Saturday, June 25, 2011

Of Chalks And Chopsticks - The Round-Up

We made an attempt to revive Of Chalks & Chopsticks last month. As I expected, Sandeepa, Jaya and Aqua, the creator of the event, joined in and we have a bouquet of four stories for you. This event was an event with a difference - Jaya's idea - of having a photo or a line or a phrase to be used in the food fiction the blogger came up with.

I had a photo ready - and I put it up. Here it is:

Bong Mom was the first to post:

"They ask me, "If your wife is a food blogger, why do you do all the cooking in the house?" "Arre Baba, I only cook dal, rice and chicken curry, my wife she makes rhubarb clafoutis," I tell them. Those moron neighbors look at me like they have never heard of rhubarb. People can be so closed and backward in this part of India, it is like you are in the forests of Congo or something."

Read the full rib-tickling story of a blogger and her husband here.

Jaya wrote hers just a little later:

"She had grown up on the omelets her dad made, with onions, bell peppers, green chilis and cilantro. Her mom had insisted he put a pinch of turmeric, cumin seeds and a little bit of grated ginger to the eggs. It added a whole new dimension to the eggs, a taste she could never find in the omelets served in American breakfast restaurants. Her mother-in-law found the omelets so bland, she would douse them with tobasco sauce and even then, she thought the pale yellow omelet hadn’t been fully cooked."

Read her exposition on omelettes, Indian-style, here.

Aqua, who had to take some time off blogging, posted yesterday:

"Ma, in the meantime, had finished her marathon cooking session and walked out at exactly the moment that papa clicked the strawberries.
"Look at him, taking pictures of everything in this house except mine." "

A familiar scene to many of us, and we might grow into it, too. Read about this relationship here.

And here's mine:

"Once an experiment with milk and guava had gone wrong and they had been forced to taste some guava payasam, watery and flavoured with cardamom. Not since his parents died had he shed tears, but on that day, he did. It was awful. He and his wife hadn't been able to discern if the milk had curdled or the ground guava lent it that appearance."

Read the full story of a well-meaning, cooking enthusiast daughter and her I-can't-take-it-no-more father here.


Here is the promised fifth link to Haritha.

Bong Mom is hosting this month's edition of Of Chalks & Chopsticks. Head there to find out how to participate if you haven't already!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yegg Fried Rice (Andhra Style, i.e.)

Sometimes, when life seems really bleak, you should reach deep into your being and you will realise that deep within you lie wonderful reserves of strength. All that you want is within you, you need not look outside.

Translation: Sometimes, when you don't have any energy but have to come up with the minimum, look into your crisper - you may find a box of curry leaves.

On the way back from work, I wanted to buying a biriyani for dinner but the thought began to smell too sharp and spicy, so much so I felt nauseated and smothered, so I abandoned it and schooled myself to make do with this egg fried rice. It was quick fix enough to be unhealthy as it contained no vegetables and the only fibre of any consequence there was a handful of curry leaves. Nevertheless, I would recommend the rice that you see above.

What you need:

2 eggs, beaten well, with a little salt. (Scramble them or make an omelette and cut it into small pieces.)
2 cups cooked rice
2 -3 tsp sambaar kaaram - this is a garlicky chilli powder that has some coriander, fenugreek, cumin and black gram, so try adding all these if you don't have a spice mix that approximates this
10-12 curry leaves.
Salt to taste
Oil - 2-3 spoons

Heat the oil in a wide pan on low heat. Add the curry leaves and then the chilli powder. Heat it but make sure it doesn't burn.

Now add the rice and mix it with the chilli powder and oil till it's all evenly coated.

Add the salt.

Now add the prepared egg and mix well once again.

Switch off the stove, pile it into a bowl or a plate and tuck in.

This is the fourth of the promised five links to Haritha.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Of Unusual Combinations, and Of Chalks and Chopsticks

The granite tabletop was satiny and cool to the touch. It was one of a few expensive acquisitions he had made recently. He had decided to be less careful and finally enjoy some of the money he had made. Another treat he had bought himself was a 40-inch, full HD, LCD TV.

The treats extended to the smaller and finer things in life too. Most of the food that he had enjoyed in New York 40 years ago was now available in the shiny new supermarkets that had invaded the smallish city he had returned to, in the last six or seven years. Modern retail, they called it. And indeed! What a difference from stopping by the road at a heap of papayas or mangoes spread on the dust and choosing the cleanest one. Or having to negotiate a crowded market where one kept bumping into someone else because the paths were so small. He and his wife could not stop buying their daily needs and luxuries in these places. After a weary day at work, this was what they looked forward to - buying bottlegourd and coriander in air-conditioned interiors. And if the price they had to pay for it was a not so fresh bunch of onions and potatoes, so be it. It didn't matter much.

His daughter was always protesting - she would say that in her many years of living in a bigger city with much older, more evolved stores, the best vegetables were to be found at the neighbourhood greengrocer who sold his wares out of a shack. And he didn't think she bought any of those lovely American and Chinese apples that were to be found throughout the year now - she looked down her nose at them quoting pesticides and unseasonality and professed some sympathy for 'those poor apple farmers' in Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir, and had even lectured the salesman on relegating the Indian apples to a hot and dusty corner of the store while tending to the foreign ones on chilled shelves.

