Repost – Art of Whodunit – Delicious Death

Reposting another one of my old blog posts. With all the time over the weekend, I struggled to choose a book to read. I have over a hundred books on my Kindle yet nothing hooked me on. I did what I usually do in situations like these. I turned to my bookshelf and chose a Christie book.

There is no thrill quite like what I experience after reading a whodunit. I love this genre with a passion. Why do I love whodunits so, you ask? Simple as Hercule Poirot says they gives you the illusion of living an exciting life.

This brings me to what is going to be the focus of this post – my abiding love for Agatha Christie and her unusual and idiosyncratic detectives – Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. I have read my fair share of Sherlock Holmes – who’s intent on impressing Watson all the time. I honestly don’t think you can deduce that someone’s wife has left him because his hat is dirty and not brushed often – god! Or probably he can possibly categorise 350 different types of tobacco ashes. No monsieur, that’s doesn’t impress me at all.

No doubt Christie’s mysteries are thrilling, one better than the other, but what charms me most is her detectives – a little old lady with a twinkle in her eyes and a Belgian ex-police detective with an egg-shaped head. They are witty, funny, kind but firm and so brainy. The cerebral appeal that they have is what is lacking in modern detectives. Today’s detectives do not have ‘the little grey cells” and cannot solve a mystery by “simply arranging the facts in order” and hence resort to sex appeal and dirtying their hands and all the action. I am more impressed with Poirot sitting in his chair, sipping a cup of hot chocolate and using his grey cells to solve the crime. That’s a true detective.

Miss Marple’s method are different though. Her little village of St. Mary Meads has given her ample opportunity to peep into the psyche of people and learn their nature and every new crime reminds her of someone who has done the something similar. Her study of human psychology and human nature is simply outstanding and perhaps that is the reason why I tend to enjoy her stories a bit more than Poirot’s.

Somewhere along some books, I have also taken an immense liking to Captain Hastings who’s Poirot’s closest friend and the narrator of most of his stories. He is loyal to Poirot, has a dry, witty sense of humour, is charming in his own way and never leaves a chance to point out Poirot’s pompousness.

I have read almost all of her books but still after reading a few other authors I need to read one Christie just to make the blood rush.

Some of my favourites:

  • A Caribbean Mystery
  • Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Murder is Announced
  • The Witness for the Prosecution
  • Mirror cracked from side to side
  • The thirteen problems
  • Murder in three acts
  • Holiday for Murder
  • 4:50 from Paddington
  • Why didn’t they ask Evans?
  • At Bertram’s Hotel


What’s a biryani anyway?

Reposting this one as I made lamb curry today and it led to a lot of discussion in the office group chat! Originally posted on


The last weekend I cooked mutton biryani – the much-loved dish on the paternal side of my family. Even though my father and uncles are not foodies, any mutton dish is the one food item that is revered. On special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries etc, a typical family get together would most certainly include Mutton Biryani.

Handed down to my grandmother by a patient of my grandfather, this recipe is a special one. My late grandfather was a police surgeon. My grandparents lived in police quarters and from time to time had to change locations as is common to those in the service. When they had settled in their final place of residence at Byculla, my grandfather was in the higher ranks and usually had a couple of constables at his service. They also had many a servants who lived with them in servants quarters. When I now try to imagine their lifestyle, I find it highly interesting and quite aristocratic. But I digress..

Once it so happened that my grandfather treated a poor patient and didn’t take any fees from him. A few days later, to show appreciation for the kind act, the servant brought home a huge handi full Mutton dum biryani. After tasting it, grandma and grandpa were hooked.

After that day, my grandma nagged grandpa to ask the patient to provide her with the recipe. Every time he conveyed the message, they would receive the biryani in the huge vessel. After repetitive incidences, my grandma finally got hold of him personally and asked him.

Next day, an old woman with a bulky frame, piercing eyes and a paan stained red mouth visited my grandma. In her intimidating presence, grandma felt like a small mouse. In the kitchen she sat down with her pouch of tobacco and paan and told my grandma, “start peeling the garlic..” She was the mother of that patient.

Without going into the details of the recipe, the gist is to par boil rice and keep the mutton raw. Layer these in this manner:  mutton at the bottom of a wide based thick vessel, then raw potatoes, tomatoes, dry fruits, finally the par boiled rice with fried onions at the top. The edges of the vessel had to be sealed with wheat dough before putting on the lid. Additionally, another vessel filled with water was kept on top to avoid any steam from getting out. The biryani was cooked on slow heat for about an hour or so.

