Thursday, December 25, 2014

On Going Green

Weddings are usually associated with food. Okay so there may be a bride and a groom and talk of love and happily ever after. But let’s face, most of us are in it just for the feast after. It usually begins with the menu decisions, the binge eating to celebrate a wedding in the family, then the crazy diets to look adequately fabulous in everyone’s eyes (something that never works, because you are either too thin or too fat in your relatives’ eyes), and then, whoaaaaaa…the “salkaarams.” For the uninitiated non-mallus, salkaarams are when the newly weds visit every near relative’s house, and are force-fed more food than it is humanly possible to consume in a short span of time. There’s the pre-wedding meetings, then the mehndi dinner, then the wedding food, the reception food, the post- reception meal, the “grihapravesh Ji” meal, the bride’s treat, the groom’s treat, the groom’s brother’s treat, the bride’s maama’s treat, the groom’s uncle’s brother-in-law’s treat…yeah, well, the list might just cover the entire blog.
This wedding season, one of us (read Confused, because no one invites Crumbs to weddings any more) had a lot of eating to do, while trying desperately to watch weight. But then, that one realised that we have always lived by the motto, “Eat today, for we may diet tomorrow.” And so, bring on the treats, one said.
While binging on the yummy goodies, one also had to treat the bride and groom to delicious home cooked food, because well, one loves to cook and feed people. So then, for the first time ever, a vegetarian cutlet appeared on the menu of the “salkaaram” list. Yup, that’s right. Fully vegetarian. Nope, no cheating (except for the egg that is used to hold the whole thing together, but that’s so little, it is like the total vegetarian content of a chicken samosa, which you must know, is restricted to half an onion for about 50 samosas :P).
Vegetarian, it was. More surprisingly, all the ingredients were that beautiful shade that one of us thought should NOT be added in food—GREEN! (Note from Crumbs: Entirely Confused’s notion. I on the other hand LOVE green. It might even be my favourite colour :D) So, to cut a long story short, one was so surprised at the oddity, that one decided to revive a blog that’s been peacefully slumbering for more than a year.

Green, we tell you. It has that thing about it. Remember Green Goblin? Or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Or even Green Lantern? (We won’t blame you if you don’t remember the last one, almost no one does!) Well, we have the ultimate supervillain for you if you are watching your weight, and the most amazing superhero, if you are looking to impress with your culinary skills. So, here’s presenting…
The “one-bite-and-you-are-lost” spaghetti cutlets, a.k.a. the 20-something Mutant Ninja Cutlet.
So, here’s what you will need
1 packet of spaghetti (used Bambino due to non-availability of other brands, but you could get any of those fancy brands, or stick to this one)
2 cups of white sauce (recipe and ingredients follow)
½ a cup- 1 cup of cabbage (Like you, we also were mildly shocked at the prospect of so much cabbage in cutlets, but hey, ate them, and loved them. These were so finely chopped, they looked like cabbage kheema, if you forgive the blasphemy.)2 handfuls each of finely chopped celery and spring onions (You could add more, depending on how much you like the taste. Since one was going green for the first time, one was quite unsure about how much of each to add. Be warned, spring onions possess quite the pungent taste, so you might want to reign in the go green enthusiasm a tad bit.)
One lovely green crisp capsicum, chopped finely.
One beaten egg and some bread crumbs to hold the whole thing together.
So, there are a few different steps involved in cooking this wonder cutlet.
First, boil the spaghetti in about a litre and a half of water. No, there’s no need to measure out the water. Simply take a big vessel that you know will hold all the spaghetti, fill three quarters or so with water, add some salt and a few drops of oil, wait for the water to boil, and drop in the spaghetti. Let it cook for about ten minutes, till the spaghetti is soft and easy to twirl.
Remove it from the boiling water, rinse it thoroughly in cold water to stop the residual heat from over-cooking it, and keep aside. You could add a few drops of oil to this so it doesn’t stick together, but this would be unnecessary if you add enough oil while cooking.
Saute all the chopped vegetables with salt. Add some seasoning and herbs, if you so desire. (Your options include oregano, rosemary, basil, freshly ground pepper). Keep aside.
Now for the basic white sauce. You will need:
6 tablespoons or around 100 gms of butter
6 tablespoons of maida
A litre of milk

About half a cup of cheese (grated cheddar or mozzarella is preferable, but if you are in a place that doesn’t sell either, go ahead and use the processed cheese cubes good ol’ Amul or Britannia makes)
Take a heavy bottomed pan, keep on a low flame. First, throw in the butter, wait for it to melt (only melt, not brown). Add maida, little by little, mixing it in completely. Wait for the maida to cook, carefully monitoring it to ensure that it does not change the colour. Now is the tough bit. Concentrating only on it, trickle in milk, stirring continuously, because you don’t want lumps forming in your sauce. If you have a whisk, use that. Even if you don’t have lower arm strength, use that! Keep whisking while slowly mixing in the milk. You will have a nice thick sauce by the time all the milk has been added. Your work is not over yet. If you are novice at this, switch off the heat. Add the grated cheese to this. Stir continuously so the cheese melts into the sauce.
Please make sure that the sauce is not so thick that it doesn’t fall easily, or thin enough to flow easily. The sauce is the binding factor, and if it is too runny, then you cannot fry the cutlets. If it is too thick, well, your cutlets will be difficult to shape.
Now, mix the spaghetti and sautéed vegetables in the white sauce. Check for taste, add salt, pepper and more seasoning, as per taste. If the sauce is not thick enough, let the pasta stay for a while so the cheese thickens.
Take small handfuls, shape them as well as you can. Take a steel tumbler or katora and invert it over the shaped lump so you can make it round. Coat with bread crumbs so it will hold shape. This is the final step before frying, if you are strictly vegetarian.
However, if you are one of those people who cannot eat a cutlet unless it has some bit of non- vegetarian food, like yours truly, you could dip this in egg white, after the initial crumb coating, and then, roll it again in bread crumbs.
The advantages, as always, with using eggs, is that the cutlet holds shape better because, egg, as everyone knows, is the strong hero who stays in shape, even in hot oil.
So, now that your cutlets are coated and ready to fry, fry them in hot oil, and serve hot with ketchup or mayonnaise.
Eat it hot because the cheese inside the cutlets is this amazing consistency of smooth and the spaghetti floats in cheesy glory before slowly gliding down your throat. We’ve gushed enough about it, so now stop reading and go try it. And they are ready, give us a shout, we will be there pronto.

