Sunday, August 12, 2007

When Cook Took a look!

Dear friends,

On the outset let me disclose that the title of today's post absolutely indicates nothing that is going to follow. I just thought of 'cook' and then the rhyming words just tumbled by themselves.

I have always appreciated by comments that you have put down. Well appreciated is a much softer word, I have always been overjoyed. Well, I have neglected, 'Bhook Lagi'for more than two months now. Reason 1 - I am back in Kolkata, where my affectionate MIL tells me I have no work in kitchen, Reason 2- someone will always cook if I am not cooking, unlike in Suisse!

Cooking I realize is some sort of therapy too. I mean back in Suisse, when I had nothing really to do, I still got geared up for the evening dinner, and made it a point to lay the table well! Dinner after all was not a lonely affair like lunches, and like a true Taurean, I would not compromise on the table spread. Thats how I had started on food blogs. First the stumble, where I gorged on the wonderful recipes and pleasant pics and almost smelt the aroma, then the trial began and I offered hubby cuisines of sorts, and then one fine day there was Bhook Lagi!

I had promised I would continue to cook back here at least until I am too pressed with time. I am still looking for a job, and yet not cooking. Can you see any reason why I should not be a little depressed. So much that I would even stop browsing at food blogs. Hmm, well today for a change, hubby said, fried rice dear, something Chinese that you will cook. I smile and browse and then voila I get recipes and then I modify it to the availibilty and taste ( if you are asking how did it taste, I am yet to make it, after the post actually!). It was then, I thought of posting today's attempt at Bhook Lagi! I typed the address and there I saw the last post (till today) Dubba Time and then and then and then, I saw new comments and I saw some of you have added me to your blog rolls. My, am I honored!!

Here is kicking the lazy bum I have become and donning the chef's cap. Now let me go cook something lest we go to bed hungry, shouting slogans...bhook lagi, bhook lagi

So now the cook takes a new look! Really!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dubba Time

Well well well, I really want to be a good cook, a great pal to my hubby and a good writer! Hmm, not too many expectations.

What I should also aspire is to be an early riser. Linus wakes up before me except on weekends. I gingerly get up to his early morning sweet nothings. I have in fact induced him to saying 'Ram Ram' the first thing when he wakes me. It reminds me of my nani (maternal grand ma). She used to do that when I spent a month with her as a kid.

So, I get up and dash to kitchen within few minutes. Luckily I plan breakfast the night before. So I do not waste a single second thinking (which is such a chore!!) and get along making nashta (breakfast). Linus is not really someone who likes milk, except in cold coffees or strawberry shakes, that is. So no crunchy cereals. I juggle the breakfast among, upmas and pohas and aaloo toast and parathas and toast with baked beans and vegetable sandwiches. So far so good. Much to my delight, he is not finicky at all. And ocassionally kisses my hands as a gesture to praise how good the breakfast has been. He is bad with words, and I always forgive him for not talking too much because there hardly is time when I have finished my chatter!

Well, so after breakfast I generally pack the same dish for his tiffin. He takes this tiffin at tea time in office. For lunch he goes the cafeteria in his office and eats boiled carrots and broccoli, which he would otherwise never come close to at home. Today for a change I packed paranthas and sabzi (curry) in his tiffin. I made Gobhi parantha for the breakfast and struggled to prepare alloo matar and plain paranthas for his tiffin. All this within an hour is prize for me...but lousy for Linus. He got late today! He leaves 8ish and it was 8-30 today..

However, he just messaged me that sabji (curry) was great! Hmm and I tell him so more of 'Munna bhai lage raho' (keep going buddy!!) And he smiled. I felt like a real nice wife for the first time this morning .. packing the traditional going to office tiffin, rather than school time tiffin.

Umm, I must explain I don't feel like a wife, or I guess there is not much wifely feeling really at all. It is like a friend to another. And yes, the closest and dearest friend.

