Sunday, July 08, 2007

Culinary Exploits…. Bits n Bites !!!

I was thinking of my culinary skill almost a year after leaving home. When I left home, I didn’t know how to cook. Not that I am any better now. But when you have people like G in your life, who always make sure they give you 4 days of food every time you visit them, you barely want to take the trouble of cooking. Eating mom’s food has heightened my taste buds to such an extent that it is very difficult to survive on my own cooking. Add to it the fact that I start to cook following a recipe, but at the middle of it I get so impatient that I just do things my own way to take a short cut, and then everything ends up in a mess.

My neighbor became extremely useful to me in these situations. Whenever I cooked something barely palatable, I would eat it. And when the food was utterly unpalatable, I'd present it well, garnish it, and knock on my neighbor’s door, telling him that I had cooked an Indian delicacy for him. I mean come on, the food was not rotten or fermenting, just badly cooked. Mom always said, do not waste food. 

Dad always told me that the best way to ensure good cooking is to take a lot of time and patience to fry the onions. Mom says that too many and too much of spices only ruin the food. However, I never learnt to cook back at home, and I still do not have much idea about what ingredients to put. But I have survived. I cook very rarely, but every cooking session has been like performing an experiment. There were disasters, there was excess or too little spices, and sometimes the food was damaged beyond repair. And yeah there were earth shattering accidental discoveries in the process. And then I would feel like Archimedes in the bath tub, basking in the glory of my own success.

Naah, I am not telling you any disastrous recipes here. But when I look back at my collection of pics from the last one year, I cannot help but smile at so many memories, disasters, failures, anger, frustration, and all for the lack of the knowledge of cooking. Here take a look-

This was the first time I had ever cooked. And you will roll on the floor laughing if I told you what this was. Obviously it had tasted too yucky to even go to my neighbor’s stomach. This is a disastrous attempt to cook pasta without sauce, the Indian way, where I went ahead and added lots of vegetables, and then most disastrously added one whole tablespoon of turmeric powder.
Lesson learnt- Never be generous with adding turmeric. And before Italians fall off the Leaning Tower and commit suicide, stop using pasta to make an Indian-style curry.

Then this is the mushroom curry that turned out to be relatively better.

Did you know that I could never make omelets without messing them up and ultimately ending up making scrambled eggs? Here they usually look like this.

But the only time, and the one and only time I managed not to mess it up, it looked like this.

This was when I made rice for the first time. I added lots of vegetables and mushrooms to it, and then went ahead and actually let the cooker whistle five times before I turned it off. Needless to say, it turned out to be more like the gooey liquid you’ll feed your newborn.

The bread pulao I once made tasted okay and looked like this.

And so did the noodles.

One thing I do a good job is of making salads. That is provided my mood is good and I am not too impatient to notice the size and shape of the vegetables I cut.

Once, I also made a fruit salad with lots of sweetened strawberry flavored yogurt, black grapes, apples, and chocolate sauce.

I love to make Maggi (instant noodles) with lots of vegetables thrown in. So much that the so called 2 minute dish takes me about an hour to cook.

The sweet and sour mushroom and baby corn curry I made once turned out to be very tasty.

But then, I messed up the chicken by trying to add sugar in order to make the onions brown, and throwing in so much of sugar in the process that it actually became more of a sweet dish.

But the egg curry I made was quite decent. Here take a look at the slits I made on the eggs to let the spices seep in.

And this is one of those nutritious “ready in 5 minutes” corn salad with lots of vegetables thrown in and served with a dash of lime.

My over ambitious plans of making fish curry resulted in frying the fish excessively and thus breaking it due to accidental injuries with the spatula till the fish was powdered into something I called a powdered fish salad. It tasted amazing, but there was no fish.

The Bengali potato curry (alu dum) in fact turned out to be very nice.

And so did the lemon and spicy chicken I made the other day.

If you have noticed, I always start cooking something that eventually turns out to be something else. And yeah, ask me about a particular dish, and I would not be able to tell you most of the ingredients or the actual measurements. I cook by instinct. And yeah, my food always looks much better than it tastes.

Well, that in a nutshell is my cooking exploits in this country. Only in these times you do remember how your mom had a hard time asking you to learn to cook. These days, I have an idea of what not to put where, though I still try to figure out what to add to what. And as usual if the food isn’t to my liking, my neighbor ends up eating it.

Still trying, still learning, in bits and bites.



The Soul of Alec Smart said...

ROTFL :D specially the one where the omelette looks like it has been made to wear a bandage of ketchup as the last bout of guilt kicked in, is hilarious!! Don't worry, most of us Indian girls are letting our awesome moms down this way - happy with only making maggi and boilings eggs in the name of culinary skills.

Nice post!

GeekBeyondRedemption said...

Actually, the range of things you've tried to cook is pretty good for someone who claims to not know how to cook.

For Maggi anyway, you can try this:
a) Get frozen peas+carrots
b) Thaw them, and some frozen green chillies
c) Fry 'em in oil with mustard et al. Frying the green chillies in oil releases the capsaicin into the oil, allowing the 'spice' to spread evenly onto the veggies and eventually the noodles. Warning: This step releases capsaicin into the air too.
d) Add broken noodles and water and salt.

Additional spices to use, small pinch of turmeric - no don't add a spoon. Throw away the packet of junk masala that came with the noodles. I'm assuming you got the cheap 10c packet of noodles from your grocer.

Additional, free recipe :-). Fast Fried potatos.

1) Cut potatoes into small cubes - half inch or less to a side. Wash. Peeling is not necessary.
2) In pressure cooker, heat oil, add pop mustard.
2a) Add red chillies, curry leaves, et al.
3) Add diced potatoes.
4) Add salt to taste, pinch of turmeric and hing, extra chilli powder to taste. Add at most one sprinkle of water.
5) Pressure cook for one whistle.
6) The potatoes will be very evenly fried, with minimal effort.
7) Add coriander if liked.
8) Disclaimer: Don't eat too much tasty potato fry - it causes gas in some folks :o)

Shanks_P said...

I have to agree with you, most of the dishes look great in snaps....
I had a good hand in these experiments with cooking dishes and various recepies....I think thats the best way to learn ....

its always good to learn cooking because 'One can never be angry to some one who just served them with good food'....

Great going, keep cooking!

Lavender said...

d food looks so tempting...feel like grabbing d dishes out of d computer screen. :)

Philotics said...

Hobe hobe chesta chaliye jao. [:D] May the cooking-god bless you!

johnny said...

As long as its a home cooked indian NV meal, am ready for the taking. :D

Found this jus a while ago and noted some of the recipes. Hope u find it just as useful.

cliche said...

your cooking has gotten so much better.maybe i shd stop feeding you:)

simba said...

what a treat for the eyes!! Hope it tickles the taste buds too! but alas! hearing u lament I am wondering abt it. Never mind, every step takes you further into this wonderful world!

Sowmya A said...

Really great!! Your exploits in the kitchen are definitely a visual treat, they look appetising but if you say they don't taste that good, i take your word for it. But how come food that looks great doesnt taste that great?......i always thought food was a combination of all three - looks, aroma & taste.

Plz visit my blog All good things in life & do comment whenever you find the time.