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The December dally

December makes me slothful. The simple act of getting up from bed when the alarm goes off at the unearthly hour of 6am is a bore. I do not, for the sake of anything good or evil on God's earth, feel like getting out of the snug bed and throwing off my warm blanket to jump-start my day; all because I have a race to win against time and traffic.

No, not in December when everyone is in a holiday mood making plans for all sorts of outdoor activities like arranging pitha parties and barbeques or vacationing at beach resorts and strolling on the sandy beaches or laying on a hammock and reading with the sun beating down. Can you imagine the sheer thrill I am getting in just visualising what other people are experiencing?

I find it unfair that I have to torture myself and actually sit down at the office desk to write comprehensible notes or assign my equally laid-back colleagues to run all over town and meet deadlines or to plan for January. My work becomes such a taxing chore in wintry December.

It is not my fault that I feel this way in December, it's the Lucifer in me who calls the shots and I reluctantly try and oblige him by being a Fruit Ninja and slaying those yummylicious fruits on my computer screen or helping the poor birds rage a war against the pigs. And daydream of winter break all through the working hours.

Another reason I cannot think straight in December is I get brain freeze, literally, no kidding. One of my most important jobs is to think and to come up with astounding ideas to bring to life your Tuesday read. But that sloth inside me exchanges my thinking cap for Santa's and I sit in front of my computer and wrap gifts, or surf through my favourite blogs or read the book I couldn't pick up at home. And the entire time keeping a straight face so that I don't get caught in the act by my colleagues, who otherwise would take advantage of my lethargy and go for long smoke breaks or vanish up in smoke altogether.

I think I can guess why December makes me this way; it has to be the delicious charcoal lobster bbq or the grilled steak or the piping hot kachchi with the soft saffron potato on the side. Or it can be blamed on the countless boxes of sinfully delicious chocolates that my expat friends and family pamper me with.

Yes it has to be those -- I pin the blame on the tea parties, bbq nights and the weddings for making my December mornings at work such a labourious undertaking.

Thankfully I come to life after office hours and while sipping my jasmine tea and chomping on a bowl of hakka chow, ideas light their way in mind and I get my work done. And hopefully my readers will enjoy the Christmas cheer Star Lifestyle brings your way this lazy December.

-- Raffat Binte Rashid


Make a Spice Rub

Start with spices that are whole (as opposed to ground) and fresh (as opposed to sitting in your cabinet for three years). Black pepper always goes well with coriander and mustard seed. Cinnamon always goes well with clove, anise, and allspice. Cardamom is usually too strong. Toast spices in a dry pan on the stove over low heat for a couple minutes, then grind them. (You can use a clean coffee grinder.) Then rub it on whatever meat you're cooking.

Sauté Garlic
Start with a cold pan, add olive oil, then garlic, and turn burner to low heat. Through the gradual increase of temperature, you'll infuse the oil with the flavor of garlic while it turns slightly brown.


Ruposhi Christmas

Christmas is a time that calls for celebrations and decorations; and this year, hotel Ruposhi Bangla has left no stone unturned in letting its guests know that it is Christmas time, the season to be jolly.

The city's oldest five-star hotel has undertaken a month-long Food and Beverage Promotion in honour of Christmas. Guests arriving at the hotel will be greeted by the festive atmosphere in the lobby which has four beautifully decorated Christmas trees. The senses will encounter an enticing aroma emanating from the two gingerbread houses made of cake and biscuits.

The Lobby Café is where most of the festivity is taking place. There is ample choice of breads & biscuits specially prepared for Christmas, including Stolen Bread, Rye Bread, Gold Corn Bread, Nor Lander Bread, Whole Meal Bread, Venice Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cinnamon Leaves, Cornflakes Cookies, Raisin Bread, Plum Cake and Christmas Pudding, all prepared by the hotel's chief pastry chef, Abu Taleb Dipu. One can also have mixed items of these in a gift hamper at the cost of Tk.3500.

Ruposhi Bangla's month long food promotion will be open till December 31, 2011 at its Lobby Café.

--LS Desk


Protein: Building block of a powerhouse

By Karim Waheed

Since I decided to take weight training seriously, I got married to protein. For over a year and half, protein and I have been together through sickness and health, come hell or high water, at times in solid form (meat/fish) and at others, liquid (whey protein shake).

So, why have I embraced protein as an inseparable part of my diet and life, you ask?

What Science Says
Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human body. They are made up of amino acids, and help build muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails and internal organs. Next to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in the body, and most of it (around 60 to 70 percent) is located in the skeletal muscles.

There are 20 amino acids that are required for growth by the human body and all but eight can be produced in the body. These eight, called essential amino acids, must be supplied by food and/or supplements. The other twelve are made within the body, but all amino acids are needed to synthesise proteins. What does all this mean? It means that if you don't supply your body with the essential amino acids, your body may be limited in the amount of protein it can use to build muscle.