<Posted on behalf of Confused by Crumbs. Sorry about the lack of pics, guys. Blame technology and sloppy memory!>

Friday, December 21, 2012

Recipe at the End of the World

Some wise being who likes to not come out to the light told us that the world will end on May 12, 2012. We thought we should quickly post so that the last thing our readers (of which sub-species there are many...okay, so 4. 4 IS many in some parts of the world you know. Like the parts that are not big on numbers. Or technology. But we digress. But that stopped being news after our first post here. Even so, one must, one supposes, get back to track once in a while, at least so that one remembers where one lost it. So you may quickly want to rewind to 4 lines before to refresh your memory about why we started this sentence. Read it without the bracketed content this time to avoid being stuck in an infinite, vicious loop. One has to think of all loopholes when writing post, we tell you. It's not easy, this blogging business. No sir. Okay, off you go to the beginning of the sentence--but one thinks by now it's become 7 lines back.) say before they are blasted into the Great Wide Vaccum, is "How thoughtful, and delightfully adorable are these guys, at Cooking for Rocket Scientists!"


But alas, like all plans of women and weasel (one feels one must use a w-animal here for the whole dazzling alliterative effort, but please free feel to bring the mice back. We have nothing against them. Except that we are a food blog (or something close to it), and you know, speaking of mice would be, in some cultures, considered inappropriate. Thank god, we do not believe in those cultures. In fact, we do not believe in any cultures. In fact...oh right, the track, the track. Back to it then.), this came to naught, as we had this considerate and not at all self-serving thought precisely at 10.27 pm, on the 11th of May.

By the time we finished wiping the dust off our very neglected laptop and keyed in those last two paras, it was already way-hay past 12 in the night and it was May 12 already, and much to our disappointment, we found that the world didn’t end after all (even after we drank to it, tut tut. World has no value for its word we tell you. Bad world, no hot chocolate for you!) and we all will just have to grin and bare it (Before the spelling Nazi raise their formidable eyebrows and frown, allow us to clarify that we meant to use that spelling. We are punny, see? Don’t see? Get glasses. Those thick, Woody Allen types. Then come back and read the rest of the damn post.).

Anyhow, since this post that we crafted with so much distracted love was not going to be the last thing you wonderful peoples read, we thought we might as well take our time with it. Unfortunately, that time just happened to be a little over half a year. Heh, please say you still love us (puppy eyes)! But now that the end-of-world-maybe plan is back on track, we figured we might as well dust this post out, and publish. If the world ends, this could be the last thing on your mind (which is awesome), if it doesn’t, the first thought on your mind in the new world (or the old world, with a new timetable) would be, “Oooh, food!” (which is awesomer). All things considering, good time to post.

Anyway, since we have written about 500 words of absolutely useless, but entertaining excuses, you’d think that we’d skip raving about the recipe that we are going to provide you with, don’t you? And when you think that, we will act all hurt and indignantly claim that you don't know us still. We would never short change you like that. Ever. EVER.

Have we ever told you that we love the Internet? We are not going off the track again, we promise this will all make sense (in the end. If it does not make sense, remember, it is probably not the end.). We haven’t? Well, we do.  And why wouldn’t we, it’s awesome! You know what else we love? Food, that’s what. And why wouldn’t we, it’s awesome! We love eating it, making it, looking at it, reading about it, talking about it, breathing it, carrying it on our hips and other less flattering parts of our body, and of course, writing about it every once (or twice) in a while on this blog.

So one of those days when we were jumping from one food blog to the next and drooling all over our poor laptop looking at the gorgeous food that other people were making and eating, we stumbled across a certain post (which we cannot seem to be able to find out now, and it is driving us bloody nuts!) in this blog. And it called out to us. And since this was around the time when we were in our fight-the-December-induced-free-floating-depression-with-food phase, we decided to be brave and actually try this. The recipe was for baked fish with vegetables. There were only a few small hitches in our plan, namely:

a. The recipe was made in a tagine. We didn’t have a tagine or anything close to it. In fact, we had just googled tagine a very little while ago.

b. We didn’t really have an oven to use instead of the tagine.
c. Fish was really not our area of expertise. In fact, one of us (name withheld to protect the said one of us’ privacy, and ermmm, self worth) has always been mildly terrified at the thought of fish.

