Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mind Your Pounds And Quarts!

Glug glug glug glug glug glu... can you hear that? What do you think that is? Not me imbibing anything, but the cook on the TV show pouring out "just a bit of oil" into the pan! The "just a bit", which resembles a torrent rather than a trickle, is variously referred to as "a couple of teaspoons/tablespoons", "a splash and that's it" and I don't remember what else.

This rant has been on my mind for many weeks, and it's not limited to oil. Just now, I saw a star chef recommend "just a bit" of flour and proceed to empty about a quarter of the pack into the bowl! Star chefs or home cooks, they seem to lose their sense of proportion when it comes to presenting a recipe. I often wonder whether I should cut the home cook some slack - it's probably her/his first time on TV, and as most home cooks are wont, they go by feel/rough/personal measures rather than tablespoons and cups and ounces, but then they shouldn't use those terms, should they? What's wrong with the star chefs then? Give up on weights and measures because, training all done, they've discovered what they really learnt after all those years in catering college is to cook with the senses, have discovered a healthy disregard for the stifling confines of measuring bowls and decided recipe be damned, viewers be confounded, it's the free spirit that matters!!! And makes for great showmanship.

Just this morning, I followed a recipe from a book to the letter, didn't even stint on the three tablespoons of oil it mentioned. That's a lot of vegetables, I told myself in justification, and consolation - a small head of cauliflower, two medium potatoes and 100 gms of peas, not to mention two tablespoons of coriander powder and one teaspoon of cumin powder and some other whole spices. What did I end up with - a scorched and singed pan, oil that got absorbed in the 2+1 spoons of powdered spices, charred vegetables and an inedible dish that I have not the heart to throw out because, let's face it, the potatoes and peas at least are somewhat edible, if not redeemable. Don't you writers try the recipes before you put them in print? Don't the publishers? Oh yeah, and pinches of this and that - now, those are tablespoons and teaspoons and even cups, in reality; not pinches or smidgeons or soupcons. The only pinch there is the one I give myself, hard, to make sure I'm not seeing double!

And what of those recipes which call for just 50 gm of cheese but positively ooze the stuff in the end result? I do not claim much knowledge of cheese. Where I live, I don't get much variety beyond cheddar and mozzarella unless I travel a considerable distance and pay obscene amounts for packs that are dangerously close to their expiry date, but how far can cheese crawl? I mean, the melty, spreading variety exists, but 50 gm can't cover an entire pizza, can it? I WANT MY CHEESE TO FLUFF! I WANT IT TO OOZE, I WANT TO BE ABLE TO DIGGGG INTO THE BAKE AND COME UP WITH OOEY GOOEY LAYERS, I WANT THE DISH TO LOOK CHEESY, AND I WANT IT ALL IN 50 GM!

And what's with all these TV cooks? Why are they so lax when it comes to using fuel judiciously, and using their cookware wisely? Why oh why do they put an empty pan on the fire, turn away and start talking to us? Because the "tad" of oil they're putting in the pan won't make a difference anyway?


  1. Oh yes.. I've seen that 'little bit of oil' being poured down in televisions or food videos... :)

  2. I don't know which TV cooks/shows you watch, but the ones I watch seem just fine. In any case I just cannot bring myself to follow a recipe to the T (unless baking is involoved). I usually just use the recipe as a basic guideline and just make it my own.

  3. Haha! Were you in my house y'day? I had the same conversation too, while watching a cooking show. They all ask for oil covering 'bottom of the pan'. Thats a big skillet, mind ya...

    But cheese on pizza is a different story. Its a personal taste, I believe. For eg, I like only teeny bit of frosting on my cupcakes. But why publish such recipes? Well, don't we express our personality thru our food?

