British Occupied, India Fed: 1930’s Dinner and a Binge Watch {Summer Style}

 

There’s something to be said about dramas that unfold slowly. Whether it be of the kitchen cooking kind or the visual arts kind,  storytelling that marinates in its surroundings for awhile always proves worth the wait.  In today’s post, we are kicking off the start of lazy summer weekends with a masterpiece of both food and television… the two season BBC drama Indian Summers and the two-days-to-prepare recipe, Tandoori Chicken. Both are steeped in the colorful, cultural land of India in the 1930’s and both do a big number on your senses.

Just like the beautiful bouquet that was Downton Abbey, Indian Summers is stunning in cinematography, costumes and casting.  Taking place over several 1930’s summers in the Himalayan Mountains of British occupied India, the story centers around a brother and sister trying to navigate the political and polite terrains of affluent society.

Alice and Ralph

Alice comes with baggage to the exotic land she left long ago, escaping an unhappy marriage and an uncertain future.  Her brother, Ralph sets up house in a gorgeous mountain-side estate while pursuing a career in the British government that is vying for ultimate control over India.  Romance, mystery, intrigue, murder and scandal surround both characters as their stories intertwine with local residents and visitors.

The premise sounds simple enough, but the story gets more complicated with each new episode. A murder occurs right at the very beginning but it takes more than half a season to even begin to understand how the characters are connected to the crime and why it is significant to the broader story. It is such a subtle, sophisticated form of writing that by episode four I thought I missed something completely and had to go back to episode three to find an explanation. But as it turns I didn’t miss anything. Explanations unfold gradually as all the characters try to figure out for themselves the details and the reasonings behind the mysterious death. This leaves plenty of time for your own theories about what happened and why which makes the whole show really engaging. Plus there are plot turns and twists that you’d never see coming.

Here’s the trailer from Season 1…

Unfortunately, Indian Summers only had a 2 season run before being canceled so there are just 20 episodes in total. But this actually turns out to be the perfect amount of viewing time if you find yourself in need of a break over a long weekend. No seven season stretches that require months (or more!) here. Indian Summers is one tidy, compact easily digested show that will hook you from the opening scene and have you sailing your way straight through to the end.

To complement this marathon of mini-series viewing is the perfect, low-maintenance Indian dinner that takes two days to make and results in a  feast enough for six. Which means that you can binge-watch with friends AND feed them a fun dinner. Two days of cooking anything may not sound like it is low-maintenance to you at all, but even easier than a crock-pot recipe, all this chicken dish requires is ten minutes of preparation.

Tandoori Chicken, 1960’s style!

Introducing effortlessly easy Tandoori Chicken… the exotic entree that captured the appetites of mid-century eaters world-wide. Straight from Craig Claiborne’s 1963 Herb and Spice Cook Book, this recipe features simple ingredients, a slow marinade and a slow bake. As you fill your head with the dramatic experience of Indian Summers you’ll fill your space with an aromatic blanket of Indian spices. It’s a well-rounded sensory experience of a most magnificent kind!

The origins of this style of slow roasted chicken have their beginnings with Kundan Lal Gujral  who experimented with tandoori (a method of clay oven cooking) in a restaurant in Peshawar, British India during the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Kundan Lal Gujral

By 1947 he perfected his methods and started serving it in his own restaurant in Delhi where it turned into a favorite signature dish. By the 1960’s it was all the rage being offered everywhere from humble houses to luxury hotels, restaurants and even on-board airplanes.  Craig Claiborne loved it for its feature of the spice coriander, which symbolizes hidden worth.

There are many variations of Tandoori chicken featuring different spice combinations – some turning the chicken a bright fiery red, others turning it a deep orangey brown. This recipe lies somewhere in the middle. Dark upon exit from the oven and infused with a tangy warmth encouraged by the citrus and vinegar, it practically falls off the bone once it is out of the  oven.  Ideally you’d have your own tandoori to cook it in, but if not, then a regular roasting dish works just fine.

Tandoori Chicken, 1960’s style!

