Before the ‘spectacular’ express highway, the cheapest and most convenient way to make a Bombay-Pune journey was with a ride on the Deccan Queen. A 180 km journey that took anywhere between 3½ - 4 hours on a good day. The journey would actually begin way before the day of actual travel by a trip to a little place known as the booking office. A small self-standing structure in the middle of nowhere, where you were served by indifferent civil servants from behind rusty windows. Some of the things you were never served, however, were proper information, prompt service or, heaven forbid, a smile. The chances of you actually getting a reservation instead of being wait-listed were pretty slim. Even as you enter Pune Station through parking, it looks like a haphazard mess. As you arrive inside you see that the rails and platforms thrown together by some eager engineer who made the mistake of believing himself. 6:30 a.m. is probably the most bearable time to be there, as people who fell asleep on the platform the night before aren't completely awake yet.
Once on the Deccan Queen, things are pretty smooth sailing, if you accept all things as they are. No sooner has the train crossed city limits, somewhere around Talegaon, the waiter comes by to take your breakfast order. One thing that has always impressed me about the railway food service on Indian Railways is the waiters. They manage to take down the order of an entire car of over 100 people without writing anything down and then bring you your entire order without screwing anything up. Of course it helps that there are only a couple of items on the menu. Omelet bread, which consists of two slices of bread and an omelet bathed in a stream of pure fat. A cheese toast (pronounced chis-toz), which strangely is neither cheese, nor toast and of course there was the usual tea or coffee. The other thing on the menu was the tomato soup; a thin, thimble-sized plastic cup of foaming brownish-red goodness. This was quite possibly the most vile tasting (and smelling) version of the soup and one can only conclude that it came out of one of those Nestlé machines. Not that it ever stopped anyone from ordering one. Coz’ nothing says good morning in the Sayadhris like instant soup and flirting with the langoors on monkey hill.
- 6 Tomatoes (medium size)
- 1 Beet
- 1 tsp Butter
- ½ tsp Black Pepper
- ½ tsp Cumin Powder
- 1 tsp Ginger Garlic Paste
- 4 tsp Heavy Cream
- Salt to taste
- Boil tomatoes and beet in water for 15 min till tomatoes appear completely boiled.
- Allow it to cool and then blend the tomatoes and beets together to a puree
- Using a sieve strain the seeds and skin and place the juice aside
- In a pot heat the butter and add ginger-garlic paste, cumin and pepper to it
- Once the ginger-garlic paste sizzles, add the tomato juice and allow it to cook for 10 min
- Serve hot and garnish with heavy cream and mint