  4. Aha, so you finally posted on this. :D
    Regarding the oil, out of the many many focaccia recipes I researched, all but one mentioned the use of 4-5 tbsp or 1/4 cup olive oil for getting the flavour right - the rest said 2 tbsp, which din't seem right at all because there was no flavour for that amount of flour :D - LOL.

    anyway, talking about cheese - one needs to use special cheese knives or graters to actually get the cheese to fluff - it does make a difference I've figured espcially when it comes to mozarella. 6 tbsp of cheese then is enough to cover a pizza and it will melt all over :D LOL

  5. Mmm am the first to comment :) Absolutely true Sra! Even I had ended up in such situations. But when it comes to cookery shows in TV both me and amma learnt is just jot down the list of ingredients and "not the quantities". We always go by our experience and the family's taste. And not much of home cooks are familiar with the table spoon/ tea spoon. Amma till date throws chillie powder, salt etc with her finger tips and never will use a spoon :( But yet her fingers know the family's toungue and tummy exactly!

  6. well said! I'm with you on this rant!!

  7. I don't EVER follow the measurements that the authors give in recipe books...I only follow the method. I have a friend who once made avial for 2 people using 16 green chillies!!!

  8. :) Reminds me of Khana Khazana! Or other chefs who cook canned stuff in roux and call it healthy!

  9. my main problem is with servings. tarla dalal's recipes are great, when she says feeds 4, she means feed 2. it pisses me off.

  10. I love your rants sra...and agree on your points..mostly I too never bother abt the amount they add...but you cooked a whole head of caulifolwer??..

  11. Laavanya, :) Ah, kindred spirit!
    TBC, I've no complaint with making a recipe one's own, but it irritates me when the end result is compromised, like my vegetable curry yesterday. And when you're talking about two teaspoons of oil and using two litres instead ...
    Suganya, er ... not sure whether I'm reading you right but I have nothing against publishing recipes, I just ask that they be upfront and honest about how much or how little of stuff they've used. Especially if there's a picture, you'd want your end result to look like it.
    Lakshmi, now I've got to look at these cheese knives and graters ...
    Ni, yeah, but not many would know how to balance the proportions if they don't have much experience - like me! :)
    AA, thanks
    Jayashree, yeah, my feelings exactly!
    Jyothsna, HA HA!
    Bee, I have the opposite problem - there seems to be too much!

  12. So very true Sra..They say a li'l bit and it always ends up being a li'l too much!!

  13. I trust my instinct when it comes to cooking from a book or from a show.... I season..I taste..I season again until it satisfies my palate...
    as in someone elses' pinch of salt would definitely vary with what I gauge as a pinch of salt....

  14. The person i watch on TV, an international personality :), she is generous when it comes to 'pouring' oil, butter and seasonings. I like her show becos she presents it well. You should watch regional tv shows. I watch them occasionally instead of the comedy shows. However i make sure I never try any of their recipes.:)
    For that which seems interesting, in these shows, i make my own recipe.
    Mom's recipes are tried and tested and turn out tasty even if she can't to this date tell me exactly how many teaspoons or tablespoons.

  15. My daughter and I were just talking about this while watching Nigella on tv. She says, "just a little oil" and empties about 1/4 a cup of the stuff into a pan!
    That's why I'm always tweaking a lot of recipes to suit my taste.:)Another thing that bothers me is the chefs on tv who taste the food they're cooking and put the spoon right back in the pan.Yuck!
    And then don't wash their hands in between cooking but wipe them on a towel which they stuff under the counter!!

  16. Oh Sra, what a lovely, lovely, lovely rant, a rant after my own heart! As satisfying as if I'd written it myself - and that's because I've thought the exact same things many a time :) I havent watched many Indian cookery shows, but one episode of Khana Khazana is imprinted on my mind - Sanjeev Kapoor was making parathas using only pure ghee for everything from the dough to the actual paratha-frying - and he said "if you dont want to use ghee, dont even bother making these parathas". One instance of chefly honesty! :)

