Thursday, 8 May 2014

Garlicky Buttermilk dressing and simple cold pasta salad

My university days feature often on my periodic happy-memories spree. So here goes another bunch of happy memories.

Six years have passed since and yet the memories of that September Sunday I landed in London is so vivid that I wonder if it was only yesterday. I had cried my eyes out all through my 10 hour flight to London causing much distress to an elderly NRI couple who were on their way to San Francisco via London. Once our flight had landed though the excitement took over once again. I was in England, the fairy tale land of my childhood, what with my grandfather's captivating stories about life in London I devoured wide-eyed. I made through immigration, sporadic panic attacks notwithstanding, and all I wanted to do was to get on that bus to my university.

The university, University of Sussex,  was supposed to send a bus to the airport to pick up students arriving that day from across the globe. I had been advised to ask at one of the travel information desks on arrival. I did. A rather rude woman behind the glass said in a voice as cold as steel that I was in the wrong terminal. She pointed to a sign reading terminal 3 and said "I hope you can read" I wanted to box her ears. I decided to ignore her, gave her the look, she stared back, and I walked away. I was definite by then that it was a wrong decision coming to this country anyway.

Anyway, the thing was that I would have to take an inter-terminal train to the other terminal to catch the university bus. Ok Train it is. Now  I had two huge suitcases, a smaller trolley kit and a laptop bag and was in tears when I realised that I would have to leave the luggage trolley behind, a hundred metres from the platform. Another girl, also from Calcutta, she had been on the same flight, had joined me at some point at the airport and we had decided to travel together, but she was obstinate about well NOT helping. She simply refused to help. She said "Sorry you'll have to manage on your own", exact words I tell you. I still can;t believe someone could say such a thing. Anyway,  a sudden turn of events, and as I was struggling with my suitcases, my eyes brimming with salty tears, a man appeared out of nowhere, and I mean no where, and offered to help. Help? He actually carried all my bags into the train, thus reinstating my faith in humankind. I thanked him, and my stars, profusely. The thought of travelling with this particular girl was revolting by now. But I tried to keep an open mind.

We reached the right terminal, and frantically looked around for Sussex placards, nothing. Another round of asking around and we figured the bus had left without us. Wow! This is exactly where I am supposed to have a nervous breakdown, a panic attack at the least. Surprisingly, I felt rather charged up. Another round of asking around and soon we were on a National Express Bus headed for Poolvalley station, Brighton. Once on the bus, enervated after the last hour's excitement, I cried some more before drifting into sleep.

I woke up only on reaching Poolvalley. And as I stepped out of the bus, I was greeted by a a gush of cold sea breeze that sent a shiver through my body. It had been bright and sunny in London, but here in Brighton, it was windy and dark clouds were gathering in the sky. The bus pulled out once we had unloaded our luggage and my heart skipped a beat. Across the road was the beautiful expanse of the sea and above it numerous murmurations of starlings were performing an aerial recital of unbelievable acrobatic feats. I was bowled over. This was the first time in the day that I felt good. Real good.

We took a taxi to the campus and the next hour was gone in a jiffy,  getting done with the formalities, getting keys to my flat, etc etc. Once inside my room in Flat 60 A,East Slope, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of dread and loneliness. I spent hours in that room crying. When I looked out of the window it was dark. I was so thirsty that the insides of my mouth had turned bitter. My hunger had died. I came out of my room, checked the kitchen, wasn't sure if the tap water was safe for drinking, took a little change and headed down the slope to the Union Store I had spotted earlier in the day.

There I bought a bottle of water for 89 cents, calculated how much it was in Indian currency, freaked out and took a gulp. Inside by mouth the water fizzled and whistled. I spat it out. It was sparkling water!!! For a moment I panicked, what if that's the only kind of bottled water they stocked here. I went back again. No they had still water alright. I spent another 89 cents on a bottle, then decided to buy a couple more. I even bought a pack of cigarettes. I didn't smoke usually, just for fun at times but at that point I thought I needed it. I had planned to make Maggi for dinner, I was carrying 20 packets of maggi, yes call me whatever you wish, I tell you that's what got me friends out there. Maggi and Haldiram Bhujia.But just when I was walking out of the union store I spotted a box or ready to eat cold chicken and pasta salad. And I just had to have it. I also bought a walnut brownie. After the day I had had I deserved a little indulgence.

I will never forget that cold pasta salad I had that day. It was delicious with chunks of tuna and a light dressing and the satisfaction that meal gave me was special. Since that day and through my stay in London, cols pasta salad was my number one comfort food. I turned to it whenever I was down, lonely, irritated or plain happy. At home now I often make a cold pasta salad, especially in the summers. Thank God summers last forever here. I make different kinds of dressings, sometimes only mayo and Dijon mustard is enough, but this garlicky dressing made primarily with buttermilk is my favourite. It is light and flavourful, perfect for the summer heat. The dressing is the star in this humble salad.


Butter Milk – ¾ cup
Hung Curd – 4 tbsp
Mayonnaise – 4 tbsp
Minced garlic – ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Dried Parsley – 1 tsp
Chili flakes – ½ tsp
Pinch of sugar

Cream the mayonnaise, minced garlic and hung curd together.

Add buttermilk littleby little to form a smooth, creamy concoction.

Add salt, sugar, dried parsley and chili flakes

Best with:  I like this dressing on a cold pasta salad. How I make it? Well here goes.

Pasta Salad 

Pasta (Fussili)– 200 g
Capsicum – 2 (diced)
Onions – 2 large (diced)
*Boiled chicken (boneless) – 500 g
Fresh coarsely ground pepper
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Water to boil pasta
Garlicky Buttermilk Dressing

In a pan boil water to which you have added 2 tbsp salt and 4 tbsp olive oil. Add the pasta and cook it until al dente.

In a bowl mix the chicken, diced onions and capsicum,  salt and pepper, and olive oil. Toss well. Use your hands; that’s the best way.

Strain the pasta, give it a toss with your hands to ensure they don’t stick and add it to the rest of the salad. Keep aside and let it cool.

Once it comes to room temperature, pour in some of the dressing, toss well and refrigerate until it is cold to your liking.

Bring it out, pour more dressing, as much as you like and dig in.

Note: Boil the chicken in water to which you have added salt, pepper, some dried or fresh herbs (I used parsley and basil), a couple of celery sticks and a few cloves of garlic. I leave the chicken in its stock in the fridge over night. While using it for the pasta I use the cold chicken straight out of the stock with some stalk dripping from it. I think that adds  to the taste of the salad. 

No comments:

Post a Comment