Oh well! One man's meat is another man's poison, he told himself philosphically, removing the strawberries from the refrigerator. The daughter had promised to make strawberry mousse but knowing her, it could well end up as strawberry salad - she was a lazy lump. After weeks of luring him with pizza, she had presented him with a cowpat.

"I thought you were making pizza," he had told her, laughing to hide his disappointment. "Why do you have a cowpat inside the house?" "Very funny, Dad," she had replied, "this IS the pizza. Burnt. I told you I didn't know how to operate a microwave." She didn't. She had refused their offer to buy her one. Well, at least since the cowpat pizza, she had bought a microwave. (Though she didn't make pizza.)

His wife saw him fiddling with the strawberries and said, "Now what?" "She's promised to make mousse," he said. She looked at him scornfully and they started laughing - their daughter's experiments with cooking were legion. The stuff of legend, nay, nightmare. Rarely would anything end up in the intended form. Once an experiment with milk and guava had gone wrong and they had been forced to taste some guava payasam, watery and flavoured with cardamom. Not since his parents died had he shed tears, but on that day, he did. It was awful. He and his wife hadn't been able to discern if the milk had curdled or the ground guava lent it that appearance. They didn't enjoy having to feel bits of the seed on their tongue. It had been so hard to sneak into the kitchen and pour it down the drain with his daughter whizzing in and out of the kitchen with bowls and spoons. Didn't they raise that girl to have taste, if nothing else? How could she create something like that and be cheerful about it?

In came the daughter with some fresh red chillies. "Don't tell me those are going into the strawberries," he said. "They are, Dad, the dish will be redder," she said.
"But just give me some ordinary mousse, the straightforward, no-frills kind I got in the deli in New York all those years ago. I don't want a Cordon Bleu version."
"Don't be silly, Dad. Who has the patience to seed them? I'm making strawberry chutney. I don't have the patience to whip cream and soak the gelatine and all that nonsense."
He wasn't disappointed. Really, he had expected this. But chutney?
"And how do you propose to make the chutney?"
"Simple," she said. "All those strawberries, some soaked tamarind, fresh red chillies and garlic fried, a cup of grated, fresh coconut all whizzed in the mixie together. Seasoned with salt and tempered with the usual mustard, cumin, urad dal (black gram) and curry leaf in oil."
"Really, Dad! My friend's mother, who lives in Mahabaleshwar ... she owns a strawberry farm, I've got the recipe from her and I've tweaked it. And to make it interesting, we can add a couple of pieces of bittergourd too. Listen, Dad, after we make the chutney, let's take a photo with your camera. When I get my food blog going, it will be the first post, and it's a really unusual recipe."

He felt, knew, he had to stem the tide before it got out of hand. Open-mindedness was one thing, waste and bad taste were another. God knew he had put up with enough experimentation. If he were to be God's vessel for South Indian strawberry chutney, he'd have taken to the idea better, he was sure. And what was this girl saying about a food blog? Did she really think she would be read? Could he stand by and watch her inflict her madness on an unsuspecting bunch of foodies? He glanced at his wife, who was watching her TV soap with a beatific expression on her face. No sympathy from those quarters, for sure. She would just tell him that it was all his fault for having food on his mind all the time, and for raising another foodie, and one with a twisted sense of taste at that ...

He rolled out a red mat and spread it on the table. He placed a porcelain bowl and the strawberries on it. He called his daughter. Seeing the camera in his hand, she said, "Oh wonderful, Dad! So we're doing step-by-step photos. One, of the strawberries intact, one when they're being sliced, one in the mixer, one with some chutney in a ladle over the mixer jar and so on, and then the final product. That's what many successful bloggers do."

"Didn't I see some cream in the fridge? Bring it here."

"But, Dad, cream in a chutney?"

"I don't see why not. We're pairing strawberries with cumin and urad dal too, aren't we? But no, you're not making chutney, I have a better idea."


"A classic. Strawberries and cream. And I'll relive the time I went to Wimbledon. I'm going to watch tennis with a bowl of this in my hand. This is the last batch of strawberries in season!"

"But it's the French Open that's on now!"

"Doesn't matter, dear! 'Tis the spirit that counts! And what's wrong with starting your blog with a classic recipe?"

She pouted.

"I ate your guava payasam, your papaya-fish soup and I was even prepared to eat your cowpat pizza. Don't you think we can eat something traditional once in a while?"

She started to protest, but the look of abject despair in her father's eyes was too much to bear. She really shouldn't complain, her parents tried their best to be appreciative of her efforts. So what if the idea of strawberry chutney was anathema? Let him have his way today. In any case, these chocolate fiends would find it hard to resist her Belgian cauliflower fudge chilling in her aunt's refrigerator as a surprise for their wedding anniversary tomorrow.

My entry to the event I'm hosting, created by Aqua.

And here's the third link to Haritha for guessing the curry leaf berries right.