But then you folks know us well enough by now to realise that we don’t let minor glitches keep us from food. Our love for experimenting, coupled with a very low survival reflexes, and selective memory loss, uniquely qualify us to blow up our kitchen over and over again. The more risky an enterprise sounds, the more gung-ho we are. Such regular culinary daredevils. (This is the point, where Confused, who is wired to be accident-prone without having to try too hard, rolls her eyes at Crumb's enthusiasm. Fret not, this is an every-day occurrence around here--she is the voice of reason that shouts "Watch out" as the debris fly all around us.)

So we went ahead with the plan anyway. Once we started cooking, the recipe sort of decided to go on ways of  it’s own choosing though. It began with trying to be Moroccan, then jumped across the globe for a Thai twist, and then ended up being this citizen of the world kind of dish. Remember those movies/books where the story takes over the author and then the fictional world and the ‘real’ becomes all confused and then the author goes all schizophrenic? Kind of like that, except for warped reality thing and the schizophrenic thing, we ended up with a lovely dish, which was a little confused about its identity, and one very happy chef.

So before the Moroccan and the Thai peoples come for our throats, we give you, the global citizen of the seafood world,

The Identity Crisis Fish (yes, that is the name we are going with)

You will need:

Fish (big surprise): In the vicinity of half a kilo. Any large variety that does not have too many bones for you to choke on. The first time we tried, we used prawns in fact. They worked pretty well, wethinks. Since then we have used sear fish, which was really nice as well. Go on a limb and pick what speaks to you. But remember, fish with fewer bones, and something that does not crumble easily (By now you should have figured that expertise on sea food is not one of our numerous qualifications. Heh.).  You will need cleaned (Do not ask us how, there is YouTube/mothers/friendly supermarket fish mongers for that sort of thing.) and sliced into 1 cm thickness pieces. Avoid head bits and tail bits.

Assorted ‘bakable’ veggies: We have been going with onions (cut into thick, quarter cm circles), carrots (cut into thick, quarter cm circles), red, green and yellow peppers (cut into, you guessed it, thick, quarter cm circles) and tomatoes and potatoes (also cut in thick, quarter cm circles. We are such  sticklers for consistency. Also, laziness.) Each enough to layer your pan once.

For the marinade/spice base

Garlic: 6-7 large pods, crushed mercilessly under the ruthless power of a flat knife

Cumin, the good ol’ jeera: 1 tsp, powdered

Ginger: 1 inchish piece of the fat kind, also crushed ruthlessly

Parsley: These, for the uninitiated, are a certain kind of leaves of the herb variety. Fresh is referable, but dry once will also make do. About a sprig  if fresh, about 2 teaspoons if dry.

Coriander/ Cilantro leaves: These are also herb things. More commonly known in India as dhaniya, this is the standard garnish for pretty much every dish we make.

Chilli powder: So the original recipe said paprika. Which is not exactly chilli powder as we (the mango people) know it, but meh, this tasted fine to us.

Pepper: Whole, about 2 teaspoons' worth

Olive oil: About half a cup. One suppose one could tell you options to replace it if one has religious, political, economic, or financial objects to olive oil, but then it just might be the end of the world, and if we are not adventurous now, then when? So, we wont.

Lemon juice: Juice of about one lemon. Now, we didn’t have lemon at hand, so we went out on a limb and used two tablespoons of curd instead. Which, surprisingly, worked out well.

The big surprise ingredient: If we tell you know, we will have to kill you. Not actually, but it's fun to imagine such things.

So, you take all the marinade ingredients (which we learned later has a name: chermoula. But by then, we had changed it so much, we figured might as well not call it that), dump them into a small bowl of the mixer, with about a teaspoon of salt (or less, or more, depending on what your heart and cholesterol levels desire {we suspect we might have used that line before. Meh, oldage}), and pulse a few times till everything combines into a slightly (ever so slightly) chunky paste.

Scoop half the marinade over the fish pieces, and slather the fish bits with some marinade love. Quick tip: use your gentler side, fish are rather sensitive, and even though they are dead, they will not like the rough handling. Leave aside for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, take a deepish bowl with a lid that fits—if you have a clay pan, (what in the land of the Malayalee is known as the meen chatti) use that. We discovered on our 4th attempt at this, is the probably the closest thing that comes to a tagine. But, if you do not possess such a contraption, fret not, our good ol’ pressure cooker will get the job done fine.

Grease the bottom of the pan with a little bit oil. Throw some pepper and salt over the potato slices, and toss them about. You could also pre-boil the potatoes for lesser cooking time. Layer them in circles. Place the fish in the center, and work your way towards the ends. Next, layer the onions over the fish, on the sides. And then the last layer of tomatoes, and peppers, and your tower of fishetables (making up words, one of our many talents) is done.

Water down the rest of the marinade, and pour over the tower of fishetables, so that you can see a bit of what would in sometime become gravy, through the gaps and cracks. You can throw in a few slices of lemon for extra zing, but that is not entirely necessary. Pop this on the stove, and close the lid. It is important that you pop the lid only after you pop the vessel on the stove—mostly because of the high likelihood of dropping the lid otherwise during the popping process. Turn your heat…er the flame’s heat, to medium, and let the whole thing cook for about 15-20 mins.

Open the pan, the veggies must look wilted, and the fish, crumbly. If you got there, you are almost done. Easiest thing to do is to poke the potatoes with a knife—if they are soft, you are done. We completely trust the potato’s judgement, particularly, in all matters food related (and in some other non-food matters too. That is why it is on our masthead, good chap, the potato.) If not done, close and try after another 5 mins.