Tandoori Chicken

Serves 6

1 5-6lb. chicken

2 cups yogurt

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons coriander

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/3 cup cider vinegar

2 table spoons fresh lime or lemon juice

2 teaspoons salt

  1. Wash the chicken and place in a close fitting bowl. In a seperate bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, spices, vinegar, lime juice and salt. Mix well and pour over the chicken. Turn to coat well with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator and marinate at least 12 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Just about to go in the oven.

3. Remove the chicken from the mixture and place it on a rack in a shallow baking dish or roaster. Save aside the marinade mixture for future basting.

4. Bake until tender, about 3 and a half hours. During the first hour and a half baste the chicken once with the yogurt marinade (at about the 45 minute mark). At the hour and a half mark  baste again with olive oil. And then repeat the olive oil paste two more times within the remaining baking period (about every 45 minutes).  You might need to tent the chicken for the last 45 minutes with aluminum foil to keep from over browning.

Tandoori Chicken, 1960’s style!

You’ll see in the photo above that the chicken does turn out quite dark – it was not burnt, as it sort of looks here – just very brown (similiar to the color of espresso) from the spices.

Once you remove the chicken from the oven let it rest for 20-30 minutes before carving. Serve it platter-style alongside warm naan bread and a simple salad of mixed greens and you have authentic Indian cuisine to pair with your Indian entertainment.

The house where Alice and Ralph live.

I hope the flavors and the film production transport you back to another era. If you have your own way of making Tandoori Chicken please share your recipe below. It would be fun to experiment with different herb and spice combinations!

Retro Swimmers: The Beauty of Water Ballet

Dear readers, Ms. Jeannie has found a new love!

While catching up on her magazine reading this week, Ms. Jeannie was flipping through the pages of the April 2012 issue of Vogue Magazine and came upon an article about the Aqualillies

In Sync – April 2012 Vogue Issue pg. 218 – Beauty Fitness

If you are unfamiliar with them – they are an L.A. based synchronized swim team that performs at parties and private events. They have held special “performances” at fashion shows, celebrity parties, hotel openings and they also made an appearence  on the tv show, Glee.

Aqualillies impressive water ballet. Photo courtesy of Erin Hearts Court

The all-girl team carry the retro theme of their sport through classic swim costumes, 1940s makeup and nostalgic song choices but also combine modern acrobatics and dance movements to their routine, which makes it seem both timeless and contemporary all at the same time.

Here’s a quick clip of the ‘Lillies performing…

Doesn’t this look completely fun? Ms. Jeannie could definitively see this being the next big Vegas act!

In addition to performing the girls also teach classes at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica.  Ms. Jeannie is going to be in L.A. for a friend’s wedding next April so she’s going to take a class while she’s there! She’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

The origins of synchronized swimming are traced back to Berlin, Germany in the the late 1800’s but it wasn’t until the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1930’s that the sport gleamed international attention.


Chicago World Fair Poster – 1933

There Kathryn Curtis organized her show, The Modern Mermaids, which she referred to as rhythmetic swimming. In the 1940’s Esther Williams, a trained swimmer,  brought water ballet to the big screen starring in such films as Bathing Beauty, Million Dollar Mermaids and On An Island with You.

Here’s the trailer for Bathing Beauty, which came out in 1944.  You can see where the Aqualillies got their inspiration!

Synchronized swimming  became an Olympic sport in 1984 and is only open to female qualifiers – no men allowed in this arena (or pool, as the case may be!) yet. With the Olympics scheduled to start in London in just a few days, Ms. Jeannie is excited to see how the US will fare in this category. Here’s a picture of the 2012 team.

2012 US Snychro National Team 1

One of the things Ms. Jeannie loves most about the Aqualillies is their style. They scour old magazine ads, newspapers and movie footage for fun swimsuit ideas and makeup trends. Retro bathing suits are very popular this year too – so if you need to spruce up your beach attire, click on each of the photos below to learn more…

The Natalie – One Piece Bathing Suit from Anthropologie

1940s/1950s Pinup Bathing Suite from MetricMod

Luxe Tortoise Keyhole Tank from JCrew

Vintage 1940s/1950s Swim Suit from SHESABETTIEBoutique

1930s Swimsuit from brerrabbitvintage

Swim caps became popular in the 1920’s as a way for women to protect their hair from the chlorinated water and to keep stray hairs from clogging pool filters. Aviator styles like this one below dominated the 1920’s:

Vintage 1920s Swim Cap from lactoseintolerart

The 1950’s and 60’s brought about more colorful, stylized swim caps adorned with flowers and frillies like these…

Vintage Swim Cap with Flowers from MommaBeeCollections

Vintage 1960s Swim Cap from plattermatter

Vintage 1960s Feathered Swim Cap

Pair any of these with some red lipstick and a classic hair style and you have one spectacular bathing beauty!

