Wednesday, March 30, 2011

LessWord Wednesday

These are 200 gm of baby bittergourds, slit, boiled with some salt in 1/4 cup of tamarind extract diluted with more water till just tender.

They are then drained, and fried in 1-3 spoons of oil. Then removed, after which, saute some 2 spoons of chilli powder (or a mix of it with coriander + cumin + garlic + curry leaf) in the same oil and add the bittergourds back to the pan and mix. All this on the lowest flame.

Crusty-tender-hot-seed-y bittergourds are ready!

This post goes off to Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook who's hosting Weekend Herb Blogging now run by Haalo and created by Kalyn.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making It a Piece O' Cake

I was seven when I first ate a banana cake. A fellow NRI (non-resident Indian) was visiting my parents and the cake had made its appearance at our house. My mother told me to try some. I did, and I told her it was "peculiar", more the smell than the taste. Going by the memory of my mother's amused reaction, I realise I had probably latched on to that big English word then and was using it quite often.

Years later, my mother bought what was then called an 'inframatic cuisinette' and would treat us in the next few weeks to grilled chicken and waffles. It was a many-in-one contraption that came with a baking tray, grill, a waffle iron and a sandwich maker. I even vaguely remember baking a cake or two in it. Then either the fancy wore off or I went off to the hostel, I'm not sure.

More years later, I asked my mother if she would let me have it and she sent it with someone who was visiting. We put it on the topmost shelf in the storeroom where it lay for many more years - till my mother visited a few days ago and we were discussing the many useless and unused things that were lying around the house and she told me to throw them off, at which my conscience reared and pricked and I resolved I wouldn't let it go without giving myself another chance.

That night, I got The Spouse to bring it down and S, who helps me with the work at home, gave it a thorough cleaning - all the little spiders housed in its nooks and crannies were given a chance to escape and I told S to go at the plates with soap and a toothbrush. We plugged it in and were happy it was heating up. Now that the dry run was over, we needed to actually bake something in it.

I had been experimenting with my diet and was testing bananas, well, just one, actually, for breakfast - it's such a convenient, filling food - peel, eat, feel full - but I wasn't feeling as good as I hoped. (When did convenience food ever do you any good?)

I had eaten my way through three bananas but at the end of three days, I was feeling sick and the bananas were really ripe and squishy. Mum's visit and the discussion were fresh in my mind, so I resolved to make banana waffles and put an end to my misery - no more banana after that, that is.

I looked up recipes for banana waffles on the Net but I hadn't really bargained for waffles with banana slices on them - and my eyes glazed over when I looked for banana-in-waffle-batter recipes. No surprise, considering it was 1 a.m. In any case, how hard could banana waffle batter be? All you needed was a pouring consistency and some baking powder.

The next morning saw me mashing the two ripe bananas with a fork - it made about a cup.

Then I added 1/4 cup of sugar, mixed an egg into it and added 1/4 cup of vegetable oil.

Then I sieved 1-1/4 cup of flour, 1-1/4 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.

I added the flour in ladlefuls to the banana mixture and folded it in with a fork. I also added a couple of spoons of milk, simply because it was available.

By this time, I didn't have the patience for waffles - I was unsure of the consistency of the batter and wasn't willing to experiment, suddenly enough - so I simply washed my bundt pan, greased it and poured the batter into it. At this stage, I tasted the batter and added about three tsps of icing sugar. (Why icing sugar? Because it needed to be used up.)

I baked it at 180 degrees and it took less than 30 minutes to bake. It cooled in as much time and I sliced it up and boxed it.

And you know what?

It tasted peculiar. To the Spouse.

In fact, he said he liked it but said that it was 'bitter', and deigned to eat only one more piece. (But then, he is vastly prejudiced against anything unconventional in matters of food.)

The next day, I ate another piece, wondered why it tasted peculiar to The Spouse and knowing it would go ignored by both of us (by me for diet reasons), carted it off to The Land of the Failed Experiment - my workplace, not the dustbin. We could even call it The Refuge of the Failed Experiment, maybe that's more fitting.

My colleagues oohed and aahed over it, and one of them even told me I should quit my job and go into business, set up a deli, a cafe, whatever. Another asked me how I had managed to make it so soft, and marvelled at how it tasted so much like banana. Another colleague appreciated it while affirming its mild bitterness, downing it appreciatively.

And that's why I've put it up here - I rarely make cakes - I mostly detest the creaming, whipping, sieving and other associated tedious stuff, washing out the greasy dishes afterwards - but this felt like it was done in a jiffy. I know there are enough and more banana cakes and breads going around, but as my blog is all about what's a discovery to me, I have to talk about it.

Happy baking! And am I hearing it wrong or is there really a song that goes something like "I wanna be go bananananaaaa ... I keep hearing it my gym and I quite like the beat, though I can't make out any of the words!