Now at this point, you could possibly be done. But for us, as we tasted the gravy, strange sort of an inspiration struck. Coconut milk! For some unexplainable reasons, we wanted to add coconut milk to this. Told you this recipe sort of went away from us, didn’t we? So, to all that gorgeously tangy gravy, we added about quarter of cup of fresh coconut milk, and have the whole thing a gentle shake. We didn’t want to rigorously mix it, because that would just collapse the fish into tiny shards. Gentle did it, and viola! We had a strangely lovely fish curry that reminded us vaguely of Thai food, but with hints of what we hoped it was Moroccan spirits.

However, the many times we have dished out this to hungry friends, they have never really complained (at least not till we insisted on telling them the back story, again, for the 57th time). We have since then tried the same recipe without fish (okayish), with prawns again, with some caramalised onion on top, and spaghetti at the bottom (yum, yum, yum) and with mushrooms (also strangely yum). As the pictures will tell you, we really like it.

So go forth, loverly peoples. Experiment, live on the edge. And remember to get your end-of-the-world stories in place for the grandkids. (Don't forget to mention how a  bunch of lazy food bloggers saved the day.)



Saturday, January 7, 2012

The World is Ending, So Why Not Drink to It?

Remember September? You know, the month that Greenday wanted to be woken up at the end of? (Oh boy, there is a screwed up sentence. And we wonder why one of us sucks at her day job. But we digress. As always. And you love us for that, dontcha? Yes, you do. Oh, you do! Okay, now get back.) If you are not a Greenday fan, September also has a whole bunch of other stuff going. It is the late Mr Laden's favourite month, but we shall not make jokes about the dearly departed (it's rude and totally against Indian culture, you know. And what if Sapil Kibal is watching?). September gave the world Hugh Grant, Dev Anand, Will Smith, Asha Bhosle and Catherine Zeta Jones. It also gave us Nicole Ritchie and Aditya Pancholi, but then one presumes that into each month some idiots must fall.

September, apparently also has Fashion Weeks! Who knew?! Apart from a large section of the world that, you know, knows a thing or four about fashion. Which, of course, is not us.

Anywhoo, the reason why we are so meticulously trying to jog your memory about a relatively average month is so that we can also remind you that last year, it had Divali (the kind with the capital D)! And if you remember Divali, you will also remember how you were made to suffer through endless pictures and posts in all the other food blogs and Facebook and greeting cards about ALL the seemingly gorgeous food that people made and ate. Remember how you looked at those pictures, and wished that you had all that food on your table, while trying to navigate a spoonful of soggy cereal around that huge lump in your throat? We, being the sensitive little souls that we are, felt your pain as that singular tear dropped down your left cheek. And we, being the same sensitive little souls, vowed that WE would never contribute to that pain. Which is why we have been restraining from posting any pictures of our own divali (the kind without the capital d) table. Or even about the food we made and eated. THAT is how much we love you.

Just when we thought we’d survived, came December with all it's wintery longing and holidays-inspired feelings of emotional inadequacy. The cheerful world of food bloggers attacked with all their sugary, buttery, frost(ing)y vengeance and all of us whose roommates and other ‘loved’ ones abandoned us for greener pastures and yummier home-food were left nursing our fragile little hearts and big weeping tummies. But when faced with all that end-of-the-year pressure, self-doubt, and depression, did we crumble like a badly baked cookie? No, we kept calm and carried on. WE, looked at the world of pointless chipper-ness and unbounding optimism square in the eye and raised our glasses (or in this case, repurposed glass jars) of warm hot chocolate and said, “We don’t need your mountains of delicately created food, and cozy little parties and mid-night revelry. WE have hot chocolate.” After all, when faced with grave adversity how else does one fortify one’s defences if not with chocolate?

“Hot chocolate?” you ask. “That was your defence?” you wonder in surprise. “Why, yes!” we’d reply, in that ever confident tone of the calmly wise. “Hot chocolate. Because chocolate does not question. Chocolate does not make demands or have expectations. Chocolate, understands.”

And this is chocolate at its basic, undemanding best. Without its high-flying strawberry and butter friends. Without the fancy dress up of a cake, or truffle. This is chocolate at its roots. It needs only the little warmth of a splatter of cream, a few slivers of orange rind, and a whiff of cinnamon. But at the back of it, it carries the strength of sturdy dried red chillies. Or if you prefer, the robustness of ground black pepper. Like we said, chocolate does not question. It just knows.

Right now, as that the practical bitch in us is telling the whimsical fool to get on with the business already, ladies and gentlemen, allow us to present to you, Cinderella at the fancy-food ball, our long haired, frying-pan wielding rescuer from the New Year Monster, the untarnished awesomeness of a
Spicy Hot Chocolate.

You will need ingredients of 3 kinds:

1. The stars: Very predictably, milk and cocoa powder. Now one could, if one so wishes, use chocolate powder as well. But Crumbs who prefers her chocolate strong, dark and bitter, thinks cocoa is the purer choice. If you have to use chocolate, go easy on the sugar. Since we are making this for one, let’s go with one mug of milk, and 4 tbs of cocoa. (If you are making it for more than one, we hope you are good at math :P)

2. The faithful sidekicks: These are what take the cocoa and milk to the next level—namely, coffee and cream. Oh and sugar. Since, we (namely Crumbs) think that the coffee makes the world go round, we use 2 tablespoons. One would suffice for lesser mortals. About a quarter cup of cream—just to make the milk, well, creamier. Feel free to indulge and add more. Promise we won’t tell a soul. Neither will chocolate. About 1 tbs of sugar. And, errmmm, chocolate chips or chopped chocolate—you know, since, whoever said too much of a good thing is bad is a filthy liar.

