Diary of Hobbitt

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cuisine Catastrophe !

A couple of days back, not being in a mood to cook full course meal of dal, roti, sabzi, , I decided to make heavy tiffin. With freshly ground coriander chutney sitting complacently in the fridge , I hit upon the idea of making arisi upma ie. upma made of coarsely ground rice and dal ( which my husband likes and which I detest -the very sight of which is enough to kill my appetite ! ) . The thought of making this simple dish (my dislike not withstanding ) was enough to bring a spring in my step as I looked forward to a leisurely evening , watching my favourite serials ("sob sob serials as my daughter refers to them ) in peace. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the catastrophe that was to befall !

It does'nt require a gourmet cook to make arisi upma - unlike exotic dishes which comprise of complicated ingredients (half of them you probably would never have heard of ! ) , this dish has only about 5-6 ingredients , is easy to make, virtually oil free and healthy ( the only villian being coconut which anyway can be excluded if cholestrol looms large in the family - but which in my case , this time, proved to be my undoing ! ).

My body recently welcomed yet another tenant (othe tenants being Diabetes , Thyroid ,Rheumatoid Arthritis ! ) into its dwelling ! On my last visit to my diabetologist for my checkup, My doc looked at my reports (a full package deal !) and then looked at me disapprovingly and remarked that my cholestrol (the bad one of course)level being high, I was to cut down not only on starchy foods but also on cholestrol raising demons like coconut , fats (which any way my diabetes had already enforced ) and other such foods . Personally at the end of all this melee , I think I will be left eating only salads and vegetables of all kinds (root veg of course will not be part of this diet !) The day High Blood pressure joins the merry gang inside me , my food habits will equal that of rabbits and of all the herbivorous animals that one sees on Animal Planet !

The above mentioned was the determining factor in making coconut-free arisi upma that evening . Par honi ko kaun taal saktha hai ? It was ordained that evening that khayamat hone wali thi ! Instead of going about the recipe as usual (omitting only the coconut ) , my adventurous mind decided to try out one of the tips given in one of my innumerable cookery books - that is, grinding pepper , cumminseeds and channa dal coarsely and adding it to the upma flour . Happily and confidently (how misplaced it was I was soon to realize by the end of the day ! )I made the upma and transferred it to the casserole.

Dinnertime arrived and the thought of eating a different type of arisi upma actually built up my appetite (considering my dislike of it , I myself was surprised ! ). Opening the casserole , my senses were enveloped by the aroma of ghee ("one more cholestrol raising demon" said my mind -shush ,go away said my alter mind -if one can have alter ego why not an alter mind too ? ) and pepper and greedliy I served a heapful of upma and coriander chutney onto my plate and sat down to eat ! In went the first mouthful and "OUT" appeared invisible flames from my ears , nose and face ! Ooooooooooh I felt as if my whole body was on fire ! Realization hit me -I had happily overlooked the proportion of pepper in my state of overconfidence and added pepper liberally to cummin and chana dal while grinding.
Before he sat down for dinner , I warned my better half about the situation so that he would'nt also be subjected to the same torture ! Finally it was the morning meal of morkuhambu (South Indian version of Kadhi ),urulaikizhangu (potato) curry and rice that saved the day .Otherwise the family would have had to resort to eating "home-delivered restaurant food" which my better half hates ,and which I love to have once in a while . My daughter being the ever wise one (she detests all kinds of upma )had her usual fare of rice, morkuzhambu,urulaikizhangu curry !

Moral of the Story- It does not need too many cooks to spoil a broth. Even one cook can achieve that !

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Luchbox Woes

Lunchbox Woes

Necessity they say is the mother of invention- how truly remarked and how apt it is,is something I have discovered in recent times !

One might wonder in what way is the proverb even distinctly related to lunch – well, here goes. My offspring ( one of the many” always-in- a rush” officegoers of this bustling metro ) is blessed with a micro tummy and a tongue that has macro fussy tastebuds! She exhibited an unusual taste for raw potatoes as a two year old. She was caught on the sly, biting into a raw ,unwashed potato covered with mud ! Thankfully, she outgrew it before she turned three !

