Diary of Hobbitt

Monday, January 28, 2008

Idli - Disaster to Delight !

At the cost of being labelled a pompous ass I would nevertheless like to say that the idlis I make have often been appreciated not only by my North Indian friends but also by my South Indian friends (by no standards a mean achievement !).

The road to achieving soft, white and fluffy idlis has been a lonely one. During my cuisine, journey over the years , I have encountered taunts and contemptuous remarks - but never one to give up (especially when my culinary skills are questioned ) I trudged on tirelessly ,thanks to the support of my better half who (poor guy) sportingly ate whatever I dished out in the name of food! In those years when I was a young newly married bride ,trying to adjust to my new surroundings in a strange city (the same Mumbai that has been my home these 20 something years !) , living with my husband who till some months back (then ) I had not even met, I was perpetually miserable being "maternal homesick" (for which I was often gently reminded that Mumbai was my home and not Delhi anymore -so, how could I possibly be home sick ? ). My cooking skills were virtually nil! Having only theoretical knowledge , I perfected my skill over the years with the help of cookery books ,and experiences of "trial and error " method !

Once during the early years when I was still a novice in the art of cooking , my husband came up with the idea of putting the weight on the cooker when the steam came out , so that the idlis would get cooked faster . "You need not keep waiting near the cooker after all " he added. I was full of admiration for this wonderful idea and of course for my brilliant husband ! Alas words spoken too soon - on opening the cooker the sight that met my eyes -the sight was one of concentrated glue poured into the idli moulds ! "Never mind, ' if we can't eat it . It'll come in handy when we need gum to seal the envelopes !" quipped my better half ! Yet another time , being in a hurry one day to go out, I simply stirred the batter and left it to ferment without adding salt . Next morning the idlis turned out not only tastless but also stone hard ! I tried to salvage the situation by making idli upma, but neither my daughter nor my husband nor me could eat it. With good intentions of feeding a stray dog I gave the upma to the dog which sniffed at it , ignored it, and gave me a disdainfdul stare ! Once I was subjected to acid dripping comments by my mother-in-law for not mixing the batter in the way it was supposed to be mixed.

The idli journey has been a valuable one for me - some lessons-1) husband is not always right ! 2) never think that stray dogs will eat anything you give. 3)daughter-in-law's miserable culinary skills will give the upper hand to some mothers-in-law who will go on and on about their daughters' fine culinary skills ( conveniently forgetting "saas be kabhi bahu thi !" 4) most husbands will put up with the deplorable culinary skills of their wives during the first year of married life . Last but not least, I have learnt the proper way to make the perfect idli !

Today's South Indian youngsters of course would have continental breakfast of toast, omlette and cereal rather than idli-chutney. They in fact hate it . A niece of mine is of the opinion that since idlis are much ado about nothing affair its better to swallow the batter and be done with, than undergo the torture of eating it (according to her whether steamed or raw idlis taste the same.)! My jigar ka tukda (or tukdi ?) of course goes a step further and says "The guy who invented idlis should have been shot " !

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kadhi Sazza

Kadhi Saaza

Nothing is more appetizing than having piping hot food especially on a cold wintry evening (even though Mumbai winters are nothing great to talk about ) and if one is in a slightly adventurous mood to try out a new recipe (even a simple one at that ),it normally turns out quite good (personal experience has often proved so in my case !).

Last week Mumbai experienced one such wintry evening (it was actually quite cold- next day’s newspaper corroborated that!),and stirred within me a strong desire to try out something new (but not for me those oh-so-exotic –sounding dishes which is the current fad that even if one is not fond of it, one likes to pretend that one does, though in the confines of the four walls of one’s dining room one would probably be tucking into aloo parathas, khitchdi, sarson ka saag, paneer mutter and other such typical spicy Indian food that the the desi tongue craves for !). After much consultation with Sanjeev Kapoor, Tarla Dalal.,Neeta Mehta, Premila Lal , Savitri Bhatia ( what I am referring to of course are their cookery books ! ) I decided to make vegetable Kadhi ( whats so great about that some of you may wonder,) but here I was , a South Indian ,used to making only morkuzhambu (-the south Indian version of the North Indian kadhi) –embarking on a new adventure.

Armed with all the necessary ingredients I launched Operation Kadhi . Whisked curd with gramflour into creamy consistency and added a pinch of turmeric powder, salt and a pinch of asafoetida and kept the mixture aside. Poured a teaspoon of oil in the kadhai and as it heated up, in went ginger,garlic,green chillies,cummin seeds , red chillies, fenugreek seeds,and finally ajwain seeds.As the spices cackled and sizzled ,in went potatoes, drumsticks, cluster beans, baby brinjals and curry leaves and left to cook with a little water covered with a lid. Ten minutes later when the ingredients were cooked the creamy mixture was poured into the kadhai and kept on slow fire. Ten minutes later – Voila- my vegetable kadhi was ready to taste and the aroma that wafted was mmmmmmm………and tasted yumm……y (did’nt know that teaspoon of kadhi would all that I would get to taste that day ! )

Happy with the outcome, I poured my mouth watering ( rather pompous blowing ,my own trumpet eh ? ) preparation into the casserole and then made some gobi parathas and kept that in another casserole. Dinner time arrived and so did my appetite but as for my husband ……no sign of him ! With my appetite increasing by the minute I decided to do justice to the food. Took out my new melamine bowl (decide to inaugurate my new set )and as I started to open the lid suddenly developed a mind of its own and decided to stay stuck to the casserole. Half an later I was still struggling and the adamant lid remained in the same position ! Finally losing the battle I had to make do with eating only the parathas (which by now had become cold as they had been served on the plate half an hour before.) An hour later when my husband sat down for dinner , I warned him about the dinner that awaited him. Never one to give up easily, armed with a hammer and tongs he subjected the casserole to all kinds of banging and pulling and lo behold….. it split wide open revealing steaming hot kadhi. A for my better half… he relished the dinner thoroughly with a triumphant look of having won the battle while I felt I had been given Kadhi Saaza !