Saturday, December 26, 2009

It was a Merry and Slightly Overworked Christmas

And I want to write about it now while I'm still in the same year! Well, my family were invited over for dinner. Cradle babe and Water man (that's her man) were the guests of honour. We all agreed to a dress code - red and white. We added green as an option at the last minute to represent mistletoe and also because Sushi has no reds or whites in his wardrobe that's suitable for an evening of merry making. I decided to go with red and white both in honour of Santa Claus and my increasing girth.

Prawns in malai curry were on offer and so was Popeye Chicken. I baked my (trying to be) moist chocolate cake and whipped up some Egg Nog in keeping with the spirit of the season. That explains, why it was a slightly overworked Christmas for us.

The Egg Nog? OOoooohhh yeeeaahhhh! I discovered this last year, but the blog wasn't born then, which it is now. So without further ado, let me explain just how I whip up the egg nog.

Well, in a cup of milk, I add some cloves and nutmeg and vanilla essence, until the milk gets fairly aromatic without having come to a boil. Then, I add 2 egg yolks to half a cup of sugar and blend until the egg yolks go from being yellow to being lemon (as in the colour not the taste).

Now begins the tricky part. The milk mixture needs to be added to the lemony yolks mixture and the whole should be heated at very low heat until it starts to resemble custard. It is at this point that no matter how hard I stir, I start to get little omeletlets. Then, I hurriedly take it off the gas and try to mash out as best as I can, the omelet tendencies.

Next, I take out my seasonal jug from its place in the back of the cupboard and pour the above, sort of custardy mixture into it. The refrigerator does its thing for the next hour or two. As a last step, pour in 1 cup of cream (sinfulllll), blend gently, add a further pinch of nutmeg and refrigerate until your guests are in sight. Then, you serve them the egg nog in little glasses and observe reactions...

Hope you had a merry christmas too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tiger Prawns Prowling in Malai Curry

This one was discovered while roaming the streets in Kolkatta at a little known (by me at least) restaurant near the junction that lead to Baligunj from someplace - in Kolkatta. (I didn't spend too many days in the town). The point is that this little known restaurant near the junction that lead to Baligunj from someplace in Kokatta served a dish that has me smiling wistfully at the memory as I type this nearly a month later.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you - "Tiger Prawn Malai Curry". It comprises of succulent jumbo prawns in a pristine white curry that gives you no inkling as to the delicacy and depth of its flavour. That you discover only when you shovel in the first mouthful along with rice. Then you start drooling all over the table and desperately demanding of the maitre'd - "Coconut Milk! It is coconut milk isn't it?". Alarmed, the maitre'd asks you to get a grip on yourself - "Calm down, calm down lady. Yes, it is coconut milk. It's anything you want it to be" .

With that as my first clue, I started researching the net for ways to recreate the experience at home. Sure enough, most recipes started out with coconut milk, but the photos showed not one trace of the pristine white colour, quite the opposite in fact. So, I do the only logical thing I can think of - leave out all ingredients that would add more than a slight suspicion of colour to the curry or substitute with neutral hued alternatives. Red chili, for example, makes way for single whole green chili. The onions are not browned, they are made into a paste. Turmeric powder is a strict no no. Garam masala powder is allowed because it disappears into the depths of the curry, adding flavour, but leaving no trace of colour. The other ingredients would be garlic paste, fresh garlic paste if you please, salt and the biggest prawns that you can get hold of.

Malai? Interesting that you should ask that, I was wondering along the same lines too and the explanation is simple really. Around 2 centuries ago (or is it 3 now), the British landed on our shores. The East India company was not their only import. They also brought along with them "Prawn Malay curry" from Malaysia. (I'm not perfectly sure what they were doing in Malaysia in the first place. Perhaps they made a pit stop on their way over to India.) Well then, in India, the "Malay" became "Malai" and that basically explains the utter lack of any actual malai in the curry.

The dish assembles really fast once you are done prepping your ingredients. First add a green chili, slit down the middle, to oil in a kadhai on fire. That adds a little zing and starts things rolling. Next goes in the onion paste and garlic paste. A dash of garam masala, saute a bit, some salt, and pour in two small tetra packs of coconut milk for 250gm of prawn. Speaking of prawns, I like to fry them a bit, just a little bit, beforehand with lemon and salt mixed in. This is to get rid of any odour that might later bother you. That pretty much wraps up the dish. Add the prawns to the curry, let it simmer a bit and you are good to go.

I do believe, I'm close to recreating the Kol curry. So far Sushi and me and Mrs DP have sampled it and given it a thumbs up. I'd say it's pretty safe to try if you are not one of those unfortunate people who are allergic to sea food.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Realisation of The Hyderabadi Biryani

Cradle babe got wed last week and I am a little disoriented since then. I'm happy for her, but you see, to me she's still the babe in the cradle, which is why, I must now talk about how the Hyderabadi Biryani was realised in my kitchen. For there is nothing quite like talk of good food to set your bearings straight!

So, the story goes back about 29 years. Ever since (and perhaps even before) I sprouted my first set of teeth, I have had dad cooking and feeding me what he calls "Hyderabadi Biryani". Legend also says that the first official sentence I lisped was, "First you must brown the onions". Intention here is not to brag, but to emphasize how deeply rooted in my upbringing the biryani always has been and hence was only a matter of time before I'd introduce it in my own kitchen.

I'm glad to report that this has been by far the most resounding success of the Sushi-Sashimi kitchen. When he first tasted it, Sushi, he was moved enough to...oh never mind, let's cut to the chase shall we.
First you must locate a goat with a hind leg, then have the butcher chop it(the hind leg) into medium sized pieces. You then get your prize home, wash the pieces thoroughly and tuck them away in the refrigerator. Next, we grab some glossy, green, firm, green chili - about 18 whole chillies for 1 kg of mutton. You need to then divide them in 3 groups and slice them three different ways. The first group simply has the heads chopped off, the 2nd is slit down the middle, the 3rd is slit down the middle too and de-seeded. Please excuse the brutality, but it really was necessary to the story. I'll even rate this offering PG.

We then mix some g-g paste in curd, add half of each kind of chili groups, salt, garam masala and half a cup of lemon juice. Then we go find the mutton tucked away in the refrigerator, add it to the above mixture. Let it sit nice and quiet for the next 3 hours.

In the mean time, any guesses? Well, as even a 4 year old would be able to tell - brown the onions! Set them aside. We progress now, to my favourite and the most aromatic and exotic part of the entire preparation - in a big pateela, set a large volume of water to boil. Drop in the remainder of the chilies, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, and general things of that genre along with salt. When the water is boiling, in goes rice. It comes out in the next 10 minutes flat, because we don't want the rice to be more than 2/3rds cooked at this point. The way to check for 2/3rd cooked-ness is to bite through a grain of rice to make sure that your teeth sink in only up to 2/3rds of the thickness of the grain. It's a bit tricky at first, but when you get the knack for it, you wouldn't even need a ruler to test.