Coming to the present- she has two lists which comprise of a) Don’t pack into my luchbox, and, b) can pack into my lunchbox. The length of the former exceeds the length of the latter ! On her list of “don’t send, “ lady fingers tops the list followed by cabbage, cauliflower,all types of beans, brinjals, marrow, pumpkin, rasam, drysabzis , parathas, pulao, lime rice,tomato rice ,cauliflower parathas ,mooli parathas ,kootos (((vegetables and lentils in coconut gravy )Vetc-the list is virtually like Hanuman’s tail . The “can send” list has potatoes, palak, green peas, bitter gourd ,chappathis with select gravy sabzis such as mutter paneer, palak paneer, alu palak, alu mutter,channa masala, pav bhaji,alu parathas ,channa rice (my own devised recipe which she lovesl)lloves !) and curd rice.(which the Madrasi tongue cannot do without! )This list though not sweet is definitely short !! Finally I am left in a state of perpetual confusion as to what to make ! For obvious reasons (ha, ha !) potatoes or chickpeas cannot be repeated too often !. Over the past few years this kind of demand has necessitated in constant innovation on my part thus inventing all kinds of delights as well as disasters !

On one occasion, fenugreek leaves combined with boiled white peas and coconut was an instant hit not only with my daughter but also with her colleagues who tasted it. However, some innovations do meet with disastrous results! Yesterday, my jigar ki tukdi came home with her veg box full – even before I could ask her about it she accusingly turned around and remarked “‘Don’t ever send this preparation of cabbage and white peas. The minute I opened the box, the smell was so overpowering that I had to shut it before someone demanded a room freshner. “ So much for my overconfidence in culinary inventions- figuratively speaking I did have to eat a humble pie !

Moral of the story-Necessity may be the mother of invention but an invention gone wrong indicates Love’s Labour Lost !

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Haath Ka Kamaal !

The other day I was watching a cookery show in one of the regional channels- the presenter was the director of a catering college and a well known chef too. Armed with my pad and pen I eagerly looked forward to adding yet another recipe to my collection. At the very start when he announced he was going to prepare suraa ( a type of fish ) kuzhambu (or sambar),my enthusiasm took a beating. Being a veggie, the very name put me off ! To kill a lazy afternoon I anyway decided to watch ( curiosity got the better of me, I guess !).

The host - a man of generous proportions (khathey peethey type – like Obelix of Asterix fame !)- set about the task of preparing the dish while giving a running commentary. Whoosh! He dipped his hands into a bowl of water and took out the pieces of fish and placed it on a dish. (by now I was feeling a little queasy- but curiosity continuing, I watched ! ). Using his hands he took out onions, tomatoes ,chillies, garlic- ginger paste and put them into the kadhai for frying. Wiping his hands in his white apron (no doubt a new apron being used for every show ), he proceeded to take out the spices and the required masala from the containers using his hands once more. Not once did he use any spoon or spatula except while handling the kadhai ! By the end of the show, there he was standing with the dish laid out before him -with his apron clearly (rather, messy !) bearing the proof of his efforts !

The secret probably lies literally in his haath ka kamaal ! Whether suraa kuzhambu is prepared using only hands to get that extra flavour or not I cannot say -for obvious reasons ! In the meanwhile only those who dare to prepare suraa kuzhambu in the above mentioned manner ( using only hands !) can pass a judgement on that ! After all yeh to zubaan wali baat hai !

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cold Winter, Hot Soups & Bread Rolls

Temperatures hit all time low । Mumbai shivered and woollens (mothballs preserved-in –case –of- a -trip- to-nothern hillstations , as well as not- so- well- preserved-slightly- moth eaten ones too ! ) came out and Mumbaikars who would rather be dead than caught wearing woollens even in winter (after all a couple of cool days in Dec-Jan can hardly be called winter ! ) flaunted their winterwear !

At home the family too indulged in this activity, especially my very own flesh & blood (my jigar ki tukdi ! ) who though she hated the cold weather , loved to dress up for any occasion and if this years winter was anything to go by,it really & a truly was an occasion to dress to the teeth (pun intended !) Out came her pullovers, cardigans, jackets and woollen scarves and caps (only mittens were missing !) My better half (blessed with an oversensitive skin which breaks out into rashes the minute he wears anything other than cotton ) made do with his (as usual sober )cotton and corduroy jackets, while I got to experiment with my daughter’s fluffy jacket (thoughtfully sent to her by her uncle in Delhi ) which she dismissed as too thick for Mumbai’s winter- but which came of good use when I attended a music festival ( where Mumbaikars came sporting all kinds of winterwear quite similar to mine ) that was held in an open area.