3. The character actors: Now one can make a hot chocolate with just cocoa and water also. But that would not do much to lift up one’s downtrodden spirits, would it? So one adds various spices. The possibilities here are endless – What we give you in this recipe is what we think is the winner—one stick of cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, orange rind.cinnamon of about a finger’s length (we’d specify which finger but then, this is a family blog), one star anise, a quarter spoonful of orange rind and 3 dried red chillies. Yes, chillies. Nothing better to beat the blues with than chillies doused in chocolate. But since we didn’t have chillies on hand this photo session, we went with ground black pepper, which is pretty kickass too. But trust us on the chillies, will ya?

Now that we have the cast ready, let’s get ready to roll. Pour the milk in a deep pan worthy of milk-boiling. Add the cinnamon, star anise, orange rind and chillies. Pop it on the heat, and simmer. Kindly to note, we said simmer, DO NOT LET THIS BOIL. Keep the flame at low to medium all the time. Keep stirring every 34 seconds.

While this is happening, take your cocoa/chocolate powder, coffee and sugar in a small container. Spoon in a little bit (maybe one or 2 spoons) of the milk from the simmering pool and mix well to make a gorgeously gooey paste. We dare you to not nick a taste. Once this is thoroughly mixed, go check on the milk (you left it to simmer, remember?). Take it off the heat, and let the spices seep for another 10 mins. While the spices do that, go add the cream to the cocoa and whip the whole thing well to make it slightly fluffy. Don’t get ambitious, you are not whipping it to make chocolate snow castles, just a light beating will do. Check if you like the taste—you know, since it is very, very important to get this right. Very.

Once you are done licking your fingers, and er…washing you hands, go remove the spices from the milk. You could strain the milk but we just use a spoon. Less hassle. Then, pour the cocoa-cream into the milk all the while stirring vigorously. At this point, your heart should start beating a tad bit faster. But hold on, you are almost there.

Take this back to the stove, and simmer again. Again, DO NOT BOIL or bad things will happen. Add the chocolate chips, we like using both white and dark (we do not discriminate, see?), keep stirring until they dissolve all their differences in beautiful brownness of joyful hot chocolate.

Take off the heat. Scatter the ground pepper, if that is what your heart (and pantry) commands. If you are feeling a li'l adventurous, add a splash (or three) of liquor-- dark rum works the best wethinks, but hey, you are free to differ.

Pour into a warm mug, or whatever gives you comfort. Switch on the fairy lights, pull out a book, pull up your blanket, and sip. If you do not feel joy for the world, we suggest you rush to the hospital. Your taste buds might be as dead as your heart.

Harpy 2012, folks. We hope you enjoy your ride to the year at the end of the world.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Manga awesomeness of the non- japanese kind

The Mango showers have come and gone, so has the mango season. The monsoon is here, and is now threatening to stay till Christmas. All we can think of are piping hot samosas, crunchy pakodas and crispy vadas with a cup of wonderfully aromatic tea (thats bliss for me) or Crumbs' out-of-this-world coffee (Crumbs' note: I did not pay her to write this. No really. I didn't.) HOWEVER, we are not telling you how to make those things right now, because we have to tell you about our mango adventures. Yes, it is a bit late for you to try them out, but hey, now you will have yet another reason to look forward to the next mango season. And plus, onam seemed like a good time to make up for all the festivals that we missed since we started blogging. Yeah we know onam's also gone now, but it was not like you guys love us for our immaculate sense of timing, no? (We know it's our winning smiles and stunning modesty that charms you.)

Things we do to bring joy and hope to your otherwise pre-technicolor life, right? We know. And you don't really have to thank us, we do it purely out of the goodness of our wonderful hearts. That is just the kind of people we are.

Our recipe for the week (probably the fortnight, or even the next couple of months, it's us we are talking about, you know) is the mind-boggling Mambazha curry aka Manga curry. Those of you who are not from that little strip of land that prides itself on the flexibility of the tongue (We know what you are thinking, and we think you should stop thinking about that, right now, and concentrate on the post. Work with us, will ya?), do not fret -- this is just a ripe mango curry, which is amazingly easy to make (Just like everything else on this blog. We are such easy going people, yes ma'am!). And we promise, no Japanese comics of the wide-eyed kind were tortured while making this curry.

So, you'll need-

Mangoes: Of course. It'd be a little anti-climatic if we made a mango curry without mangoes, now, won't it? Although, we do that with cheesecake (another story, another day) we are not quite ready to make that quantum leap with mangoes. So, get about 2 or 3 of the hatta-khatta ripe ones. If you do overdo the ripeness, it is fine, because the mangoes are going to be boiled within an inch of their lives anyway.

Coconut milk: One packet of the Hommade variety. If you are the hardworking types, or if you happen to have coconuts in abundance at home, then you extract the milk of one grated coconut. (We are still working on getting that funny way of extracting coconut milk, but today is not that day, okay?)

ALTERNATIVELY, you could use the the thing itself. You know, fresh coconut. About half should do the trick. Grated well.

About one cup of fresh curd. Please note, the curd here really refers to curd, and not the watered down and weary buttermilk predecessor that you find in most shops. At the risk of sounding like brand ambassadors, we would suggest that you buy one of those Nestle/ Milma/ VIjaya/ whatever-brand-it-is-in-Kolkata packaged curds. Unflavoured, of course, unless you want a dash of strawberry or chocoloate in your curry. (If it does turn out to be yum, let us know. Would probably save us an experiment.)

