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Sunday, 8 January 2012

From my kitchen diary part iv

Today  we had Sambaar and rice for lunch. My daughter-in-law's mother,  who   is  staying with us  for the last few days,was surprised at the quality of the Sambaar.She is a connoisseur of cooking.She prepares delicious  food.Edhthiamma,as I address her, could not believe that the sambaar was cooked without coconut.I told her that it was Punjabi  or, let us say, a North Indian version of sambaar. The Sambar,  though not as perfect as she makes, was quite good and could pass muster from any quarters.This incident  set me thinking.
 Born and brought up as a Punjabi, I married a Malyali boy from Kerala.I had no knowledge of cooking even  North Indian food. Cooking South Indian food was thus far from the domain  of my thinking.It goes to the credit of my husband  that he adjusted  very well to North Indian food  and never complained.I have a sneaking  suspicion  that  in fact he was enjoying it.I however felt I must introduce Kerala cooking in our kitchen.Thus started the fusion or should I say confusion between north and south Indian style of cooking. I adapted quite a number of recipes from Kerala to Punjabi method of preparation. The main difference between the cooking of both regions is that whereas in the North  emphasis is laid  on thorough  roasting of  onion/tomato and ginger/garlic paste, in the south the importance of boiling the basic ingredients  and garnishing it  with  coconut is of utmost importance.Since there was time constraint,I managed to cook  the vegetables without any add-ons using only the traditional tempering with mustard seeds and curry leaves.I am giving below the recipes of some of the Kerala dishes  which have been adapted in Punjabi style  and still  taste  good.I don't claim that they taste better ,but  I  can safely state that they come very near to the  original.I will start  with Sambaar.
1.Tur dal(arhar dal)  1/2 cup
2.Any vegetable can be used,(popular ones are onions tomatoes, white ash gourd, brinjals, drumsticks)
3.Tamarind-- size of a medium lemon soaked in 1/2 cup of water.
4.Asafoetida powder --  1/4th tea spoon
5.Sambaar powder-- 2 table spoons full
6.Mustard seeds -- 1/2 teaspoon
7 Curry leaves--  one or two twigs
8 Coriander leaves finely chopped 2 spoons
9 Salt
10.Cooking oil for tempering--  two teaspoons 

Method---- Boil the Tur dal  in a pressure cooker along with  salt,a  few curry leaves and asafoetida. In a separate pan boil the vegetables,chopped in medium size....When the vegetables are nearly cooked add  tamarind solution and sambaar powder and boil for a few minutes.Now add this to  cooked dal. Stir well and boil  for  one or two minutes.Before removing add the coriander leaves.The Sambaar consistency  should be  neither too thick nor too thin.For tempering,  heat two teaspoons oil add mustard seeds.When  they start  spluttering add curry leaves and pour  on the Sambaar. and mix well.Edethiamma was amused  by the method by which the Sambaar was prepared.I told her that it was a north Indian version. In Kerala Sambaar coconut  is used and  instead of Sambaar powder  fresh powder is prepared.
The second recipe is  for making Olan..This dish  is  very simple to  prepare..

1.Pumpkin             1 kg. chopped  in medium size rectangles
2.Onions                2 medium size-- length-wise thinly sliced
3.Green Chillies    4 or 5  length-wise cut.
4.Ginger                1 small piece thinly cut.
5.Small red lentils {optional)  1 handful
6.Curry leaves         two twigs. 
7.Butter                    1 table spoon
In a pan boil the  lentils till half  cooked.Add   pumpkin ,green chillies, ginger  salt  and curry leaves  and boil till the pumpkin is done.Ensure that it is not over cooked. The consistency of water should be thick. Add   butter and remove from the fire. Goes very well with  rice.In Kerala, coconut milk is used instead of water.
       The next recipe is for Masala Curry. Whereas in Kerala the main ingredient  is  the  potato I have replaced it with  mutter  (peas).The method of preparation is the same as Sambaar.The only difference is that in mutter masala curry neither dal nor tamarind is used.The  other ingredients and method of preparation remain the same. Needless to state that in potato  masala curry coconut is also used.
                I make Stew  which, if made in traditional Kerala style is  very time  consuming,as it requires to extract milk from coconut. I distinctly remember that  a Malayali friend advised me to substitute  ordinary  milk instead of labouring  to extract milk from coconuts.
I started making Stew with plain milk.Adding Paneer
1.Potatoes  3 medium size cut into small pieces
2.Onions      3 medium-- Sliced length-wise
3. ginger.      a small piece cut into small pieces
4. Green chillies 5to6 cut length-wise
5.coconut milk   200ml (available in the market)
6. curry leaves   2 twigs
Method:    Boil all the ingredients in water and  half of the coconut milk.When the potatoes are done lower the heat and allow the stew simmer for 3to4 minutes.Just after removing from the fire add the other half of the coconut milk and and butter. Tastes good with Idli,Dosai and rice.Instead of potatoes you can add  boneless marinated chicken.
   I  wish to  mention here that Upma too has been converted into a North Indian dish. In Kerala traditional homes no vegetables are added. In the North  we add quite a number of veggies like peas,carrots, beans and potatoes which enhance the taste and also makes the upma look colourful and attractive.Without  dwelling on the conversion of Dosa into  a  North Indian version this article will not be complete. In Kerala Dosa is mainly eaten plain, in the North several fillings have been invented.Potatoes are widely used as filling.The flight of imagination of the human mind has entered new 
chapters in the history of fillings for the Dosa.These are Egg dosa, Paneer Dosa, Dry fruit Dosa and even Keema Dosa.
      Even though that was not my intention , Edathiamma  might have left confused.I may add that these  recipes  will not disappoint anybody who ventures into this cooking.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