The last step is to assemble everything together. First the mental calorie calculator needs to be switched off. Then pour in ghee or oil to a depth of about 1 cm at the bottom of the pateela. Next the mutton pieces are arranged at the bottom. The remaining curd from the marinade is poured on top, rice (2/3rd cooked) goes next. Plenty of chopped coriander leaves are sprinkled on top of the rice for garnish (Cradle babe hates coriander). Your pateela would need to be sealed off with its lid. I even use dough to make sure the lid stays stuck in place.

The rice-ghee-mutton-coriander assembly should now be put on fire. Dad always uses real charcoal fire, but all that mess daunts me, so I go for the trusty gas stove. 10 minutes on high, the next 10 minutes on medium, and 10 minutes after that on indirect heating - you are now all set to tuck in!

You're welcome, it's totally been my pleasure.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Austerity Drive

I haven't posted here in quite some time. Now, part of the reason for that is I was actually busy cooking. Let's see, there was the Hyderabadi mutton Biryani made authentic daddy style. Then, lasagna, which wasn't too bad I'm inclined to think, considering that I was improvising heavily, trying to leave the tomatoes out of the lasagna.

Then, one day realisation dawned that we seemed to be living only to eat. I for one think that's a perfectly sound principle to base your life on, but when the weighing machine starts to shudder every time you want to check in, you know it's time for some stringent measures.

Hence, we have started, what we call the "Austerity Drive". We cut down on everything, beverages, chapatis, and yes even meat :( My refrigerator is choc - a - bloc with healthy greens. It is slowly staring to look totally innocent of beer. The little steel drum that sits in my kitchen - what I call my "larder" now contains all above board items such as soya bean nuggets, and things that can be sprouted when you put them in water. (Sob!)

Now, it's important that we don't deny ourselves the occasional treat..which is why I'm googling "Prawn malai curry' even as I write this. Speaking of writing, I hope to be filling these - pages, so to say, with details of the biryani and the lasagna. If we can't eat 'em, we can at least talk of 'em!

Here's to the success of the Austerity drive.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kanda Pohe - a metaphor for Blind Dates

The Maharashtrians among us wouldn't blink at that title, but for the "non", let me explain -
In an arranged marriage scenario, when the prospective bride and family visit the prospective groom's house to size him up (or vice versa), the hosts typically offer Kanda pohe to the guests, among other things. The match making proceedings happen over a plate of Kanda Pohe and hence the metaphor.

Back in the days when me and my girl buddies were on the marriage market, it was commonplace to compare notes on the out come of our respective Kanda Pohe at the end of the week/month/day. "But you don't really do Kanda Pohe, you go on dates" , they'd say. Well, admittedly my Kanda Pohe had the appearance of blind dates, because my action plan involved meeting the guy over coffee/lunch/dinner depending on how well things were going, rather than the entire clan getting involved from the word 'go'. All the same, these blind kanda pohe were really focused, serious stuff as opposed to 'date' dates. I had a mental list (presumably the guys had theirs too) of the must have, nice to have and must not have criteria against which I was sizing up prospectives for my arranged marriage.

It was over one such metaphorical Kanda Pohe that I met Sushi, and here we are...married. I believe, the actual dish we ate ran more on the lines of butter chicken and daal tadka.

Back to the tangible Kanda Pohe though. I made this over breakfast one weekend. Simple really. You take about a cup of Pohe and soak it in water.(Pohe is beaten rice, beaten so that it absorbs cold water too. You can actually see it expanding visibly when u soak it in a cup of water for about 15 minutes). You then add some veggies in a kadahi (potatoes and peas will do) after chopping them fine. Don't forget the Kanda (onion) because that's the raison d'etre of the poha. Also don't forget to add oil in the kadahi before putting the veg in (almost forgot to mention that. Phew!)After the veggies are done, stir in the soaked (and bloated) pohe. Then add in turmeric and salt..and voila you are good to go.

Doesn't sound like much..but trust me, it makes a pretty neat meal. Perfect, now I see, for breaking the ice - "Er..nice pohe. So what are your hobbies?"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Post It Notes On My Refrigerator.

Yup..that's for week night dinner. We have turned over new leaves (that's the plan anyway) and are eating plenty of leafy greens. We are holding off all animals from the kitchen until the weekend at the very least.
And yes, Sushi has taken to reviewing, approving and signing off on the weekly menu.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Strangest Dream I Ever Did Dream

It went like this. I was in one of those situations where I couldn't make myself heard. Like I am trying to scream and no sound would come out. I'm waving my arms about and kicking up quite a dust but no one seems to notice. Where do these situations happen? Mostly in dreams I suppose.
So, the reason for all that arm flailing, dust kicking and screaming was to get Sushi's attention (in the dream) as he was about to, get this, put 2 large tablespoons of white flour in his tea, thinking it was sugar. He had his first sip of the tea, and only then seemed to realise I had been frantically trying to get his attention all this while.
The invisibility cloak lifted, I tried to salvage the situation or rather the tea. I remember suggesting that we could add more flour to the tea, to get tea flavoured dough, which probably we could try and make some pancakes with.
Don't know how that would have tasted in after sleep reality, but I am willing enough to try that experiment with coffee liquor in place of tea.
The other thing is, I'm on the look out for a good dream interpreter these days.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Colourful Spirits

Guys, on a Friday night of merry making with buddies, go into a huddle, with a glass each of dubious murky brown substance. They probably have a bowl of peanuts by the side, and they talk "guy stuff".

Girls, when they make merry on a Friday night with buddies, like to dress things up. - Thus-

That's Pinacolada for you. Agreed, it needs pineapple not lemon to look pretty, but we had none on us then. What you do is, you start with some neutral coloured spirit. Then you choose a lot of juices in a wide array of colours and flavours to suit your mood. And then -- you dress things up. Like the pic above, it's Bacardi (or anything else, the neutrality of the colour matters - remember?) coupled with coconut cream and pineapple juice. Add the lemon to achieve a bit of contrast.

Here's another -
The same(or any other) neutral coloured base. To that, we added grape juice. So, I guess, this would be What you are supposed to notice in the pic is the salt rimmed glasses(we stuck it on with lemon juice), the contrast the drinks make with the curtains, and the diamond rings on our fings.