Two or three green chillis, five to six shallots (these are the cute li'l versions of onions, also known as sambar onions in some part of the retail world, please do not let their size fool you. They are much more flavourful and pungent than their large sized counterpart) (Crumbs' note: to people who know us personally, do you guys see a parallel there?) or one big onion, two spoons of turmeric powder, salt to taste, two red chilies and a few curry leaves. You know, the usual suspects. Or something.

First, wash and peel the mangoes. Cut them in large pieces (we usually just cut them into four major slices, one from each side) and put them in a large container, along with the mango seeds. Don't fret too much about the shape of the pieces, as long as they are LARGE. Add water for the boiling. Add some (aka two teaspoons) turmeric, salt to this, and let boil.

Take the green chillis, pretend you are the surgeon on House MD, and slit them through the middle with precision. If you cannot manage the precision, just pretend you are Grawp and the chillis are miserable Death Eaters instead. As long as you manage to split the chillis lengthwise, and still have two eyes intact, we are good. Once the mangoes get cooked for a while, take about half a glass of coconut milk (the thick Hommade one), add water to it, pour into the boiling mango mixture, and boil till the mangoes are soft and disintegrate into smaller bits. You could also opt to smash them into the mixture, if that brings on your Mojo.

While that is going on, may we encourage you to multi-task and heat some oil in a kadai? Throw in a few mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and a pinch of jeera (if you like the taste, that is. Please do not overdo the jeera, it stands out in the whole preparation) into the oil. Chop the onions or shallots, add them to this, and saute. When you reach the stage where you get giddy with the aroma, add the red chillis.(We usually tear them in two with our hands, but Confused has a tendency to then rub eyes with the same fingers, so we are not really advising you to do the tearing, pun fully intended). At this stage, we feel compelled to warn you good people that the red chillis are quite the spiteful creatures -- we suppose being left out in the hot Indian sun to that long can do that to the best of us. They tend to splutter, and explode and do all sorts of violent things once added to the hot oil. We encourage you get hold of an industrial welding mask (you could always sneak it out of your friendly neighbourhood mechanic's back, but return it to him/her after use though. Those things probably have emotional, and not to mention monetary value attached). Or if such a mask is not available, you need to make do with what the boring people do -- lower the flame, and gently toss the chillis from a reasonably safe distance. And then use a longish spatula/spoon to stir it a few times, till it lightly changes colour. Toss in the curry leaves before the chillis turn black, and remove from stove (In this age of induction cook tops and such like, we think the word "fire" might be inadequate).

While this is happening, or has happened, depending on how many cooks there are, beat the curd thoroughly, without adding any water to it, till it becomes this amazingly creamy beautifully flowing mesmerizing version of, well, beaten curd. Add this to the boiled mango mixture, along with some more thick coconut milk, and mix. Heat for just a bit longer on low, low flame/temperature, as we do not want curdled curry.

Once the flavours are all mixed correctly, and you can taste the sweetness of the mango combined with the tarty yumminess of curd (one of us is a big fan of curd, as you might have surmised), and the exoticness (or is it exoticity?) of coconut milk, add the 'tadka' (that would be mustard-jerra-chilli thing that you did not burn, for the non-hindi understanding amongst our readers) waiting in the kadai.

Voila, you have mastered one of those things that a mango loving person will be proud of creating. Dress it up a bit, and you have a winner on your lovely hands, ladies and gentlemen. Serve hot with rice and a bit of mango pickle and pappadom.

Clockwork Orange.
Yes, thou suspecteth right. That IS the worst pun since Orangutan (which is not a pun at all)

With exciting, and completely false promises of being more regular with posting, we shall take off. Will you forgive us if we skip the usual sign off line here?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When Life Gives You Pressure Cooker...

Being a single woman, living and working/studying in a city is an exercise fraught with challenges. At every step, there are multiple decisions to be made, each one with too many choices, and many a times, you do not have the luxury of a wise counsel of an older, more experienced in the way of the world parent figure. Sure modern life challenges do not involve the will-I-eat-the-wolf-or-will-the-wolf-eat-me-tonight kind of decisions, each day does bring forth newer issues to tackle, newer bills to pay. However, one tries to keep calm and carry on.

So then, for a single woman living in a city, who likes to bake her own cake and eat it too, the realisation that owning an oven is a luxury that your barely-existent salary/research fellowship/allowance from generous parents does not allow, is highly demotivating. But then, you chin-up and tell yourself that one is a strong independent woman who does not let a lack of oven come in between her and baking awesomeness. Like a wise woman (that would be Crumbs) said, "When life throws you a pressure cooker, you make cooker cake."

Like most of the things we talk about in this wonderful blogspace, one could write pages and pages about this cake. Like the time when accidentally we gave away this cake, along with a wonderful plate to complete strangers, when we really thought we were giving it to a friend for Christmas. OR the time we went halfway into making this cake for a friend's birthday before we realised that we'd forgotten one minor ingredient--the flour. Or the time one gave one's unsuspecting, but always helpful roommate quite the scare by breaking a spatula over the cake. But then we thought why bore our readers with details of our rather uninteresting lives? They have enough to deal with as it is, what with Prince William marrying a commoner and Osama being killed and other such modern day fairytales. So, one would proceed in haste (before one digresses again) to the aforementioned harbinger of great adventures,

The chocolate cooker cake

We discovered the original recipe, long long long back, here. However, some 15 adventures later, one uses the recipe only for the measurements. And we do not recognise this as brownie, for this very firmly, is a good cake (although, we do not know the technicalities of differentiating brownie and cake, we do not let such things come in our way).