So, here I am deciding to be an early riser because it is 'Dubba Time' (pack the tiffin! time)

I hope I will be able to continue doing small things for him, even after I go back to India. That's because my mother in law looks after everything there and she pampers me a lot and wouldn't want to see me slogging in kitchen!

:) but I like packing his lunch! Seriously.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Palak Corn Sabzi

I guess the Bhook Lagi! title is so apt for my blog. Because well as soon as dinner is ready, it is served and as soon as it is served it is dined! 'Arrey photo shoto chhodo...zor kee bhook lagi hey!' ( forget about taking pictures, I am almost famished)hubby is almost begging ;-) or so I like to think.

So we both sit down and enjoy a nice dinner. Yesterday it was Tikada (or plain paratha), palak corn sabji, daal and rice.

The recipe today is about palak corn. Many of you must have your own recipes for this great dish, but let me add my version to the burgeoning collection of palak delicacies.

What we will need:

Palak (Spinach) about 100g roughly chopped
Tomato 1 medium size chopped into cubes
Corn (I used half cup of frozen corn without sugar)
Onion 1 medium size chopped
Green chillies 1 ( depends on how spicy you want your curry to be)
Milk 2 table spoon
Oil about 3 table spoon

Dhaniya Powder (Corriander Powder) 1 teaspoon
Jeera/Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Jeera powder/Cumin powder 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Sugar (a pinch)
heeng/ Asofoetida one pinch

Now lets get set and GO!

Heat one table spoon oil in a pan/karahi. When it is hot add green chillies (split them first ...please) and then add the palak/spinach.

Cook on medium heat till the spinach leaves wilt. Put aside.

Grind it to a paste after it cools down... Meanwhile heat one and half table spoon of oil in a pan (you can reuse the same pan) add onions. When they are a little browned add tomatoes and then throw in the dhaniya/corriander powder, put salt to taste.

When the rawness of tomatoes goes away, let the mixture cool and then grind this too.

Now again take a pan heat a little oil and sputter jeera/cumin seeds in it.add heeng/asofoetida, haldii/turmeric powder, red chilli powder and then pour in the onion tomato mixture. Saute for a minute then add the corn. Saute for another few minutes, then add the grinded palak/spinach paste. Add jeera powder, pinch of sugar and milk.

Now be patient, cover the curry and let it simmer for about 5 mins in low heat. Make sure it is not runny so you adust the amount of water depending on how consistent your palak/spinach paste and onion mixture paste was.

Hmmm... I promise to put up a photo of this dish soon. As I am hoping to cook it again this week and hopefully way before hubby gets home so that I can get time to say cheese or rather the spinach and corn can pose stylishly!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rajasthani Kadhi

This is a simple and soulful dish. Back home we have it as a daily accompaniment with our dinner. Papa calls it Rajasthani soup and slurps it using his hands towards the end of the dinner to show how this delicacy should be actually enjoyed. I would not suggest you to engage in slurping but do give this a try.

You will need:
2 bowl of curd (soup bowl)
1 tbspoon chick pea flour (besan)
Salt to taste
1/3 tsp Turmeric

For tempering
Ghee 1/2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
Jeera/Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Heeng/Asfoetida one small pinch (optional)
Methi/Fenugreek seeds 1/4 tsp (optional)
A sprig of curry leaves (optional)
Corriander leaves

Now lets get set and go!

Whisk curd with chick pea flour , salt and turmeric. Whisk well so that the flour is blended smoothly and no lumps remain. That's easy and quick. And if the curd is too thick add a little water.

Heat ghee in a wok/deep pan. When it is hot pop in all seeds, asofoetida and curry leaves. Next add the whisked curd and keep stirring. It is important to keep stirring or else it will coagulate. Keep stirring on medium flame till it boils. Now stop stirring and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add water so that the Kadhi is not thick. It must have a running consistency.

Top it with corriander leaves.

P.S Use discretion while cooking and enjoy and a nice Rajasthani Kadhi. This is supposed to have slightly sour taste, so it is even better if you have a little sour curd at hand.