  17. Valli, a small one, a very small one. Just a little bigger than my palm.
    Divya, the opposite too - they claim to use only a teeny bit of oil but the pic shows oil oozing out!!!
    Rachel, yeah, one cook even said, "Do as I do, don't do as I say." :)
    Vidya, ROFL! Some of the home cooks are real treats to watch, aren't they? But I HAVE come across some very good/traditional recipes in those shows - they are good documentation, I must admit. I just wish they wouldn't go and 'decorate' them with dirty slices of tomato and carrot and raw cashewnuts - that's pathetic!
    Aparna, yeah, I wondered whether to mention those bits in this rant but held back because I thought it may be a cultural thing - there's less of a "jhootha" concept abroad, I think.
    Shyam, true. I dunno if you remember but years ago, when you were here, we were chatting one day and found out both of us had, by coincidence, tried out the same recipe recently - something involving cornflakes (?) and chocolate, which was supposed to solidify after baking, but the whole damn thing melted, yours and mine - I still remember how indignant you were! I was, too! Then when I went back to the recipe, I realised that if I'd thought more about it, I would have at least wondered how the solidity could come about.

  18. Hi, great post! and I can't but agree and nod my head at those instances. I watched Nigella cook on discovery t & l and totally agree with aparna. I like only those cookery shows where they actually measure all ingredients and keep then in small bowls, ready to use. So there is no confusion. But it is always better to just note the basic method, and use the ingredients to your discretion. esply, oil, and spices. I like it that way:-)

  19. So this is what the story of cheese Lakshmi mentioned uhh? I too agree with u Sra...They use little oil for everything. I just follow the method and add according to our taste

  20. hahaa excellent post...even i wonder thesame things when i watch cooking shows..for them a lil bit of oil equals 4-5 splashes :)..

  21. LOL....agree with what you say and have tons more to add...but i will refrain, lest i write a novel at the comment page :D

  22. LOL , sra I completely agree with you , my mother rants in the same manner. I have a problem with one particular chef , that particular chef's recipes have never turned out to be good or right even if i follow the instructions to the T. I have given up after atleast trying 10 recipes.

  23. Good post , Sra! I have never been a follower for measurements...and my 'andaz' works better than all those perfectly measured recipes. I have realized on so many occassions that adding just 1 tsp of cummin pwdr or chilli pwdr or even garam masala is never sufficient, and other times i have ended up with huge quantities of veggis just for the 2 of us! I just look at the ingredients and the method, and then customize for our needs.

  24. I would've done that too before i started my blog and became more careful about measurements:) somehow, recipes can never be EXACTLY followed!:)D but i loved your humorous take on it:)

  25. hahahha, that was a fun read! luckily, they don't have a comments section where people can complain about the tsp/tbsp mishaps they indulge in!:)D

  26. And they are not good at recommending the timings either...-No excuse works for home cooks here...-Most of them take at around 5 to 10 minutes to cook.Whether it's a biryani or barfi.

  27. Hmmm... I do remember that, although I'm not really sure if we used cornflakes or popcorn. Whichever, it was a definite flop - in more ways than one! :)

  28. Oh btw, it's 'Do as I say, not do as I do' - got that wrong in the earlier reply
    Shreya, that's okay for people with some experience, not for those who follow stuff literally, hanging on to every letter - like me :) Esp when they are dishes you make only because you saw them on TV or something that you won't make often!
    Kamala, yeah, this is what Lakshmi was talking about.
    Ranji, yeah, it irritates me!
    Rajitha, yeah, you've had your own ranting to do, I see
    Dee, just today, I tried a recipe from another book - usually work well but this went to hell.
    Tee, yeah, that used to happen to me too - have learnt to be better at that now.
    Mansi, I customise too, when I have some experience of the recipe, not otherwise - and that's when this affects me!
    Dailytiffin, spot on!
    Satya, yeah, "10 minutes lo biriyani rudddy"!

  29. Shyam, yeah, I saw another such dessert at the Gymkhana, that of the tired old wannabe-English cuisine, made up of butter and Bourbon biscuits, melting in the heat!!!

  30. Best thing is to just see the ingerients and method..Their twists are nice at times..Meaurements are best to suit oneself..Works out most of the time..
    A very well written article !!

  31. Why oh why do they put an empty pan on the fire, turn away and start talking to us

    And if they are using non-stick pans (which they all do), they never seem to coat the whole surface with oil first, and standing over a heating non-stick pan is actually very unhealthy.

