. For the high end sharpening i dont bother about it and just take them to his workshop, which sits behind and below their shop around the back.

They are located at 24, Mt Eden road, Auckland .New Zealand.…09-3022980, but then i know the number by heart.

i go to the shop so often that everyone knows me and once in a while ill drop off some goodies for them to quality control with their tastebuds.

so if you see the video above, it gives you a pretty good idea about what needs to get done..

Basic bread dough/ rolls / loaf

Makes one large loaf or 8 medium sized pizza bases .

You need a weighing scale which measures in metric , a good oven and a baking tray or loaf tin. Can bake in other random stuff once you get the hang of it.( I make one in a old coffee tin and comes out beautifully)

  • Flour 500 g
  • Active dry yeast- 10 g( I prefer to use this since I get most consistent results, sourdough is a different matter which we will discuss in another post). Yeast is an amazing living thing that needs warmth, moisture and time to multiply ..more or less of each will affect the activity of yeast and the springiness/ sponginess of the bread.
  • Sugar – 10 g / can use raw, white , brown or honey ..Yeast needs to feed on sugar and starches but there are a few breads we can make without.
  • Salt -10 g. Very important, this helps for us to taste the bread and is the most important aspect in the bread ,after flour and water . We can make bread without sugar and yeast but not salt. Salt controls the rise of the yeast as well if you don’t put any the yeast activity will be a like a racing car without a don’t forget it..You don’t need a fancy pants salt for inside the dough but if you are able to get salt flakes for the topping it’s great or as a table salt.
  • Water warm preferred – 325 GM/ ml..warm because yeast activity is best between 30-35 so should just feel warm to your hand.if it’s too hot you will kill the yeast , too cold and takes longer for the yeast to multiply and make carbon dioxide which gives bread the holey texture.
  • Olive oil or melted butter – 50 g

First sieve the flour ..this aerates the flour and removes any physical hazards ( paper clips, finger nails, bits of plastic, you will be amazed what all goes inside).

Then add the yeast, salt and sugar one at a time mixing in between ..if salt or sugar come in contact directly with the yeast they can kill it.

Pour the warm water in a bowl with the dry ingredients and stir together with a spoon and leave aside for about 15 minutes..grab a coffee or a glass of wine.This stage of the dough making is called as autolyse and was devised by a French chemist and bread enthusiast called Raymond calvel who is widely regarded as the Moses of artisan bread baking. How it helps is complex science but in a nutshell develops the gluten ( elastic rubber like protein ) which helps trap the CO2 formed by the yeast and gives bread it’s holes/ crumb.Dont worry about the terminology it’s just for bread snobs to pretend they know what they are talking about.

After the 15 minutes are up .start to knead the dough , it’s not hard to do and helps to develop the gluten further .( Go back to start if you missed that bit about what gluten does).

knead for about 5 minutesor so until the dough is nice and smooth then add the oil and knead some more .The oil and or butter helps shorten the gluten strands and make it’s tastier but can be made without…with some breads you can go upto 75%of flour quantity for a kg of flour U add 750 g of butter , but that’s another twist in the tale and for another heart breaking recipe .

Then cover your dough with a damp clean cloth or some gladwrap / plastic wrap/ clingfilm. And keep in warm area..for maximum rise quickly. Can proof in the fridge too but takes longer.Proofing is a process where the yeast starts to eat the sugar and starches in the flour an makes CO2. This is like a rubber balloon filling with gas. And we need to control it otherwise it’s going the break.

So we knock back or de gas the dough and allow the gluten to relax. This U do by pressing down and either shaping into smaller pieces or leaving it whole but compressed.

Then proof again..same way like before .

Now preheat your oven to 190 C . Empty it first if your oven has lots of stuff inside .Mine does .

Divide your dough into 2/4/8 progressively or keep whole to make into a loaf.

I’ll put pictures down here of rolls and a loaf later .

Once you have these shaped roll it between your palms or palm and table be as smooth as possible .

Then final proof once you place it on a tray.

Once it’s proofed to the right degree .( How to check is tricky..u gently press down on the dough and it should not spring back but leave a small impression).

Bake then for roll about 10-12 mins..

A loaf will take about 25-30 mins.

Pizza approximately 7-10 mins.


Kneaded to form the dough
proofed for about 30 mins in warm area
Shaped and kept close to form a pull apart loaf
Baked to perfection

Sungtyachi Kodi/ prawn curry from the konkan region

Prawns whole -600 Gm peeled and deveined ,ndo not discard shell , I’ll explain later why not

Marinade with

turmeric – pinch

Red chilli powder – 1/4 t/ 2 GM

Salt- to taste

Curry paste for want of a better phrase

Shredded coconut – 1 T/ 25 GM’s

Onion medium- 1/2 about 50 gms

Teerphal/ Triphala or Sichuan peppercorns- 1/4 t /.5 gm

Black peppercorns -6-8 ea

Cloves -1

Roast above in a glass bowl in the microwave till lightly browned in 30 seconds. Should take about 3 mins and 90 seconds but depends on how strong your microwave is.

Add 1/4

Turmeric1/ 4 t/ .5 gm

Coriander seeds -1 t-/2,3 GM’s

Garlic cloves -4-5 / 10 GM’s

And water to soak..for about 15 minutes..not a whole lot just enough to soften everything and make it easy to blend.

Then grind to a paste and saute with

Oil- 10 ml

Curry leaves -1 sprig / 2 GM

Green chilli- 1 /2 GM or more if you want more heat …I wanted to be able to taste the prawns so put less.

Add coconut cream 100 GM

kokam / cambogia Garcinia / gorakha -1

And simmer .

Then add prawns and simmer for about 5-6 mins add some nicely chopped coriander and U are good to go..Always better if you cook let the prawns sit inside then reheat but don’t overcook.