Lessons learnt!

The handsome couple came in with their little baby asleep in her pram. We ushered them in and Linus helped Jerome with his coat. We sat down for a chat, and Jerome told us Gelmit (I hope I have spelt her name correctly) did not speak very good English. I made it a point to speak slowly, so that she could understand us.

This was my first introduction to a French couple. I observed that they were soft spoken and very courteous. They were interested in viewing our Indian Marriage. They were amazed at the colors in marriage. It was the first time I noticed myself: colors!

I served them aloo chat as a starter. I explained them what a 'chaat' means. I had said, when mix spices and tamarind and marinade potatoes or chic peas or other things, they become a 'chaat'. They appreciated that I had not made it hot, and they loved the tangy tamarind and green chutney's flaovr in which slices of boiled potatoes had been marinaded in. I had topped the chaat with peanuts and onions and tomatoes.

After an hour's chat we served dinner. We taught them how to eat with their hands. They were delighted. They loved the mild palak paneer and aloo dum. But what bowled them over were pooris. Never had they had 'puffed Indian bread' as I introduced them to pooris. 'Nan bread', was the only Indian bread they had tried before.

'You can make a career out of cooking', Jerome humored me, when Linus told him that I had cooked the entire table spread. The guests waited for us to start so that they could take cue of how to eat. I smiled and crushed my aloo with the poori indicating how they can break the baby potatoes in the gravy without using a knife!

After the dinner, I made cold coffee with vanila ice cream. Gelmit loved it!

And now few lessons that I learnt:

While cooking earlier in the day, I had popped in green chillies in hot oil without slitting them (I thought I had slit them, but one of them was not slit), that chilly burst out. Luckily I was standing away from the wok. I later rationalized that hot air must have filled inside through the one end where I had cut the chilly and the pressure increased and it burst out! Phew, a close shave.

I realized the importance of microwave as I sorely missed it. Before serving the dinner I had to re heat and then pour each time in the serving dish. Microwave is really handy.

Another thing was the peas pulaw got cold eventually. Dinner for the French is an indulgence. They will not rush but relish. As we proceeded from pooris to pulaw, it was no longer steaming! I have no solution to what I should do the next time.

Another mistake that I made was, I had rolled the pooris before they arrived so that I would have to only fry them, but by the time they came and then before dinner was announced the pooris had got a little dry. I wonder how to balance entertaining host and getting into the kitchen to prepare a little bit (like rolling pooris after they have come?)

There have been a couple of ocassions now that I have had people for dinner. As an independent hostess I still have so much to learn. We just had fun back home, helping mom set tables and entertain guests. Now there are lessons I have to learn.

You might like to leave your tips and relate any of your experiences in hosting a well planned dinner. I would love to hear from you. You might make it a post in your blogs and let me know. If you have already done that, I would love to know and take a peek.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

French couple for dinner

We are having a French couple for dinner today. I really wonder if an Indian dinner would suit their palate. I have tried to add less of green chillies and red chilly powder to all the dishes. I wonder if they will enjoy it.

It is evening time, I am almost done with cooking. I was cooking under tremendous pressure today. Firstly FRENCH guests, next they are hubby's colleagues and finally hubby is not home to taste and tell me if it tastes just right.

I do not know if we all pass through this phase, when we wonder if it is tasting good or not and wonder if the quantity looks less... oh my gosh...

The menu for the day is:

Aloo Chat

Palak paneer
Aloo dum

Dhaniya Chutney

Peas Pulaw

Hmm... I have not included dessert. I will just serve icecream. Have reminded hubby to enquire what wines would be suitable. Oh my GOD... thats to give it a French touch!

Hmmm.. I will post tomorow about the result of the dinner. And recipe of kadhi too. And and and, my experience hosting an Indian dinner to a French couple.

So long..
bhook lagi!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cooking Stories

Like it always is, daughters follow their moms to their kitchens at one point point of time or the other. I specifically said daughters not because I do not believe sons cannot cook well, it is just a matter of my observation in households that I was raised in. So, like any other daughter I did my bit to follow mom to the kitchen.