My grandma swears that this is the authentic biryani recipe as the woman who taught her was a Muslim and this is how they do it. We accepted it and thought this was the only way to do it.

That is until I got married. As with every other food item, the biryani was also an elaborate affair at my in-laws’ home. The major difference between the recipes being, mutton was thoroughly cooked, potatoes, dryfruits and other garnishing items fried or cooked in some manner. The layering then involved only arranging these materials alternately and steaming them in a tight lid vessel.

Now I don’t remember when this thought formed but I simply believe that if you cook the rice and the meat separately and then assemble them,  the dish is not a biryani but is merely a variation of pulao. I mean what is the point in cooking everything separately and then only assembling them together? To get the flavours of the spices and mutton into the rice, the meat has to be raw.

Whatever recipe you choose, these two methods of cooking give out distinctly different flavours to the rice and I for one believe that the flavour of the rice is highlight of any biryani. Some people are astonished from the combination of cooked rice and raw meat but trust me on this, the meat does get cooked and the rice is not over cooked in the process. If you follow the instructions exactly and not try to add you own little ingredients or variations, then you will be able to make authentic dum biryani.

So what kind of biryanis have you tried and which do you think is the most authentic one?

Recently read books

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry – This is a deliciously atmospheric book set in historical Edinburgh 1847. A medical crime fiction mystery written by husband and wife authors Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. Loved the mystery and reading about Victorian Edinburgh. The sequel The Art of Dying is even better.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson – Very addictive and immersive. Contemporary YA murder mystery. Our protagonist Pippa Fitz-Amobi chooses a closed case to research for her end of year project. It’s an open and shut case for the polie and town and it was closed five years ago. A girl murdered by her boyfriend who then killed himself before the police could arrest him. Pippa is not convinced and goes about finding the truth.

Conviction by Denise Mina – A true-crime podcast sets a housewife’s present life on a collision course with her secret past. What motivated me to read this one was the fact that it was set in Scotland. Anna is an ordinary wife, mum and a podcast junkie. One day her husband leaves her for her best friend and takes the kids along with him. Feeling miserable, she starts listening to the podcast “Death and the Dana” – a true crime podcast discussing the case of a man and his family who all died on the sunken yacht in Bay of Biscay. This is a different type of murder mystery thriller.

Unfollow me by Charlotte Duckworth – Violet Young is a hugely popular journalist-turned-mummy-vlogger, with three young children, a successful husband and a million subscribers on YouTube who tune in daily to watch her everyday life unfold. Until the day she’s no longer there. But one day she disappears from the online world – her entire social media presence deleted overnight, with no explanation. Has she simply decided that baring her life to all online is no longer a good idea, or has something more sinister happened to her? This was a brilliant read for me. Very relevant in today’s world of social media obsession. The mystery unfolds from the perspectives of her most avid fans who want to find out the truth.

Life in the times of Coronavirus continued

We are in week 4 of lockdown.

Schools are on their Easter holiday break. Next week, when schooling resumes, we shall see the new online education system and how it works out.

Things we are doing/would want to do:

We have a huge park nearby. It’s our favourite place to go for walks. We haven’t gone there for a month and I desperately wish to see the cherry blossoms. – Hopefully some day soon.

Keeping in touch with family and friends – We are constantly messaging and calling each other to find out how everyone is managing in these days. It’s hard to accept that we may not see our family back in India anytime soon. Zoom and whatsapp calls are frequent and lengthy.

Reading – Loads of books. Kindle has been a life saver. With no access to libraries, I am back to reading books on the Kindle.

Binging on TV – Netflix, Amazon Prime, Thop TV you name it, I got it. At one time I thought I had watched everything there was, but now digging deep to search for more series and movies to watch.

Cooking – Back to the basics of survival instincts. Cooking food is a coping mechanism especially when you have a child to look after. I find myself cooking more comfort foods. Having more time on hands helps too. We are allowed to go out for grocery shopping but then here’s a thought. If you are going to buy milk, might as well buy ten other things you need. I have never been a meal planner, however, now I plan and schedule and stock up.

I recently read in an article that “One of the ways to interrupt anxiety is to let other senses take over. Touching things, smelling something, listening. When you are cooking, you are doing all these things, immersing yourself in the world of senses. Otherwise you would be trapped in your mind which is not a comfortable place right now.”

Everyone is doing their best to cope in these difficult times. Immersing yourself in an activity, any activity seems to be the best way to cope.