The "Bloody Merry" below - that was crafted with a good deal of care out of pureed tomatoes, ground garlic and green chili (spicy was the mood), and, say it with me, a neutral coloured spirit.
Pretty neat huh?

Sushi, he invented an interesting cocktail too, because, I am after all his chief drinking buddy. O'course it's still murky brown coloured, but there's a legitimate reason for that. The cocktail in question is tea-based. We would have called it "Long Island Iced tea" had we not discovered just in time that Long Island Iced tea doesn't have ANY tea in it! Who'd have known.!! However, the neutral coloured spirit with iced tea tastes just fine - so we choose to call our little invention - "Iced tea punch".

Happy merry making and hope your spirits stay colourful.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Mother of All Misunderstandings and Disaster Averted

So, there I was, googling along, like I usually do.
"Tiramisu" I typed into the search box. Click
here, if you are hazy about what Tiramisu is because it is important that we have our basics clear in the first place.

Now, most of the recipes going around google say that if I am to make this the authentic Italian way, I should have at its base - Lady Finger. Lady Finger to me is "Bhindi". In Minnesota, or the whole of US for that matter, they like to call it "Okra", which is fine by me. Confusing, but just fine.

Tiramisu, I happen to have eaten at what I thought was a pretty authentic Italian place and some not so authentic Italian places too. It has always tasted delicious, but never like bhindi. Not that I don't like bhindi. In fact it's one of my favourite veggies.

I'm just getting around to wondering whether I should be using the over ripe bhindis or slightly new ones for my Tiramisu, when the recipe describes that I must dip my "bhindi" in a mixture of chocolate, coffee and brandy! Something felt terribly wrong! Very wrong! I googled again...

Care to know what "Lady Finger" is ?
Phew! That was close!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Traditional Fish Curry

While my 'other half' is more excited about trying her hands at multi-cultural continental cuisine, I stick to honing my skills on the home-grown ones. Not that I don't like 'her kind' of cuisine (I do! what will all that cheese, shrimp, ham and the like), but I enjoy cooking 'my kind' more, since it feels quite empowering being able to handle 'n' types of spices and 'm' kinds of oils patiently and coming up with something finger-lickin' good!

So, the weekend gone by I felt like having the good-ol' fish curry that my mom cooked back home when I was a kid. Now, I am not an avid blogger (as you might have guessed; this is my first post!..even though Sashimi keeps mentioning me here and there in her antics), so I forgot to take pictures while I was cooking. I'll try to be more considerate next time ;).

I'll keep it short (I personally find ramblings very boring unless there are images/pictures/visuals to support the content). The fish of interest is Rohu (no idea what's the common name though scientific taxonomy attributes it to "Labeo Rohita"..thanks there, Wiki!). People in northern and eastern part of my country are quite fond of it.

So, I took a fistful of mustard seeds and garlic bulbs (or pods? or buds?..what's it called, dammit?!) and centrifuged them in my grinder with a little water. I added some red chilli powder, pepper, turmeric and salt in the resulting paste. That takes care of phase one. Oh, I forgot to mention that I had cleaned up the sliced rohu and kept it in refrigerator earlier, so technically this mustard business is in phase two.

A little mustard paste is smeared on the fish slices and shallow-fried (umm..well, you can deep fry it and have it just like tastes yum!! but that deserves a separate blog entry, so we will proceed). Meanwhile I had heated up some oil (ok, this needs mention: "oil" everywhere in this post means "mustard oil", any other will ruin the stuff!) in another pan with a li'l bit o' fenugreek. The mustard paste is deep-fried in it till it turns golden-brown, at which point I diced a tomato in it. Well then, the deal is almost over; you put the fried fish in the mixture, add a little water, salt it up a bit, leave for 5 mins and you are ready to rock! We usually relish it with freshly-cooked steamed rice. Feel free to experiment and add you own touch!

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Week Night Veggie Innovations

We are doing what we can to reduce our calorie intake. (I can't say for sure if it's working, but isn't it the thought that counts, or some such thing) With this noble thought in mind, on most week nights we have fairly simply done vegetables - home cooked, and plain chapatis. Now, the part about "simple" and "plain" gets pretty depressing at times. One night, not very long ago, Sushi rebelled. He wouldn't see another lauki until Armageddon cometh. The hapless lauki in the mean time was pining away in the refrigerator, slowly changing hue from a fresh youthful green to a pale, forlorn yellow. It was very nearly on the brink of going a murky brown, and time had come to take decisive action and reconcile the warring parties.

That's when some forgotten memory started to stir and it turned up "Kofta Curry". Kofta, as I remember, used to be a part of my childhood meals. Grandfather's faithful servant, the forgotten species that actually reside in separate quarters in your house and pretty much do everything that there is to be done around the place, had this item in his repertoire. Incidentally, the "faithfulness" of Shankar dada is a subject that's up for debates and it invariably is, at a lot of family gatherings. He's even suspected of having evil intentions pertaining to the life of my grandfather, which if nothing else, does show a stoutness of the heart.

Well, baba, that's my grandfather, strolled out of this world at his own pace and time and no one does doubt till this date, the culinary abilities of Shankar dada. Which is not to say that I got in touch with him for the recipe of Kofta curry! He was known for other nefarious activities too like being a rickshaw puller to make an extra buck and peddling contraband articles, so I'd rather not run that risk! Nope the kofta curry recipe came from good ole google of course.

The recipe? Oh yes, that. All you need to do is to get the bai to grate the murky brown lauki(if yours is still in the green of its youth, you may not really want to wait for the murky brownish-ness). To the grated lauki you add seasonings as per taste . I used asafoetida, cumin and coriander powder, salt, red chili and gram flour to make it all bindy and sticky.

You then shape the bindy and sticky mixture into spherical kofta shapes..which when fried right gives this -

Onion and tomatoes and forget exactly what, but general spices make up a curry. In that you swim your koftas . Thus -

Phew! And thus your home economy is saved from the near loss of good lauki. (Lauki, for those who call it something else is "Bottle Gourd")

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Swedish Meat Balls

..Or that's what they were intended to be at any rate. But they were a disaster on so many levels that it's only now that I can bring myself to write about it, precisely a month and a half later.

Let's start with the equipment.

My "meat ballers" are in fact not "meat ballers" at all. I don't even know what they are any more. They sit pretty in my kitchen, looking like a pair of quaint scissors, but they do nothing.
I could use them for ice cream scoop I suppose, but I don't want to jinx my ice cream. Why they aren't meat ballers? Because they don't ball nothing! And it ain’t my fault neither. I had learnt from my
Cajun Patties experience and put in plenty of bread crumbs in the ground meat and cream too, which altogether is a different story. But, the ballers wouldn't do their thing and no use blaming the bread crumbs or lack thereof, 'coz here's proof I could do it by hand just fine!