You will need:

Milk: 1 cup. Go for the nice wholesome full cream one. Just the way Mother Nature intended milk to be before Health Freaks and Mother Dairy intervened.

Sugar: 1 cup, then another 1/2 cup(We generally are not big fans of divide and rule, but then what the heck, it works every time). One supposes you could use the healthier Demerara variety, but we have a sinking suspicion that most of our readers are currently running to Google ‘demerara’. Don't bother, the regular white-washed refined variety is really, truly, the most useful.

Cocoa powder: 1 cup. Please note, cocoa NOT= chocolate powder. We mean the mean stuff, the unsweetened bitter variety. Just the way mother nature intended it to be before Sweet Freaks and Cadbury intervened.

Butter: 1 cup. Now, most cake recipes do ask for unsalted and all. But as a single woman living in city, you will know that those things are bleddy expensive. If you are feeling lavish, sure, unsalted is better. If you are feeling regular, just use our trusted Amul Salted of the utterly-butterly delicious fame, and we won't tell a soul. Such great keepers of secrets we are.

Instant Coffee Powder: 3/4 tsp. If you do not have this readily available in your kitchen, then we are not talking to you anymore.

Eggs: 3. We are partial to chicken, but feel free to use dinosaur, if that is what you prefer.
Condensed Milk: 1/2 cup. Now you could, technically, buy whole milk, boil it with sugar and then reduce it and reduce it and reduce it, but then, why have milk-torture induced bad karma on your head, when big corporations are so willing to do it for you?

Vanilla Essence: 1 tsp, because somehow it seems criminal to bake a cake without it.

Maida: 1 .25 cups. Also known as refined flour, our careful research has proved beyond all doubt that one cannot make this cake without this ingredient.

Baking Powder: 1 tsp. Baking Soda: 1 tsp (Don't know the difference between the two? Good, we don't either. But they usually come in differently labelled packages. Easy to identify. If you read English that is. Which we know you do. Because, you know, you read this blog and stuff. We are smart that way.)


To begin with, the original recipe suggested that we take the butter, sugar, milk, coffee, and cocoa, and cook it till the sugar melts. During our scientific experiment number 2, we tried this. It resulted in the aforementioned spatula-throwing-roommate-scaring incident, as the mixture quickly achieved a concrete like consistency. We do not mean the wet, just-mixed-with-water kind of concrete. We mean the fortified-with-lots-of-sun of concrete.

So, in the interest of your roommates (and spatulas), here is what you do. You take the butter in a deepish vessel. You pop the vessel on the stove, over VERY LOW heat. You stir it gently till the butter melts. Then, take the vessel off the stove, and add the sugar. If you are blessed with modern day conveniences like a mixie, it is a good idea to powder the sugar. Saves you a lot of trouble and arm ache. If you do not have the mixie, you just pop the sugar into a large plastic cover and grind the life out of that sugar using any mean, heavy object you have lying around (at various points in our life, Confused and I have used large locks, stone, stray slabs of marbles salvaged from construction sites, and rolling pins before we acquired a decent pestle). Now, you mix the thus powdered sugar with the melted butter. Beat this well till it becomes a nice, powdery paste using a fork, if you, like us, do not have an egg beater. Add the milk, little by little (little here referring to about 1/4th of the cup at a time). Once the milk is incorporated, add the cocoa powder and the coffee.

If you have some big, burly men with strong biceps loafing around you, now would be a good time to put them to work, because now begins the hard, taxing labour of beating the cake mix, and like Shakespeare never said, "Beating cake mix doth not a happy arm make" or something to that effect. If no burly men are available, then you can psych your brain into ignoring your arm by imagining big, big mountains of chocolate.

Once you have the burly man or chocolate-induced denial ready, add one egg to the mixture, beat, add next egg to the mixture, beat, then add the third egg to the mixture, beat, add the condensed milk, beat, and finally, add the vanilla essence, and don't beat--this time, just gently fold (in the present instance, fancy term for stir) it in.

Now, take the flour. Add the baking powder and/or baking soda. There are two ways of doing this. Either take all of this, and sieve them together. OR, if sieve is not available, take them in a large plastic/ziplock bag, and shake the bag like you would want to shake your boss who just asked you to work over the weekend.

Once, the flour is thus laced with the chemicals, fold (mix) it into the egg-milk-cocoa-sugar-butter paste, a couple of spoons at a time. So you add two spoons, mix, add two more spoons, mix and etc., etc, till you have all of your ingredients mixed in a wonderful amalgamation of, well, ingredients.

Then, lace your cooker pan with butter. Then sprinkle about a spoonful of flour on the pan, and shake it about, so that the flour sticks evenly to the butter, and through the butter to the pan. Pour the aforementioned amalgamation of ingredients into the pan with all your love and sweat (being metaphorical here people, NOT to be taken literally). Pop the cooker on to the stove, filled with about an inch of water. Pop the cooker pan into the water. Close cooker, wait for steam to rise through the funnel thing, and then lower the flame to medium leaning low. DO NOT PUT THE WHISTLE ON.