It seems strange, now to reflect how I came to cooking. In Nepal (where I was raised), Dashain or Dusshera is a big time festival. And this is the time that the household staff leaves for their respective homes. We always had Nepalese as helps and they would no matter what take leave. So, the ten-days vacation would turn into a 'help mommy in kitchen' exercise. From simple things like serving father and uncles to chopping tomatoes to stirring 'kadhi' and trying out of fancy a hand at rolling chapatis, I did think of myself as a cook of some sort.

Papa, as all papas are, would praise me to no end. He would exclaim, here is my little Tarla Dalal. I should add here that when I started writing a bit (my articles were published in the National Daily of Nepal, the Kathmandu Post), he had declared I was the next J.K Rowling. Hmm, sorry for digressing but I just felt a lump in my throat thinking he must be quite disappointed by now. I write sporadically and have not sent anything for publishing for ages now (I might add after marriage!).

Well, I was telling you there was something strange that made me learn. My mother would not enter the kitchen during her '3 days' period. It was then that she would stand outside the kitchen and tell me add just another spoonful of oil, keep your face out of the kadhai, and pray don't burn the jeera.

From those times, to time when my friends would drop in to have pav bhaji that I made, and baigan kaa bharta that I would have to make since it was just my and papa's favorite, I did think I had in me to become a good cook.

My only intention of cooking good food was a very secret one. Only to be revealed here now: I loved my mother's haath kaa khana (food prepared by her), and I could visualize myself being a mom someday ( I wonder how could I, I am scared at the moment and think I am still a kid and cannot think of other kids!!). Very well in that vision I would want the kid(s) to love what I would cook for them!

With studies and all, we had little to do in kitchen. After engineering and MBA, mom would often complain that she felt she had guests in her house rather than kids. And guests who would threaten her with ' i am not going to eat' if provoked with any kind of parenting.

I would sometime give in to her increasing bickering and make something for her. How I now realize that we can crave for food made by others for us. I made pizza, pav bhaji and paneer kaa sabzi. This was my forte. No more. But what I did, I did well. Only I needed lots of assistance, please chop this for me, and now could you stir that for a moment while I rush with this phone call. And then shout from upstairs..did you switch the stove off.

I used to bake cakes too. Once I go back to Kathmandu, I will get my recipes and post them. Since baking is something that you have to follow to the spoons and cups!

Now now, what I was thinking of telling you was, this little kitchen that I own for now. After shaadi (wedding) for a long time it seemed like I in deed was staying at a friend's place. With a dear MIL, I got the instruction to keep away from the hot Kolkata's kitchen. I promptly obeyed, you see!

So, until I came to Swiss, I was happily eating without any parenting for almost 8 months. Then came this house and this kitchen, all by the lake. How I thought it was like playing dolls. Only that the toys had become bigger in proportion to match the real things. I remember cooking over done rice here and hubby had called me a novice to my utter chagrin in the initial few days. How I had to make him believe that I could cook. And that accident was just because we had 'rice cooker' back home.

I had trouble identifying toor daal from chana daal. For more than a week I was cooking chana daal thinking it was toor daal. Thats exactly what I thought I had bought from Migros (a retail chain here), as I wouldn't be able to make out the French name. I did struggle trying to pressure cook chana daal to a mushy level, so that I could whisk it into sambar (South Indian Daal/dish) like consistency. Hubby did have lot of suspicion about my culinary abilities by this time.

But soon I got used to my kitchen, the masalas that I had brought from India (imagine no mustard seeds and no mango powder). With simple meals we progressed day by day. And then sister came to visit me in another month and brought me all the masalas that I could dream of. I still have kalonji, which I do not know which recipe calls for. Finally I found out the Indian store here too!

Hubby now tells me I have learnt and am learning. I tell him I knew all the while! He tells me I am cooking stories!