Friday, April 26, 2019

Experimenting with Bok Choy

Remember this post about bok choy? Remember me? Whether you do or not, I'm going to tell you about my latest experiments with bok choy.

I found a couple of good specimens recently and became fixated on the idea of a garlicky stir-fry. I recently acquired a jade green stone pestle and mortar so it's easy to throw in any number of cloves of garlic, pound them and use them. (Not that it was much more difficult earlier.) 

I made this about two weeks ago, I think. There is no fixed recipe for this. I wanted the taste of the garlic and the chilli to be prominent, and decided to use mustard oil to cook this in. So I heated the oil, added the garlic and the chilli and all the bok choy chopped up, let it wilt and wilt and dry, and then added a bit of salt, stirred it and took it off the fire. It tasted bitter and sharp initially but I soldiered on and managed to finish two cups. I quite liked it, finally.

My leftover problems haven't been left behind - so I had visions of the bok choy going into a nice and colourful fried rice with a little leftover beetroot, leftover rice and a fresh fried egg. As I'm consciously cutting down on salt, it all tasted a little bland, but I'm sure when you toss everything together and liberally add salt and pepper and remember to add the egg after it's been fried both sides and not worked through the rice sunny side up, it will be much better.

Oh yes! This dish also has some snow peas I purchased for a rather obscene amount at a store expats frequent - they too me two weeks to finish, but they're finally gone, unsucculent and shrivelled as they were! (They were never very good, unlike their ilk I have tasted elsewhere.)  Hurrah for me! I ate every single bit of my Rs 350.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Toast To Sweet Potato

Just this morning, I discovered that #sweetpotatotoast (that's Sweet Potato Toast) is a thing. I'm trying to scroll down the Instagram feed of some 13,000 posts to see when the fad began but I still haven't gotten past posts on it from the last week of November. For me, it was a serendipitous discovery last year that simply some cinnamon sprinkled on sweet potato slices could replicate the smell and taste of French Toast. I'm no nutritionist but I do know that sweet potato has a lot of vitamins and fibre and is one of the healthiest foods. I went looking for a comparison with bread and I found this.

 I had this brainwave sometime last year when sweet potato was in season. I think I was looking at desserts made with sweet potato, but as usual, I lost interest, probably because there were too many ingredients I would have to buy just for this, and left it to languish in the vegetable basket. Then when my conscience nudged me, I baked it or pressure cooked it - I really don't remember now - and sprinkled it with cinnamon. And the strangest thing happened - the smell of my grandmother's French Toast arose in my kitchen. She used to make it for breakfast often when I was a child, with bakery bread that came in thicker slices than today. I've never been able to replicate the taste. I even took it to work and shared it with a couple of colleagues who liked it.

My method

This time, I simply steamed the sweet potato in a colander over a pan of water that was boiling something else.

I peeled and sliced it, put it on an oiled tava/skillet, and let it cook on both sides, adding a few drops of extra oil whenever I felt the slices would begin to burn.

Once they are crisp and brown around the edges, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt and some powdered cinnamon, let sizzle, pause for a few seconds. Turn them over. Repeat.

I've even got step-by-step photos for you below (from bottom upwards)!

I'm not recommending any amount - I went with pinches of cinnamon till I arrived at the taste I liked. A few slices make a great mid-workday snack.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Lazy Beans, Cool Beans

I came up with the idea for these beans on a lazy Saturday. Now when I say lazy Saturday, don't for one minute think the Saturday was one when i lazed about the house. (Recently, all my plans to laze about the house and watch nothing but travel and food shows on TV are coming to naught for some reason or the other.) Oh no, it was a day a friend was coming for lunch, and I had drawn up a decent list of things to make for her. However, I didn't feel up to slaving over the stove for long, and one of the things I made was a brainwave - from years of Internet exposure to whole cooked beans, I suppose. No topping, tailing, chopping, none of that tiresome stuff. However, the poppy seed addition was my idea. Their appeal is mostly visual, but tell me, how often don't we look for style over substance. (And the substance here is not half bad!)

"Cool beans!" is an expression a young friend of mine uses, fairly new to me, but Urban Dictionary tells me it's been around since the Sixties, and is used to describe something very favourable or pleasing. It fits this dish well.

Here's the no-fuss recipe where I didn't bother with measurement or proportion.