(I put them in the freezer just in case, to be absolutely sure)

This brings me to the next part of my disaster tale. The moment I put my perfect, rather,” perfect looking” meat balls into the wok they just came apart! Agreed they didn't turn to powder, but they lost all form! To this date I can't say why, but nasty shock that. Nothing I have seen in my 9 and 20 summers had prepared me for it.

Putting a brave face on it and moving on we tried to do what we could about the curry. Can't say, "moving on" really, we were just in a state of denial. So, then, cream forms an essential part of the curry in Sweden and also part of the ground meat for that matter. We were wondering if the Swedish like things over sweet, when we realised, the recipe said "sour cream". We had in fact put in whipping cream! Trying to fire fight the situation, I poured in some curd. Curd is after all sour. So, logically speaking it should have offset the effects of the whip in the cream.
Well -

Sushi put a stoic face on it. But I did catch him stealing bread slices from the fridge late in the night. I ate away valiantly, but had to accept defeat at the hands of leftovers at breakfast next morning.

And now, really, I have to go fortify myself with some strong black coffee and hope to put this behind me!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Popeye Chicken

So, here goes the story.

It was a week night. Monday at that. Beginning of the work week. We are pretty subdued on Mondays. By Wednesday, we start to perk up. By Thursday, we are rubbing our hands in anticipation. And Friday nights?! Those are the best of all. We celebrate, go out, cook, eat, squabble, argue, etc. In short, Friday nights are what we live for.

Anyway, like I was saying, it was still Monday night and subdued we were. In accordance with the mood , a mellow mushroom in spinach was on the menu. I had sorted through the spinach bundle and discarded those leaves that weren't quite up to standard - roughly 49%. I had then painstakingly washed each individual leaf that did come up to scratch - say 51%. About three quarters of an hour's worth of labour and the leaves were all squeaky clean. They were then put in a pressure cooker, to soften them under , u know, pressure.

That's when Sushi marched into the kitchen. He demanded to know what was under pressure.
Me: "Spinach"
Him: Hmm

He then peeks into the freezer and espies chicken.
Him: Out out out
Me: Me?

Alrite, I put the mushrooms back into the fridge and rush to get my camera. Sushi is meanwhile vigorously attacking chicken.

He then seasons it and puts it under pressure too. That's put both of our pressure cookers into the fray. Out comes the liquidizer. The spinach is very soon but a smooth paste.

A biggish blob of butter in the kadahi, and the chicken is all fried. In goes the spinach paste. A pinch of salt, a quick turn of the black pepper mill, woah.. did Friday night come sooner than usual?!

Monday, July 13, 2009

From the Frying Pan into the Fire!

Except it won't. Because I got this ---->

The balancing act, with a wooden spoon and another wooden spoon to fish out frying objects from the wok, that used to be my frying experience exists no more.
Bring on the pakodas, fish and pooris.. I can now deep fry right there with the pros and dish it out in one swift scoop !
(The kadahi has made its appearance plenty of times on this blog. It's the chanota that I'm introducing this time around)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday Nite - Dinner and Movie

The much awaited weekend rolled around ..last night, which means we're already half way through it (sigh!) Sushi is in the kitchen dealing with chicken (as in cooking it) and I'm here blogging. Normally I don't desert my spouse, when he's in charge at the cooking range. Nope, I offer advise(solicited/unsolicited), take pictures and generally make myself useful. But I have this phobia about chicken with their bones on, de-boned I devour with gusto, but chicken or any other birdy beings with bones in them give me the shivers, which is why I'm here in blog land right now.

About the Friday night though...It's been a dry spell at the multiplex this year cos of quarrelsome bollywood, and I think the multiplex guys. And no, I don't know whose fault it was, point is that a bollywood flick, good or otherwise has become something of a novelty. So, when "New york" hit the screens, we thought to go have a look. Now, there are 2 theatres we usually go to. Theatre A has restaurant B really close by and Theatre B has restaurant A really close by too. So depending on which theatre we get tickets to or which restaurant we want to eat at determines our plans for the evening.

This time around, Friday 9:30 p.m saw us at restaurant A which serves cuisines from pretty much everywhere. The good thing is that if you tell them that you have a 10:30 show to catch, they serve you with brisk efficiency and don't even take it personally if you say you don't want starters or desert. Well, so long as you order drinks anyway. In what is going to be a separate story altogether, I'm someday going to write about the "Long Island" iced tea that we mixed at home, quite a tricky thing to do as we live miles and oceans away from Long Island. But anyway, I wanted to try out the real thing, so when I saw it on the menu, I ordered it in all it's 5 spirits splendour. Sushi stuck to beer. He's developing quite a crush on beer, he is.

Well, as I was in this whole mood of "let's see what the professional version tastes like", I ordered some Carbonara off the Italian section. Sushi was mulling over his selection and I was busily offering advise. He wanted something with a bit of a zing and I was trying to sell the "Jerked creole chicken" to him, in the process letting him know all about the origins of creole cuisine and what it comprises of. I don't know why he had this glazed over look in his eyes, but he remained unconvinced and mulling still, until the maitre d' came over.

Sushi: I want something with a zing.

Maitre d': Then I'd recommend the Jerked Creole chicken.

Me: Ha!

Sushi: glazed over expression.

(Turns out I was had mixed up Cajun and Creole, so even as he put in a mild protest about how he thought Creole should have something to do with Africa, I held on firmly to my Louisiana story. You decide: here .)

Well the carbonara arrived and it was fusilli not spaghetti, so that was a surprise. It had bacon in it so that was okay. Now, I had only chosen to coat the spaghetti in cheese and eggs(like the recipe said), but here the fusilli was floating in the creamiest sauce that's still making me drool. I definitely think it had olive oil and eggs and cheese in it. Milk - maybe, maybe not. And I definitely hope it was not one of those complicated emulsion things that you do when creating mayonnaise, because we have not been able to create mayonnaise so far and we definitely intend to try and replicate that sauce in our kitchen.

Sushi, he was a bit bemused at the quantities on his plate - chicken breasts(all nice and zingy) but only about a teaspoonful of rice on the side and mashed potatoes, daintily decorated, but just so little.

Shortly, afterwards things started getting a bit fuzzy because there were only 15 minutes to go for the show and I was trying to gulp down the remaining more than half a glassful of long island asap. must never drink tea in its long island avatar fast. It will cause you to not grasp the happenings in the movie altogether, because, you know, the whole fuzzy effect. And you might get the feeling that the fussili is doing a strange dance inside you. Also, nachos are an excellent cure for hunger (remember too little rice and potatoes) and budding feelings of wanting to return home midway through the movie (remember the fussili dance).

