Herby wholemeal bread: Of hospitals and men…

“You’ve got my will safely filed away? How about the file with all the passwords in it? You know where it is, right?”

He turns to his two little daughters, “Hold my hand, baby… ” and the two little ones each promptly clutches one of the father’s hands in hers…

He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes and braces himself… for the ordeal to come…

A scene from a Hindi movie deathbed… you think?

Nothing so mundane! It’s just hubby getting ready for a wee blood test!

In the early days of our marriage, I used to think he was funning – when he started shivering hours before he was due to see a doctor and god forbid, if the doc prescribed any invasive tests, well, let me just say that I’d rather do an apprenticeship as a toreador than drag this very reluctant, very squeamish, very scared person to the lab! But the shivering continued… after the children were born, he was much happier – now instead of one unsympathetically giggling wife, he had two very concerned daughters to help him along!

Across the ancient city of Madras are spread many analysts in many laboratories whose lives have been brightened considerably by my husband’s antics in the lab! The visit typically goes like this:

Scene: A drab, white-tiled laboratory room with a white-coat clad analyst, looking very sleepy and bored with his job…

Enter: One middle-aged man, slinking in furtively, casting quick glances all around, in the hope that if no one notices him, he can go back and tell the doctor that the lab analyst was on leave and therefore the test could not be done! Hopefully the doc will buy the story and just give him some pills!

But, unluckily for him, most analysts have been trained for just such situations – to find patients lurking in the woodwork… and they pounce on him – politely of course, helping him off with his shirt or whatever else needs to be helped off!

The man starts shivering. Please don’t take more blood than you need to, starts the plea.

Analyst: No, sir, we are going to take just 2 ml.

Middle Aged Man  hereinafter called the MAM (in shock!): What??! How can I walk out after that? I will faint! I have a family to take care of, you know!

Analyst (giggling): No, Sir, don’t worry, we will be very careful!

MAM (looking piteously at the two little daughters… he know it is useless to appeal to giggling wife for sympathy): Please hold Appa’s hands… (makes sobbing sounds)… this uncle is going to take Appa’s blood!

Children clutch their father’s hands… in the days before they grow out of it!

The needle is now pulled out gently.

MAM (sits up straighter and changes tone – more confident): You have some kind of part time job in the police department, do you?

Analyst pauses in the middle of doing things to the test tube and answers seriously: No, Sir, why?

MAM: Because if you don’t, you should apply for one. The kind of job where they torture people to extract confessions from them?! You’d be very good at it!!

The analyst, who’s been wearing a worried frown on his brow till then, chuckles loudly and smiles to himself in anticipation – what a story he will have to tell at the lunch table today!

Exeunt MAM with two small children, trailed by unsympathetic wife, slyly winking at the analyst as she leaves!

And that is the story of why labs all over Madras love my husband!

And what else can I serve after these ordeals but comfort food? In the form of this delicious…




  • Wholewheat flour (atta) – 2.5 cups
  • Plain flour (maida) – 1 cup
  • Yeast – 1 tsp
  • Milk powder – 2 tbsp
  • Sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Rosemary, oregano, dill, tarragon, basil – 1/2 ts each – dried herbs
  • 1 egg – optional
  • Butter – 2 tbsp
  • Warm water – about 1.5 cups (I usually freeze the whey left over from hung curd or the water strained out of making paneer (cottage cheese) in cups. I store these lumps in a ziplock bag and warm them up and use that to knead all my doughs)


Prove the yeast by sprinkling over a little warm water and letting it rest for ten minutes. It should turn frothy.

Add all the other ingredients and mix. Take out of bowl and knead on a counter top, sprinkling a little flour to stop it sticking, for a good ten minutes at least. The dough should, by now, be elastic and spring back when you poke a finger in it.

Cover and rest till doubled in size – about 45 minutes.

Knock back, shape and place in a greased loaf tim or a pot if you want a pot loaf.

Bake at 180C for 25 minutes and lower the heat to 160C. Bake a further 10-15 minutes till the loaf feels hollow when you tap the bottom of the tin.


Cool completely before slicing. Makes an awesome sandwich bread too.

No need to join the police department to make this!