Happy swimming:)

Movie Poster for the 1944 film Bathing Beauty starring Esther Williams

If You Build It…They Will Grow

Well, Ms. Jeannie has done it. She has finally planted all the garden seeds that she  had ordered from Botanical Interests three weeks ago.

The just completed final garden patch.

She has been working on this goal bit by bit every few days, but Monday’s gorgeous weather really got her motivated to finish up.

At market last weekend, she bought some pre-started herbs for her garden (dill, rosemary, basil and mint) and wouldn’t you know, a few extra plantlings just happened to jump into her basket during that shopping trip too. So 4  jalapenos, 1 red bell pepper  and two tomato plants  round out the garden complete.

So in addition to her six containers full of sunflowers,  a 4′ x 5′ sunflower patch and her newly finished 10″x 12″ vegetable, flowers and herb garden, Ms. Jeannie is well on her way to being a farmer!

In the 10′ x12′ patch, she mounded the herbs in the center of the patch to give the garden a little interest as everything starts growing out. She lined the base of the herb mound with rocks and lined her pathway in old bricks that she had lying about in the garage.

Mound of herbs!

Brick pathway

Until she gets a fence up she has blocked off the sections in her garden with fallen sticks from woods behind her house.

Garden sections. Jalapeno plants down front. Tomato plant in back.

Ms. Jeannie likes to halfhazardly organize her garden thoughts on paper before she plants, so she can keep her seed plans organized while she’s planting. On paper the garden plan looks like this:

Rough sketch of garden plan

As Ms. Jeannie was planting, she started thinking about the garden of her dreams and what all that would/could include. Years ago, she read a beautiful garden coffee table book called Venzano: A Scented Garden in Tuscany about a couple who bought a 12th century monastery in Italy and turned part of it into a nursery.

Venzano: A Scented Garden in Tuscany by Stephanie Donaldson

It is a gorgeous book and a gorgeous story.

View from Venzano

Courtyard at Venzano

Ms Jeannie is in love with the rustic pergola above. She has spent many a daydream trying to incorporate something similar into her own garden plan. At Venzano, it is used to shelter the herb garden.

Sadly, due to financial issues, the couple had to sell Venzano. It was bought by someone but the nursery is no longer in operation and the residence is private.

But thanks to the book, Ms. Jeannie can recreate the look of Venzano in her own garden. In addition to the splendid pergola above, Ms. Jeannie would also incorporate these dreamy elements that are available through Etsy.com

Wrought Iron Garden Trellis from VanMadroneMetalworks

Pea Gravel from BluffCreekNaturals

Antique Iron Wire Garden Gate by beep3

100 Succulents from SanPedroCactus

Stepping Stone Paver Moulds from KapCreations

French Style Garden Bench from SusanVaillant

Wood Garden Markers from AndrewsReclaimed

Solar Powered Mason Jar Lights from BootsNGus

Antique Large Copper Wash Tub from RustedandWrought

White Cotton Ball String Lights by CottonLight

Garden Bench Made from Reclaimed Wood by SauteeWoodWorks

Birdhouse Gourds by MizzTizzysWeedSeeds

Ms. Jeannie is also in love with the twig style  fences. In almost all the how-to guides on building a twig fence you can find the follwing verbage: challenging, impractical, un-sturdy, purely decorative, non-functional.  Perfect!  Ms. Jeannie’s  on a mission to change all these negatives into positives and makes the world’s first easy, durable, functional twig fence!

She just loves the look of them, so maybe her passion alone will navigate her the tough parts. This is the kind of look she aspires to:

Twig Fencing

Wish her luck! Projects updates to follow soon!