Bet you didn't know that! Moral of the story: when restaurant A serves Long Island iced tea, theatre B must always server nachos!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shepherd's pie V8.0

Remember Shepherd's pie ?
It's gone several version upgrades since then and looks like this now -

Thank you, Thank you :-)

The golden brown crusty potato layer, that was a V4.0 discovery. We finally found a use for the rack that comes with the microwave. The closer you take your "grillees" to the grill, the faster they grill! Eureka!

Monday, June 15, 2009

When Little Diney Came Home..

There she is, with her dainty glass top and a set of four cutest little chairs that you ever did see!
But if you thought she's all pretty and fragile, think again 'coz she's got legs of steel, that she crosses in her own "chopstick" style.

It's a weekday, but we love her and want to give her a proper welcome home. So we toss together some veggies in maggie noodles. And then we throw in some shredded chicken (garlic flavoured) because, oh I don't know, it's auspicious or something. We lit a candle in that yellow jar like thing ithe picture and had candle light dinner. ( The candle blew out within a couple of seconds of starting the fan, but hey! that's still 1 out of 2)
p/s Them's the new curtains.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fish in the Hereditary Mustard Curry

The fish and the mustard curry are both hereditary. Does that sound like I come from a long line of mermaids? Couldn't be further from the truth, because you see, put me anywhere close to water over 5 feet in depth and I start panicking like a fish that's out of water. Fact that I am trying to convey for the past few sentences is that Fish in mustard curry is so ubiquitously cooked in my part of the country, where I was born that is, that it feels hereditary.

Phew! Now that we have that out of the way, here's my tale of a weekend adventure with some "Rohu machli" and mustard paste -

The good thing about cooking something like this is that help is but a phone call (or 2) away. Not that I don't intuitively know everything that there's to be done, but when you want clarification/verification on the finer details, help ain't too far away. Like, for eg, when you open the plastic packet that Sushi got back from the fish monger's (full of fish of course), all enthusiastic and raring to go, and you are caught short by a fuzzy looking mess in and around the belly pieces -

What would you do? You start berating the fish - woman (one who sells fish, and is usually quite rotund and very un-mermaid like), until you suspect that the fuzzy mess may in fact be "Rohu caviar" or the fish eggs that you love so much, but have never seen in the belly of its source. Well then you dial 1800---, describe the mess in a few words, receive instant confirmation on your suspicions and some handy how to tips.

Then you put the phone down, give a whoop of delight, gather all of the messy looking stuff, give it a cursory rinse, throw in a pinch of salt, turmeric, red chili powder and some gram flour or besan and mix it up. You then heat some mustard oil(hereafter referred to simply as The Oil) in a kadahi and put in the eggs in little lumps and fry a bit. And then a bit more. Patience my heart, you'll eat soon. Voila -

Next the total number of pakodas is divided by 2 (for Sushi and me), add 1 to my total share by subtracting one from Sushi's because these are too tasty and I get the extra for battling the furious oils.

Once you are done with the munch session (that is if you discovered eggs in the first place), you return to tackle the actual fish. Well, these guys need much more thorough washing, because you never can say where they had been swimming to and what they had been getting up to. Then you season the individual pieces with salt n red chili peppa' and turmeric and last but not the least...g+g paste. After that, you shallow fry them in The Oil.

You want to be really careful here, because The Oil has a touchy nature and it really flies off the handle once it's been on the flames for a couple of minutes. It tends to send out sparks especially targeted at your pupils, not to mention any bare area of your skin that it happens to espy. You may want to practice jumping around a bit before you commence the frying as warm up for dodging the aforementioned sparks. Also you may want to have protective gloves on and goggles, the kind you wear when you go welding.

Once that's done, you've put the worse behind you and there's only the matter of the curry. This comprises mustard paste as its base. The mustard paste you make by finally getting your food processor out of its closet. (No, it's always been and still is straight, thanks). To the processor you add yellow mustard seeds (pretty hard to come by generally, you have to scour several shops diligently for a at least a week in advance) and make it go round and round.

Then to The Oil, you add "panch phoran" - a rather secret-ish ingredient with 5 different kinds of seeds in it and so the name "panch ..", mustard paste (more makes it more pungent, but if you cross a certain threshold, pungent turns to bitter, and this is when you must STOP adding more), chopped tomatoes, and salt and other things that you might think are necessary. After that, in goes fish and water, in reverse order.

You can finally get the protective gear off and begin eating..with rice is my favourite.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Almost Cajun Patties

The patties were to be a "welcome back to home and hearth" for Sushi, but a series of events lead to us ordering pizza for the welcome back and the patties happened on the following day or the one after. Patties, to me have always meant meat stuffed in a flour casing and then baked, which is what I was googling for in the first place. Google seemed to think they were what I'd myself want to call "cutlet", but hey! who am I to contradict the wisdom of a zillion websites.

So, Cajun style patties it was to be and heart shaped, because you know, it was a welcome back for Sushi, and I rather like the dude and all that. DP even suggested that I draw an arrow through 2 hearts with ketchup. That, I forgot at the last minute, stressed as I was, which....hmm..maybe, just maybe, might have been a tad too demonstrative in any case.

So there I was in the kitchen all ready to go when I found that I had mis-pla-ced the.. p-p-prin-n-tout of the recipe!! There was the ground meat, the bread crumbs (I had definitely remembered those), eggs, and for some reason, milk, all staring at me in the face and no printout! A lesser mortal might have quailed at the prospect of a printout-less kitchen session, but not me. I decided to do what I had never before done - cook from memory.

See, I think I may have some intrinsic Cajun instinct, for I thought to add onions and capsicum to the frying pan. Celery, we don't see too commonly in these parts, which probably explains its omission from my frying pan. Then to spice up the mixture, in went g-g paste, Worcestershire sauce(I got it for the shepherd's pie and use it at every opportunity) and chilly sauce and parsley and pepper and salt. Cayenne pepper I didn't quite recall, but the same Cajun instinct led some red chilly powder into the pan.

I'll let you in on a secret - once upon a time I took some French lessons, like back in high school. My "education" has imparted the ability to mouth fluently anything remotely Francais, even as my mind is registering "gibberish gibberish blah blah blah". Well, we went honeymooning in Mauritius, Sushi and I, and I gleefully read out all the notices and signboards and adverts and whatnot at him. Suitably impressed, he'd ask me "Wassit mean?" and I'd muster all the smugness I could, give a French little smile and shrug "Je ne sais pas". I think he quickly saw through the ruse, he did.