  32. Satya, yeah, "10 minutes lo biriyani rudddy"!


  33. Sra,
    I guess Its best to suit personal Measuring preferences , At least this is what I do generally , It will be Tsp for me but may be Tbs for another one LOL...
    And Trust me when you want to laugh real hard , watch regional language Cooking Shows , Fun and Cooking at the same place ...
    Great read for me ...Enjoyed it a lot ..
    Hugs and smiles

  34. haaa, loved the rant and agreed with every bit!! me too gasp when these chefs say "drizzle of oil" and then they proceed to glug glug out a gallon from a bottle....sheesh...

  35. LOL - I agree with you. I never give a recipe for something I have not tried myself.

  36. okay someone who cooks AND writes a book. I officially have a complex now.

  37. :) I know what you mean! But I never follow a recipe to the T anyway, I just throw a "bit" of this and that it doesn't bother me that much.. It used to be hard to write down my recipes though, now I am forcing myself to use measuring spoons and cups... But yeah, the cookbook authors and TV chefs have a whole crew to try out the recipes and make sure the propotions are right, etc... so it is an unforgivable offense... :)

  38. Swati, thanks. I'm all for twists, not excesses, as they blow my experiment :-D
    Lekhni, I know, I'm all the more careful after seeing these shows.
    Rajitha, emi rudddy chestunnavu?
    Jaya, thanks. I do enjoy watching the regional cookery shows - esp how they dress!
    Rachna, gasp! Sheesh! - my feelings exactly :)
    Cynthia, I keep telling myself I should have more confidence in myself and listen to my head telling me the recipe ain't right ...
    Cynic, the book's just in my head, no plot even ...
    Sig, hmm ... I should just listen to myself from now on - don't have much confidence in my cooking and always think the chefs/writers know better

  39. There are tons of published recipes out there that are failures (and I'm not talking about blogger recipes, either). Very many of them are not kitchen tested. Nothing ticks me off more. That said, I'm not too fond of America's Test Kitchen, which tests recipes ad nauseum in the most dreary, anal way.

    As far as TV cooks, they are mostly about theatrics or "personality" and not to be taken all that seriously.

  40. Loved reading the post sra,.....the cheese comment is so accurate

  41. Get it off your chest girl - LOL! My trick is to add a little hot water to the pan to prevent masalas fro sticking rather than dousing the dish in oil.

  42. Hi first time here...nice blog.

  43. Sra, most of the Rachel Ray recipes are 'eye-balled'..and she uses her palm to measure all the spices.. Couldn't she just use a tbsp or a tsp.. to give out a better idea about the measurements..nice post :)


  44. Susan, yeah, I know, I was talking about all cooks and recipes everywhere, ultimately, it's the looks that count!!!!
    Priyanka, thanks. :)
    Mallika, I do that too, but it makes the dish look so muddy, I lose interest. But it's okay, as going by the recipe doesn't turn out all that great, either!
    Vandana, welcome, and thank you.
    Siri, I've never seen a programme of hers, you know, just read about her!

  45. Ha ha..How could I possibly have missed this post? This is a complaint so dear to my heart. I love the simple cooking of my maa, masi's and mami's. But when you ask, they are so humble..even the measurements become humble like a little of this and a little of that :( And I keep on craving for their hoo!!

  46. Hi,

    I'm Alisha from Wowzio, and I'm excited to tell you about our new widget platform that helps bloggers increase readership and create more engaged users.
    I wanted to reach out to you to ask for your feedback on these widgets (feel free to also install them on your blog, if you feel they are a good fit).
    You can check out widgets customized for your blog here:
    Wowzio Widgets for your blog

    I'm sorry for leaving this message via a comment, it's not at all our intent to spam you ( which is why i'm leaving this comment on an older post and you can always remove this comment ).
    Again, we would love to hear your feedback.

    Alisha Wright


I moderate all my comments. So if you're a human spammer or a bot that can understand this warning, buzz off, don't waste your time here spamming.