Not to be outdone in the celebrations , I rolled up my sleeves and got down to serious matters of the tongue and tastebuds ! As papers reported mercury level dipping lower and lower everyday, the temperature in my kitchen rose everyday ! For dinner , one day it was vegetable soup-croutons-pasta for dinner , another day spinach soup , baked beans-garlic bread ,yet another day, tomato soup-grilled sandwichfor dinner,another day creamy onion soup( instant soup packet!) vada pav and caramel custard ( to those who wonder –in this cold weather ? I say why not ? ) . Of course Sunday evenings were reserved for more delights – bhajiyas, pakodas , breadrolls ,sundal (steamed and seasoned lentils) cheese fingers (thanks to Godrej for bringing out this wonderful ready to make cheese fingers and coming to the rescue of many a kitchen mistress/master ! The family tucked into all these with full gusto not even sensing for a moment that the creator (ahem… who but me ) was longing for the roadside vadapav !

Looks like winter is all set to bid goodbye – well its also goodbye to the marathon session of soups and breadrolls and other such fried delights (rather, cholesterol raising demons ) !

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mooli Koftas- Rome was not built in a day

Pregnancy brings with it not only physical changes which are noticeable to outside world but also changes within which only the mum-to-be feels. These include mood swings and craving not only for sour things but also for unusual things which by normal standards are not deemed edible – e.g ash, chalk, etc.etc. Fortunately I suffered from none of these- being morning sick (not only in the mornings) but most of the time right through , I had no craving except occasionally, when some food would taste nice to me. I remember once, gorging on cucumbers (about a kilo !)at one go, only to vomit out everything a little later !

One day my friend Meera taking pity on my plight brought parathas and mooli kofta (on one of those days when my nausea decided to take a holiday )which I devoured greedily ! They simply tasted yum……….my and out of this world !

A couple of days later, craving for mooli koftas , I decided to make it myself-after all it did’nt seem like a very complicated affair. Anyway I called up Meera and took the recipe. Excitement at trying out a new dish (,I think,) kept my nausea at bay probably making the villain (nausea of course ) wonder bhala uski(excitement) shakti meri shakti se zyada kaise ho sakti hai .

Arming myself with the ingredients I proceeded to make the gravy which turned out quite well. One half of the recipe done I made the koftas and then proceed to fry them . The hot oil sizzled and in went the koftas. My appetite (a phenomenon almost non existent those days ) built up looking at the koftas sizzling & turning golden brown in colour while the burner was on high flame. Voila ! the koftas were ready to be added to the gravy and doing just that , I kept it on slow fire and removed it a couple of minutes later and Lo behold – my mooli koftas were ready to be relished by one and all (that is by my myself,& my better half and probably by my liitle one within who exhibited her excitement by having a full game of football inside me !Ha Ha –that was just a joke ). My husband ,who had patiently been putting up with my mood swings and unpredictable behaviour during this period was taken aback when he encountered a cheerful(not one of myfrequent traits those days) wife when he returned from office and when I told him the reason he too was eager to have dinner. We sat down to dinner and my husband marvelled at my ability to cook something so complicated given my present condition. The first mouthful of paratha kofta went inside- yuck what was golden brown on the outside was yellow and raw from inside and I spat it out ! I burst into tears (the dam had burst open !) and looked at my husband who sportingly ate some ,saying “So what if the koftas are raw, the gravy is good……. By the way – Rome was not built in a day . Better luck next time !” The resident within me must also have had some inkling of the disaster because the very next day my nausea returned in full swing-Jo jeeta wahi sikander.

As for Mooli koftas there has been no next time since then. The incident was so traumatic that I developed permanent aversion to mooli koftas . Much water has flown under the bridge,and over the years I have perfected my cooking skills but to date I have never attempted to make mooli koftas ! In my case I abandoned building Rome forever !