Back in the kitchen, I was pretty sure milk came into it somehow, but to this date, can't say whether that was memory playing tricks or a genuine ingredient that I let fall by the side, metaphorically of course. One must never ever waste milk. Anyhow, next we put the eggs into the ground meat. It's supposed to help with the binding, essential for the shaping. In my case, it just made the meat more runny than it was to begin with, weird that! A tip at this point: never throw away bread crumbs. That genuinely helps with the binding, which is, I might have mentioned before, essential for the shaping - of the patties. Me, I had disdainfully thrown, yes, thrown , not even put away the bread crumbs on the lofty premise that the patties should taste like meat not bread.

The obvious thing to do if you happen to act like me is to somehow coerce the meat into some semblance of shape - hearts, ovals, whatever and then pop it into the freezer for a bit. It's like when you want ice, you put water in the little cube things and put it into the freezer - the same principle.

You then wait patiently for about half an hour or so, depending on the runniness of your meat shapes and transfer the tray (do not yet attempt to handle the individual patties) to the microwave. Once your creations start to look a little less fragile, you flip them over - a heart stopping moment, in my case, heart crumbling ..(see the pic) and then cook some more.

Guess what, at the end of it, you can hold the patties without them flowing through your fingers and the taste, that ain't too bad either!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Doings of this weekend past...I

It all started with the Meandering - no - the "Mandarin Shrimp". We had intended to get good ole noodles to eat along, but managed to get only spaghetti. That's Italian, strictly speaking, but what is one to do when you have landed in a quirky grocery place (naming no names - but it's listed on the stock exchange and them brothers they don't get along so good) which presumes to stock lasagna and spaghetti and herbs and whatnot, but no good ole noodles.

The long and short (nope not talking of positions now) of it is that we had a little less than half the packet left over, which I thought would make up a genuine Italian adventure. With that in mind I scoured a whole lot of websites (naming no names and giving no references) until I came across -
taa...daaa.... "Spaghetti Carbonara".

I was delighted at all the bacon and cheese, until conscience smote a bit and i did go looking for something low on the fats ..and turned up "lean meat balls and spaghetti". Now..hmmm..believe it or not we like Italian cuisine, but we don't like it with tomato in it....paradoxical as that may sound. So, the next logical thing to do was to google meat balls without tomatoes. Swedish meat balls anyone? It floats around in fresh cream, which sent me running right back to the Carbonara. (But the Swedish stuff will eventually find it's way in the Sashimi-Sushi kitchen rest be assured)

The Carbonara? nothing much.. :-) no really, nothing much at all. Boil the pasta in what i call my "pasta pot", you may boil it in whatever it is that you call your pasta pot. And then drain off the water when done. But ..wait...not all of it, save some, it will be needed later.

Fry the bacon in a wee bit o' oil. You think that's too fatty? It gets better. We need to blot out the fat from the fried bacon on paper towels or not on your palette, that would be icky.

But don't drain off all of the fat..u save some of it too to saute onions in. Conscience pricking yet? If not, then add the cooked pasta in it, "the saved from draining off all" pasta water and begin mixing like crazy. The pasta needs to have a uniform texture, you see.

In the mean time, what you should have ready on hand, is a mixture of eggs(beaten to death), grated cheese drowned in mercilessly and some pepper and salt to add spice to the afterlife. This mixture is to be poured over the cooking pasta.

If you thought the mixing earlier was crazy, now it goes totally wild. If you don't get wild enough, you end up with little clumps of cheesy omelet on your hands instead of the uniformly coated spaghetti. I did get something pretty uniform and with only a very few clumpy bits, but it was a close thing! Phew! Before getting the spaghetti off the stove, don't forget to throw in the bacon pieces and mix some more.

You're ready to eat at this point after shedding a few tears at the state of your pasta pot. The pasta was a bit aggressive I guess, no doubt on account of where it used to dwell! Look -

Did I mention that we had to buy further spaghetti 'cos the left over was not enough for our collective appetite? Also that we couldn't quite finish off the new packet? So, basically we're back where we started. And now, those Swedish meatballs are going to make an appearance..sooner than later.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jharkhand Shrimps in Mandarin Curry

The idea originated in Ranchi. Mommie-in-law got hold of these huge, extremely well fed prawns (nope I didn't particularly inquire into what they were feeding on) and made them Chinese style. Naturally, when I found matching sized ones (in Bangalore) I couldn't help but try to replicate the Jharkand Mandarin curry, though technically mine spoke Kannada.

We had our whole evening and extended evening planned around the shrimps - Sushi and I. First, there was to be vodka/beer for him and her. Beer we stuck to the standard, but replaced Smirnoff with Fuel. I have gone about telling folks since then that Fuel is "much much smoother", but honestly, I just found the bottle really cool - shaped like a 3D trapezoid and with tape measure markings down the front. 'Course there was "chakna" to go with the drinks in the shape of mutton Kebabs..frozen and only needing a couple of minutes in the microwave.

At this point, the shrimps were to make their entry, we planned on cleaning and putting them to marinate "whilst" we polished off our appetizers and drinks. We had counted without the newly purchased game of Lexicon though, which we thought it might be a good idea to try out in this whole party for two scene.

See, Sushi and I can't play any game online or offline without sledging each other to the point of fisticuffs..and that is where the whole dinner schedule went awry. Picture this, we are a vodka and beer down each, he's questioning the existence of a word called "lug" and I'm challenging him to officially challenge it and suddenly our tummies give a tiny rumble each in unison.

That's when we decide the time was ripe to give the prawns their bath. A tip though, it aint enuf to simply scrub them well and wash 'em ..u must pull out the black nerve that runs down where their spine should have been. If not, you get this strange crunching sound under your teeth when devouring, which is quite unsettling.

Then comes the marination, simply slather them in lots of g-g paste and vinegar and salt and let them be for the next half an hour or so and return to your game of lexicon.

10 p.m.
We play on. I am ready to clinch it with "SNOB" and am holding my cards with barely suppressed glee. That's when he finishes it with "US". Aaaarrrghhhhh!

10:45 p.m.
It's past the time strictly needed for marination, but we have resolved our Lexicon differences. We are focused on the task at hand - to coat the shrimps in a layer of egg. For that, you need to knock their shells off taking care to not let the white and yellow run away. A good plan would be to have a little bowl in position before you set about de-shelling the eggs. The you swirl the whole thing around with a fork so the yellow is indistinguishable from the white. After that you let the shrimps swim in it for a bit before taking them out and frying them in a pan. The remaining egg may be poured over the frying prawns, doesn't hurt the dish but adds to the thickness of the curry...mandarin curry.