Getting the Right Kind of Protein
Foods that contain all of the essential amino acids are called complete proteins. These foods include beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk and just about anything else derived from animal sources. Incomplete proteins don't have all of the essential amino acids and generally include vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. So, if you're a vegetarian, does this mean you can't get complete protein? Not at all. Simply combine rice/whole grain products, beans/lentils (daal), nuts and leafy greens.

Most experts believe that most people get more than enough protein daily. If you exercise regularly, however, your protein needs may increase since resistance training and endurance workouts can rapidly break down muscle protein.

In essence, the more you exercise, the greater your protein needs will be. However, taking it too far, for example more than doubling your protein intake, won't necessarily help you build more muscle.

How to Calculate Your Protein Needs
Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.
Use a lower number if you are in good health and are sedentary (i.e., 0.8). Use a higher number (between 1 and 1.8) if you are under stress, are pregnant, recovering from an illness, or if you are involved in consistent and intense weight or endurance training.

Orly or not…

By Kaniska Chakraborty

A staple at a good Calcutta Bangali wedding. Fish Orly. No clue how it came about. Thick fillets of fish dunked in a batter of chickpea flour and deep fried. Nothing complicated. Nothing fancy. The only standardisation is that the fillets are longish in shape. Best eaten warm and not hot.

Kalyan, a reputed blogger and food enthusiast had penned a lovely description of eating it at Bijoli Grill. And that inspired me to try and create that magic at home.

I mean, how difficult can it be? Take fillet, marinade, dunk in batter, drop in hot oil, turn once, soon as both sides are golden, bring up to surface. Job done, right?

So off I went buying Basa fillets (lot more easily available than the ubiquitous Bhetki). Marinated them in ginger and onion paste with a hint of coriander leaves (beginning of winter after all), salt, green chillies and a dash of vinegar.

Brought out my mother's trusty plain-Jane non-stick wok and heated up a shipload of oil (the cholesterol free version, worry not).

Made a kind of runny paste with chickpea flour, salt and a hint of turmeric (you need a little turmeric to convince the mother to eat this).

Dunked the marinated fillets in the batter and expertly, as is always shown in food shows, kind of smoothly let the fillet immerse in hot oil, ignoring the angry hiss of oil and the odd splashes.

The fillet sunk to the bottom of the wok. So did my heart.

A quick rescue operation with the old metal spatula (khunti) and I was able to turn the fillet over and brown the other side. It was way beyond the golden crust that lives in my memory from numerous wedding parties.

The rest of the fillets followed suit. By then, I got adept at turning them over at the right time to stop them from getting viciously browned.

But still, most of them had that deep fried look.

Sat down for dinner with a still heavy heart. Admitted my failure to Kalyan over text. Smiled at his encouragement.

And then, the family ate the fruit of labour. Amazingly tasty. Brilliantly crunchy outside and incredibly soft inside. Spicy with the hum of ginger and onion. Tart with the vinegar. The crust, very deep ochre (read brown!) thanks to the turmeric. A quick spritz of lime and the dinner was an unmitigated success.

I may have got the batter wrong; I may have got the utensils wrong; I may have got the marinade wrong. The end result may not have been anywhere near the classic Fish Orly of wedding parties. But let me tell you, it was a darned good attempt at fried fish.

Orly it may not have been. But it definitely made my wife and mother smile. And that is all I strive for.

Photo: Kaniska Chakraborty


Caring for cars and babies, equally

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny

Almost 70 percent of men find it easier to care for their cars than they do for their personal health. That's statistics. Of course, 50 percent of statistics are done by people who want to have a cool sounding list of figures to support whatever it is they want. Which means the first gem of info was totally made up by doctors, health insurance agents and worried mothers. Has to be.

But such statistics put car loving men in complete and utter disrepute. We men care for our cars just as much as we care for our families. And that's saying a lot. Give the baby a wash? Give the car a wash. Cleanliness is apparently next to godliness. In fact, most of the men I know wash their cars more often than they wash themselves. And it's better to be next to godliness when driving on our senseless streets.

But little do other people (family, friends, non-car people) realise that whatever we petrolheads do regarding cars, it is all for our health. Take for example tires. I bought the best my money could buy. They're big, they're wider than the manufacturer's requirements and they look oh so good.

Low profile sidewalls, asymmetric pattern treads. So they're a little bit costly but you can't put a price on looks. Er, safety. See, the bigger tires are better at gripping, stopping, gripping, stopping. Stuff like that. When we carry our families onboard, a car has to stop as well as it goes.

Which brings us to brakes. Those things need to be hugely powerful. Unnecessarily powerful. Because you can never have enough stopping power in a car. So upgrade those as well. Some say, drive slow. Statistics say slow drivers actually end up causing more accidents.

This is all done in view of maintaining our health. If a car can't stop, it has the worst kind of effect on a person's health. Death, which is pretty unhealthy. So I tell you followers of the petrol gods, upgrade your brakes and tires. There's nothing more important you can do for your family.



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