from my kitchen diary --Part iii

Cooking for your  family is always a pleasure. The dishes that you dish out evoke  mixed response from the dining area.Some may find your concoction very yummy, there may be others who are indifferent and will gulp down any thing laid on the table with an expressionless face and some others who fearlessly go on commenting on the shortcomings of the dish placed before them without realising what goes behind it.
  'What goes behind it' is the  thing that matters.The food which is served on the  table with garnishing  and exotic  dressings has a back stage story. Kitchen misery or kitchen mishaps are  nothing new for a housewife.  We may be experts in cooking but  some time or the other we are faced with peculiar  situations which not only delay the cooking  but create situations which sometimes become embarrassing.My  first test in kitchen management surfaced on the day after my marriage. My sister-in-law and her family had come from Kerala.I did not have any expertise in the art of 'cooking management'. In spite of my servant's   counsel to make less than what  I wanted him to prepare I ensured that he made the quantity  specified by the mistress. An  embarrassing situation  arose when my sis- in -law commented that I had been too generous and prepared food for the whole marriage party.Not even 1/10th of the food was consumed. My mother had sent her own servant to our house knowing fully well that her daughter was a novice and would not be able to  handle kitchen affairs.Thereafter I stopped interfering and gave him full freedom!!
        After the exit of the boy the charge of the kitchen came on my shoulders.It was no easy task.I used to mess up things quite often.At least five days in  a  week milk was spilled.Sometimes the dough for preparing  chapatis became too watery.I rolled it it in a newspaper.It was put inside  a  dust bin to brood over its fate!!   It is a very common occurrence that the family is seated at the table waiting for steaming hot rotis,when  without any notice the gas flame will go off,an indication that the gas has let us down at a crucial moment.The arrival of guests at the last  minute tests the efficiency of the housewife.. You don't know how to manage the food for additional  numbers.You enter the kitchen and hurriedly  churn out  whatever is available. The greatest kitchen crisis unfolds when the maid  decides to take an off without any prior intimation. Surrounded by a mountain of vessels, you have to dispose them off by cleaning them.In the process you break  a glass bowl or a plate and curse yourself. But there is no way out. Do or die!  I read some where that a messy kitchen is a happy kitchen.  I personally don't believe in this dictum. I want my kitchen to look spic and span.
       Last week I had to face another peculiar situation. I was baking Christmas cakes. I had to make five of them. Four cakes were baked without any hassles.The fifth one was put in the oven.  Hardly ten minutes had  passed,when the electric current decided to go off.I was in a state of  shock!!The cake was liable to be spoilt. Immediately it was kept on gas stove. It was but natural that the last cake was a flop.Few days  back another incident occured in our house.There were guests at home. While serving  rice the tray full of rice slipped from the hand. The rice fell on the floor and could not be retrieved. The very next  day there was a repetition of the previous day's incident. This time it was chicken curry instead of rice. This episode was performed by my daughter-in-law. The poor girl felt very awkward.Every one laughed away the incident,terming it  as  kitchen  disaster!!
 Mishaps in the kitchen are universal. Every body has to face unwarranted situations in the kitchen. Some days back a friend of mine was stuck in such  a situation.It was her daughter's birthday and she was preparing chicken for dinner. When the onions were being sauted she had a look at the chicken.It was nowhere near the one she had ordered. She called the shop and ordered for another one.In the mean time the onions got burnt.How sad! She kept another batch of onions for roasting.While this was going on  the call bell announced the arrival of fresh chicken.The onions got burnt burnt again.Oh my God!! She  wanted to prepare rice but found it was insufficient for the family.How precious time is wasted  in the rigmarole of kitchen needs!! Now  finally after finishing  cooking chicken and biryani she started with a cake. Here too,she found herself in an unenviable situation.The butter cream did not get the desired consistency.It must have been bugging.In fact after getting very tired she told me to narrate this funny situation to others. She also told me that once she kept baby feed bottles for boiling,and slept .Morning she found  the gas on and the plastic completely melted.  Her kitchen was saved .It would have been catastrophic if the kitchen had caught fire!Such mishaps are scary. In my kitchen also such a situation was averted.
  Such situations can turn ugly and tragic.Even though we laugh away these disasters, it is . essential that we take them seriously.We must take basic  precautionary measures to avoid accidents in the kitchen.Some measures, which I can think of and are simple to implement, are being recounted ;
  • a.  the kitchen should not be cluttered.
  • b.  all  the items required for cooking a particular dish  should be placed at a convenient spot so that they can be easily accessed.
  • c.   when leaving the kitchen ensure that the gas and other electrical appliances are switched off.
  • d.  the gas burners tend to clog so it is essential to clean them.
  • e.  when removing a pot from the fire one should be extra cautious.
Hope these little  suggestions  ,if implemented ,will go a long way in preventing mishaps which occur in our kitchens. Happy and safe cooking!!