At this point, you should have a lot of garlic, ginger, green chili chopped and ready to be thrown into any empty utensil that happens to be standing around. Okay..lemme slow down a bit. I am now talking of making the curry. For that you grab a utensil - pot/pan/ whatever..remember, time's getting on? Well, then you put the pot/pan/whatever on fire (on the stove), pour in a wee bit o' oil (butter might be nice too if you are in a reckless mood), then throw in the afore-mentioned garlic-ginger-chili. When it starts to grow golden (it does by the time you have located the sauces), you pour in some soya sauce, and ketchup and..I donno...Worcestershire ..more the merrier, that's the point. Then it might be necessary to dilute with some water, pinch of sugar, some salt, the pot/pan/whatever starts bubbling a bit and you are done ..well almost. This is where you put in the fried shrimps into the curry...and yeah, now you are done.

My curry looks a bit translucent, where mommie-in-law's had been on the opaque side and pinkish in colour. I suspect that might have been because she used g-g paste instead of the chopped g-g + chili. And the pink might have been some play with the ketchup.
Anyway, if you check the time stamp on the pic below, you'd know why we don't have a detailed analysis of the discrepancies.

Yep! we are missing soup bowls.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mutton – No Pressure.

I am suspecting this one was “invented” by dad in one of his not too willing to be involved moments. Maybe a game was on or maybe he was propounding solutions to the Kashmir problem, bottom line is he wasn’t at a place where he wanted to be in front of the flames on a constant basis.

The other thing about dad is that he doesn’t believe mutton should be cooked in a pressure cooker. We have been brought up to believe that mutton cooked in a pressure cooker is as bad as potatoes. Now, don’t get me wrong - I LIKE potatoes, but who’d want their mutton masquerading as potatoes? Over time and marriage I have seen that all mutton in pressure cooker isn’t necessarily potato, but the beliefs of your formative years have a habit of staying put. And by now I have sufficiently elucidated the title so let’s jump into the making of Mutton – No Pressure.

Well, you begin by chopping mounds of onions. Or you request Sushi to chop ‘em for you if you get all tearful killing zem. Thus -

Then you prep a kadhai by heating it a bit over the stove. In oven terms, this would be called "pre-heating". After the kadhai is pre-heated enough, we add a bit, make that a fair bit of mustard oil and let it get all hot and bothered too. Finally, you dump in the chopped onions and mutton , put the lid on it and there ends your involvement for the next hour and quarter.Before I forget, the flame doesn't need to burn too bright, keep it on "low".

During this time you are free to propound solutions to the Kashmir problem, bug Sushi over his lamentable tendency to hog the computer for playing games and hogging it yourself to complete this blog. This may also be a good time to discover that you are out of g-g paste, a very vital ingredient, without which mutton isn't just potato, it's french beans! One of us, I won't say which, left the comfort of the home and hearth to correct the omissions of the morning shopping expedition.

G-G paste? That's "ginger- garlic" paste. It is also known as "g(squared) paste" or "paste 2G" in different parts of the world.

Being the responsible adult that I am, I went to check on the concoction in the kadhai midway through my self-imposed exile from the kitchen...and....wooooahhhh....wasn't what I had expected!

See that, all that water in there? I believe that's cause of the onions and maybe the mutton too. After all 3/4th of the body IS water! And the reason it's yellow is nothing very gross..naah that's just the mustard oil mixing with water. As my shocked senses returned to normal, I realized that "cooking in its own juices" is the technical term used to describe this phenomenon. I covered it again and did another "Eureka" - for the principle isn't very different from pressure cooker. The meat was cooking in steam, just, probably not as drastically fast to potato it.

As the hour approaches, or rather, as the hour and quarter approaches, one needs to get the masala ready. In an altogether different kadhai or sauce pan, take some more mustard oil, to which you add some red chili, the hard won g-g paste, jeera powder, and just about anything that catches your fancy. I'd recommend some black pepper and salt and curd to get a sour tang. Anything goes, but tomatoes, which unless you are Punjabi or Italian is absolutely inexcusable. And that, is another of my daddy's sayings. And I, abide by it. Well, then you cook the masala.

A good indication of the cook-ed-ness of masala is when it starts to separate from the oil that held it. That is when you drop everything (figuratively speaking only) and mix it in with the mutton. By this time, the mutton should have soaked up it's juices and the onion should have become indistinguishable from the mutton. So, as you can see, a lot of careful co-ordination and syncing is required. Timing - would make or break this recipe.

If everything goes well, you have on the one hand, mutton which is tender and dry. On the other hand, you have masala that is separated from the oil it was brewed in. And when the twain did meet - here's what you get.

You may add a bit o' water and let - simmer if you like curry. Personally, I prefer things dry to bring out the pungent flavour of the mustard oil. Happy eating - No pressure!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Maah Shepherd's Pie

The story of "Shepherd's Pie" goes like this - I chanced upon a place called "Polka Dots", which is a restaurant, and no, you are not dim, it really isn't all that obvious from the name. Polka dots happens to be one of the first "around the world cuisine" places in my part of the world, and that still doesn't explain why it's named that, but I'll let that pass, for now. Well, I was sitting there, browsing the menu and saw "Shepherd's pie" which conjured up a pretty compelling mental image. I was thinking of a shepherd, minding his flock amidst rolling hills with perhaps a soft mist around. He'd probably be pulling at his pipe as he sits by a small fire, in which presumably, he'd baked the pie. Compelling enough to try out an unknown dish? I certainly thought so! 'Course I didn't know then that the contents of the pie were essentially ground lamb meat and that gives a very sinister tone to the dish! Imagine Little Bo Peep , has lost her sheep, and she's really really hungry now.

Getting back to the pie, the lamb at polka dots, in his life, could not have had very hygienic habits. Apparently though, he had made enough of an impression all those years ago to barge in on one of my google moments. Google Gods turned up quite an intriguing recipe, where they even replaced "ground lamb" with "ground chicken", so I didn't feel like I had to go looking for an animal that was well groomed..and erm...with metrosexual his life that is.

A bit of a challenge that these "around the world" recipes pose is that the ingredients may not be so easily found. Worse still, you may never have heard of them before. Dried thyme leaves? I didn't have any! What I did have is lot of little Oregano packets that we collect(wholly legitimately) from Pizza Hut, so that was one item off the list.

"Catsup"? I certainly hadn't heard of it before and was pretty certain it wasn't lurking around in the fridge waiting to catch me unawares. Invoking google Gods yet again, I did gain some insight into the mystery.
Location: White House, Washington DC
Time: Breakfast
Barrack Obama : "Michelle, would you pass the catsup please? I could use some on this here omelet"

Location:Hogwarts Castle
Harry Potter: Accio Ketchup!!