Wash green beans well.

Pressure cook them with just a little water, don't immerse them. One whistle will do. (Alternatively, boil them for a couple of minutes.)

Open cooker, and plunge the beans in cold water. Leave to drip in a colander.

Heat some olive oil, saute the beans for a minute or two. The important thing is to ensure they don't turn colour.

Add some crushed/ slivered almonds, mix, and let cook for half-a-minute.

Throw in a very small fistful of poppy seeds, some salt, mix once again, warm through, and you're done!

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Carrots for Curry

Don't you like these carrots? I grew, nay, drew them myself, and when I found out I couldn't colour them in Paint for some reason, I altered them to look all beta-carotene-y in an app on my phone. It's a good way to illustrate a blog post when there is no photograph of the actual food. Of course, this has no resemblance to the finished product, but I'm so thrilled I thought of it. It's certainly better than my photography!

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at my friend's place, feeling low and worked up. She called me over for lunch to divert my attention and I ended up infecting her with my sadness. But this was after lunch, for which she had made the most amazing cauliflower roast (with gram flour and a bit of ground rice to make it crisp), sambar and a beetroot-green gram stir-fry. She said carrot could be used instead of beetroot, and I've tasted similar stuff she's made with greens as well. So the following week I made this stir-fry/curry with carrot at my place. My grandmother would use green gram with raw banana to make a stir-fry. I should make that next.

There are many recipes on the Internet for this. Here's mine:

Carrots, diced: 1 cup
Onion, chopped: 1
Green gram/moong dal, soaked for a while: A big fistful
Green chillies, slit: 2-3
Salt (I used 1/2 tsp)
Oil: 1-2 tsp
To temper: 1/2 tsp each of mustard and cumin; 5-6 curry leaves; 1 broken red chilli

Heat the oil, add the mustard, let it pop, then add the other ingredients. They will splutter right away, so once they do that, add the onions and green chillies and fry them for a couple of minutes. Then add the carrots and the gram, cover and cook till softer. Add the salt and cook a little more. Take it off the heat. Garnish with coriander, if you like.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Upholding Upma

Upma is making national headlines - and I am cashing in on it to come out of blogging hibernation. An innocuous comment by a film director on his love for upma - that it deserves to be the national dish - stirred a news channel to rage, chef, nutritionist and reporters in tow, whether it wasn't culinary chauvinism to make such a demand. I saw it a day later on YouTube, but I hear it ran on prime time. The outrage and the self-righteous discussion made me laugh out loud. Whether news channels are losing their sense of humour and proportion is a debate I will leave to other fora, but let me hereby reaffirm my love and affection for this blob of nourishment which sustains many of us on days when there is no time or energy for the preparation of better nutrition.

How much simpler can a dish be? Just a couple of spoons of oil, a tempering of mustard, urad and chana dal, ginger, green or red chillies, whichever is at hand, curry leaves to add zing, if you have them, water, salt and semonlina/rava. That's all you need. Add plump cashewnuts for oomph. Onions for taste. All done in less than 10 minutes. With enough lubrication or enough moisture (oil or water), its journey is a smooth glide down your throat. Not for me chutney or sambar or powder or even lime juice as an accompaniment. Try squeezing the chillies in it lightly to release the bits of upma trapped in them - that's heavenly, if you like some heat.

A few months ago, I met a friend from college at her hotel for breakfast. Both of us ordered upma, room service. It came, unctuous, glistening, crunchy with well-fried dal. We lapped it up as we rehashed old memories, gossiped and exchanged notes about growing older. The years melted away. Laughter and upma filled our heart and soul. That day, upma was extra-special.

Upma is as unpopular as it's popular, I know. But I'm one of those who love it. It's easy to make, fulfilling, elemental. It's easy to enhance too - bathe it in tomatoes and it becomes 'tomato bath', add more nutrition by adding chopped vegetables, using quinoa or millets instead of semolina, use buttermilk or curds to cook it,  or add mushroom, chicken stock and coconut milk to recreate a $100,000 prize-winning version. That sounds like something I would draw the line at, truth be told, but then I haven't tried it. I haven't ever eaten it with sugar, a popular accompaniment. I don't intend to start now. Give me the good ol' classic version any day! I would even recommend it to be the national dish of the world!