08 November 2008

With my own two (henna) hands

In the event that you were considering applying henna to your hands, I highly recommend seeking out the assistance of a professional. Unless of course you're looking for a fun activity to soak up a lot of time and provide a challenge in dexterity.

For my birthday this year, I wanted to not only enjoy the day (who doesn't, right?) but I wanted to incorporate something into my personal celebration that was specific to southeast Asia. My hope was to create a few moments to forever remember this year's unique birthday experience. 

So, naturally, when I spotted a friendly woman draped in gorgeous saris, I jumped at the chance to purchase two of her do it yourself hand henna kits (adult-and-kid-size). She assured me that the kits were "very, very easy" and would be fun to do with my kids. The kit included some skin safe henna ink, a small pointy wood stick and a couple sets of transfers.

In the late afternoon, I sat down with my four year old daughter and my two year old son for a henna party. We set pillows on the floor, piled a few special birthday treats on a pretty plate and laid out my hand henna supplies on a little tray table decorated with fresh flowers. And the henna experience began. 

My son wandered out to look for his Little People toys after laughing hysterically at the ticklish application of a sunshine's center to the palm of his hand. My daughter was a trooper as I ventured back and forth, for close to an hour, between her hands and mine. I'll spare you the play by play, but will make note of a couple items: 
  • A four year old's naturally smooshy adorable hands don't lend themselves well to tiny precise details. 
  • Henna ink does not dry faster than the amount of time it takes for a little girl to say "Is it dry yet?" and run her hand up and down your leg to check it out. 
Her celebratory sunshine ended up looking more like mushed firework explosions (and my leg looked like it got slobbered on by a dog who just ate a red lollipop). As for my hands, well, my left hand looked somewhat similar to the transfer. Being right handed, though, will leave me shoving my left hennaed hand into a pocket until the ink wears off.

Perhaps the best summation? My son wandered back, Little People in hand, and started to giggle uncontrollably at the sight of our newly inked hands. My daughter and I, at the time pretty proud of our designs, looked a tad bit surprised and then simultaneously joined in the laughter.

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 23:
Chicken Pulao
This Indian dish is one of my new favorites and provides the warm, comforting flavors familiar to Indian cooking. Don't be scared off by the long list of ingredients, this is an easy recipe that makes for a great one pot meal. Be careful not to skip the first step of rinsing the rice. It really does make a difference in the outcome of the dish's texture.

2 cups basmati rice
2 yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
2 tablespoons veggie oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1 star anise
5 tablespoons curry (use whatever brand of curry your grocer sells in their spice rack)
1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into rounds
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chicken, cut into pieces
3 cups of chicken stock or water
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 cup of coconut milk
1/2 cup cream
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges for serving

Preheat oven to 425 F. Place rice in a bowl and add cold water to cover. Swirl rice with your hand, agitate the mixture for a minute, let the rice settle, then drain off the water. Repeat six times. Cover rice with fresh water and set aside to soak for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the veggie oil to a large saute pan. Add the onions and caramelize. Add the salt, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, ginger, curry and garlic. Combine over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned. Add the rice and stir to coat, then cook slightly for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the chicken stock or water one cup at a time (add a cup, simmer until absorbed stirring occasionally, then add next cup and continue). Add remaining ingredients (except for cream, cilantro and lemon). Cover and cook over very low heat for about 20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is al dente. Remove from heat, stir in cream and cilantro. Transfer to oven proof dish and cook for 20 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and a bit of extra cilantro.

1 comment:

  1. This is the cutest thing ever. You go girl!


Looking forward to hearing your comment!