Oh Ketchup?! Any self respecting refrigerator has that! Sushi though insisted that potatoes(potatoes do get into it) and ketchup sounded awful! At the same time, he wanted to stay true to the recipe as well...and we were at our wit's ends!

Devoid of the catsup, and barring the oregano, -stand-in for dried thyme leaves, and the Worcestershire sauce, which my fridge in all honesty can't claim to have either, we seemed to be heading for a somewhat flavourless pie. Here's where the Sashimi ingenuity kicks in, but I'll talk about that a little later.

We jumped right into the preparation - boiled potatoes, peeled them, mashed them, added bit o' milk, butter, salt, and mashed them some more until they got all light and fluffy.

Next we had to tackle our veggies, mainly mushrooms, onions and peas. The recipe did mention carrots too, but we aint all that "rabbity". By "tackling", I mean you need to get the veggies into a pan with a bit of oil and ..."saute" it around a bit. We also did add some chopped garlic, mainly because by this time we had abandoned all idea of being strictly the recipe that is!

"Chicken broth and flour mixture" is what needs to be done next. Chicken broth, we made by the simple expedient of boiling some of the ground chicken in water and adding salt and pepper and oregano and letting the whole thing simmer a bit. (Traditionally, I believe, the broth is made by doing unto the bones what we did to the ground) The water then, becomes the broth and you can still use the left over ground chicken too. The flour needs to be mixed into the broth to create a mixture that's tending towards a paste but not quite getting there. This is what gives the pie that moist juicy taste.

The important part now, is to get the chicken into the pan and see that it gets cooked, really done, not rare, not medium. You can then merrily pour and mix (the broth), then sprinkle and mix (oregano - one never gets enough of a good thing, pepper, salt) and finally add the veggies and garlic.
Remember, I was worried a little earlier about the flavourless-ness of the whole effort sans catsup and Worcestershire sauce.? So, I decided on garlic, a bit of soya sauce and a lil bit of chilly sauce to infuse some life into this, a bit hampered by lack of right ingredients at the right time, dish. The dish, when dished, had a momo- like taste going for it which was all nice considering we really ...truly madly deeply love momos. Notice that I said "momos" twice in the last sentence, also bolded and italicised it?....Well it's a literary technique called foreshadowing. I use it quite a lot and so does J K Rowling!

Let's not digress though, not when the final and crucial step, that of scooping the chicken-veg-broth-sauces mixture into a ceramic bowl and arranging the mashed potatoes on top is still to be taken. Once that is done, you pop the dish into the oven (in our case, our trusty microwave, duly preheated) and let it bake till the potatoes start going brown.

The picture above shows the end result of our efforts and the one below is a more professional rendition of the Shepherd's pie. Lacking in presentation a bit again, but let's see , we probably "pattern" the potatoes a bit more and yeah "brown" them more too.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Chocolate Cake That Wasn't ...

I made this one for Christmas last year, i.e just over a monce ago. It wasn't strictly described as a Christmas cake on the website I used for reference, but it was supposed to turn out all moist and chocolatey if done right. That seemed to be good enough for Sushi and me!

Well, we thought we did everything right - had this ready reference hard copy of the recipe, we measured out all the ingredients in the exact quantities mentioned. We even had a calculator handy, so we could divide the numbers mentioned in there, to scale down the size of the cake. Things seemed to be pretty encouraging up until that point, we got ready what looked like the perfect cake mix. Picture below -

As our confidence levels grew, we deviated a bit from the written (in hard copy) instructions, but not too much - we changed the shape and size of the baking utensil. We went with the above glass bowl, what was mentioned I believe was something more rectangular and ceramic. But that ought not to have made such a difference ? Right?

Anyway, the other glitch was that we don't have an oven at this point of time, so we used our trusty microwave. It has served us well.... We did pre-heat it and everything though. To cut a long story short, the cake refused to bake right. Convection, microwave, microwave + grill, just grill, pre-programmed cake setting, nothing made an impression. The cake acquired a hard exterior, broke up like it thought it was supposed to be doing an impression of an erupting volcano. Here's what I mean -

It sat in the microwave for all of an hour, but then I tried the "Knife Test" on it (Stick knife in cake, If Knife = wet, cake not baked, else if knife = dry, cake baked end if). This here knife that you see on the side, comes out clean on the sides, but is all sloshed in chocolate when stuck in the core.

Any ideas?? Anyone?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

First Came the Methi Paratha

I got this recipe from the bai back home, had to coax it out of her. Took time and patience and a lot of re-verification and corroboration of facts from different sources, but the end product was a good approximation of the original - even if I say so myself. Me being of the less reticent types, am ready to share the secrets of the Methi Paratha with those whom perfection(paratha-wise) may have eluded so far.

1. First, you need to get yourself a bunch of methi, a small bunch serves 2 (Sushi and Sashimi sized 2). Then you'd need to separate the leaves from the stems, until there are about 3 fistfuls of methi leaves all eagerly waiting to be chopped. For chopped, they must be if at all you want to avoid the sensation of chewing on a bunch of grass( which we did) and it is only the flavour thereof that you are after(which we were). First, they must be washed though (without detergent will do) and then chopped length wise, then width wise, length wise again, until you get something that looks like this -
Pretty neat huh?
2. Moving on, what you'd want next is the dough and this requires some very sophisticated and complex mixing (, not quite, not mixing as in cocktails). A little bit of regular atta, some besan (depending on the yellowness desired), haldi( depending on the degree of further yellowness preferred), lal-mirch powder, if you like things hot, and ajwain (I add ajwain to everything I make - my kitchen traditions). some g-g paste(ginger garlic), curd and then finally water. Water's to be added with a lot of deliberation 'cause this is the make or break point of the entire dough which is so essential to the success of your parathas. Too much water and it becomes runny, too little and it doesn't knead. Providing you have put in all the ingredients and in the right quantities, you are ready to knead. There are no restrictions as to how the kneading should proceed as long as the end result looks like -
Oops, I mean like this - (the one above is a picture of kneading in progress).

3. Okay, we are getting somewhere now! Next, we break the dough above into bite sized, make that cookie sized little spheres, vis-a-vis ,
I'm not gonna say what the dry atta in the corner is for. Na, that'll be my own little trade secret. What happens next is fairly simple - you roll out the little spheres into flat circles or the closest approximation to a circle that you can get , depending on your skills in that area. Put the dough-circle things on the tawa, swab in a good deal of (refined) oil (Sushi's suggestion) and blot the excess out with kitchen towels (my own brilliant idea) as you turn your parathas round and round on the tawa on their way to bakedom.