Go about your merry business for about 45 mins. Come back into the kitchen, turn the stove off. Slowly, and with great care, open the cooker. Your gooey-brown amalgamation must now metamorphosised into a beautiful dome shaped cake. Take a toothpick, stick it gently into the center of the cake, and pull out. If there are no gooey hangers on on the toothpick, yell, "Success!" and do the chicken dance in the kitchen. If there is some gooey hangers on the toothpick, act casual, and pop the lid back on the cooker and the cooker back on the stove. Light stove, go about your merry business for 10 mins, and repeat step 1 (of this para, not the entire post).

Once the cake is cooled enough, upturn it onto a plate, and then upturn the upturned cake to another plate to have it right side up. Slice, bite, attain nirvana.

Or you could be like us and bake another one of these cakes, and make a giant burger-like cake like this one.

But that is another day, another post. So long folks, we are ready for our take off.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Of threats and misconceptions

Crumbs and I have decided that it is time we stopped misguiding you. Nope, we are not vegetable lovers. One of us even goes out of her way to avoid eating veggies (The other one does go out of her way to trick the aforementioned one to eat her broccoli, but that has more to do with intents more evil that vegetable-love.) So for all those who are a little tired of our little vegetarian act, and for the rest of you who have been more, ermmm…demonstrative of your displeasure, here’s presenting, the bestest accompaniment to our much loved, aunty pleasing neichor (4 posts down and we are already cross-referencing our previous post. We are cool that way.)-- the much demanded chicken character-actor sidekick who often wins the Oscars aka

The Default Kozhi Curry, or if you tend to be on the r-dropping, northern side of coconut belt, Koi Curry.

So, you’ll need:

7-9 pieces of chicken. Not the Abhai-Maurya’s-face-at-student-GBs- type pink blobs, the fresh, blood-oozing variety. If you are not the number crunching kind, this translates to about half a kilo.

5 to 6 big onions. When we say big, we usually mean the beautifully healthy, big, well-fed, round ones, not those silly things most marketwallas pass off as ‘pyaaz’.

3 Tomatoes. Again, the nice big ones. Not the plum sized ones (when we say plum-sized, we are mean size of a plum, which, is not impressive if you are a tomato), because they are just not the ones we use for this curry. We will give you a chance to use those, but later (Ooh, the suspense.)

Ginger- garlic paste. Just let the large company fleece you this time

Green chilli, about 4 to 5, depending on how spicy it is, and how fire-proof your stomach is.

The Powders: Turmeric- one teaspoon; Coriander- half a spoon or less (which is preferred); Chilli powder- one teaspoon; Garam masala- two tiny spoons or one and a half teaspoons; Salt- two spoons or more.

Potatoes- if required. Why anybody would take away the taste of all that yummy chicken with potatoes is beyond us, but if you belong to that part of the nation that can not imagine a meal without potatoes, please feel free to chop 2 large ones into smallish (one inch should do it) cubes, and add a little extra salt to your curry.

Thinly slice the onions. And no, we are not using the term ‘thin’ loosely here to mean half an onion. Slice them as thin as you can, the ideal being translucent slices. Yes, it’s not easy, and no, you won’t get there without practice, but it reduces your cooking time by so much that you will thank us once you get there. Separate the layers like you did while making the nei-chor. Once you have that ready, pull out a kadai, or your friendly pressure cooker, pour in some oil. Throw in the onions, get them to brown. Adding salt really helps in the sautéing process, so that would definitely be a wise move.

While that is going on, chop the tomatoes. This time, we are not concerned about the size of the pieces, and you are free to squish them. Just make sure the knife wins this battle. And remember, we are fighting the tomatoes, NOT your finger. Throw those in, stir a bit.

Grind the green chillis. You will have to do this one the hard way, so just don’t rub your eyes soon after you do this. Put in a spoonful of the ginger garlic paste and a few spoonfuls of the green chilli paste, give the whole thing a healthy stir to ensure none of it is getting overly fond of the bottom of your cooker or pan, and add in The Powders (ignore the salt, if you have added it to the onions). Once the whole thing has been mixed and cooked enough, (the hint here is to take a deep breath. If you can smell individual ingredients, keep stirring. If you can smell a whole lot of happiness, you are good at this. If you can smell smoke, reduce the fire, and stir better- you might still be able to save your dish. If you choke, thank god you did not add the chicken), add the chopped potatoes, if you really have to, and add the chicken (washed and preferably bloodless, not that we judge).

Mix it all well, making sure you are not ignoring the bottom of your vessel. Add about a glass of water and close the pressure cooker. Wait for steam to rise out of that little chimney- like thing, and put the weight on it. Wait for a whistle, turn off your stove. Do not open the cooker yet. If you are using a kadai, you of course, won’t have a whistle to wait for. You will just have to wait out about 15 mins, and then check if the chicken is tender. This you do, by opening the kadai, sticking a fork into a piece, if it goes in easily and the chicken feels soft, you are good to go. But, we suggest that you pop a tiny (the term ‘tiny’ here is rather loosely used) piece into your mouth, just to be sure.

So while you are waiting, heat some ghee (No, we do not forget lovely things like ghee), fry a few slices of onion, some cashewnuts, if you like. Now, when that is done, switch off the stove and chop some coriander leaves. Open the cooker now (assuming, of course that the steam is gone); poke the chicken to see if it is tender. If it feels like rubber, chances are you will have to cook it for a while longer probably one more whistle will do the trick. If it feels just right, pour it into a serving bowl, add the garnish, and serve it hot, with lots of our very own ghee rice.

This is guaranteed to expand that waistline a bit, but as they say- eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow, we may diet (We know that line’s been around since Dr Phil was a wee li’l lad, but it cracks us everytime. Diet. Hahahahaha. Diet!)