mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Getting it Right

In Ruminations and rants, Tea Party on September 29, 2010 at 11:15 pm

the cup that cheers

Thank you all, for making time in your busy and (sometimes) maddening lives to indulge me once again this year.  Many of you out there (even the silent ones who show up only in the stats!) have become like friends over the last few years, and what better way to celebrate with all of you than by having a virtual tea party! This annual Party happens around India’s Independence Day, and this year, aptly, it is also about our Rights and the Responsibilities that come with them.

There can be no Tea Party without cake and we had plenty of those in all shapes and sizes and flavours! There were spicy puff pastries, savoury and sweet scones, hot chillies and bhel, cooling ice cream cakes, all accompanied by pots and pots of hot teas, and cold coffee!

1. Miri brought us cakes.  First, a gorgeous and exclusive chocolate cake! As if that wasn’t enough, we decided to have a real tea party at her place with another gorgeous citrus spicy cake (with filter coffee and khari biscuits).  I am no longer surprised at how much else I have in common with the food-bloggers I have met in real life!
2. Sayantani brought coffee flavoured buttermilk cake.
3. There were Savoury Scones from Sangeeta.
4. Another cake, this time a coconut pound cake from notyet100.
5. Sra made a frozen dessert with a crispy biscuit base and chocolate sauce decoration.
6. Jayshree brought spicy chilli rellenos.
7. Soma’s summery fruit cake added to the selection of cakes at the tea table.
8. Radhika enjoyed a cup of tea with yummy egg puffs and chiwda with her husband.
9. Madhuli had a festive tea party at her place with pretty china, a gorgeously laid table loaded with goodies!
10. Sandeepa, shared her bright raspberry cup cakes with invigorating cups of tea! She drank quite a few cups and all by herself!
11. Desi Soccer Mom kept us guessing about what she was going to serve with tea!
12. This was followed by Aparna’s moist mango cardamom crumb cake.
13. Nupur’s cold-brewed cold coffee was perfect to wash everything down with.
14. The Cooker got all nostalgic while reminiscing about morning tea at her Aaji’s while having her party of one.
15. Not your usual cup of tea from Dassanalemongrass-galangal tea.
16. Don’t miss these gorgeous cups of tea from Shilpa, each one more inviting than the next, with a backdrop that makes you sigh!
17. Manisha’s outstanding Prune Plum Cobbler with Swirled Biscuit topping was definitely worth waiting for! Though the cups of tea she shared would have surely sufficed! That rant touched quite the chord for a lot of us!
18. Lemon and Chillies gives us our own little cakes/muffins that are chocolaty and moist.
19. I tried my hands on fruity prune scones for the first time and was very happy with the results (note to self: use butter next time). On another occasion I made cucumber-tomato-cheese sandwiches which are best served with a pot of tea!
20. Bringing up the tail is Anjali with delicious Tiramisu!

I was planning to do just the usual round up but a friend suggested it was also time to let the cat out.  On the ‘flawed’ recipe. Don’t worry, you will live if you have tried or tasted the recipe in question.  In fact, do try it if you haven’t already.  The flaw ‘corrects’ itself the next day as the flavours mellow and blend. :)

There are reasons I am harping some more after discussing it here already.  A lie, put in poetry, still sounds as hollow as a lie stated plainly.  I have not the scantiest of doubts over the claim I made because it is a recipe that is entirely mine – not one inspired by my mother’s cooking, or anyone else’s (as always, credit was given where due – to the friend who shared her spice-roasting trick).  Those of you who have been following this blog know that credits are routine here in the story that precedes the recipe, whether it was my house help who wouldn’t have been any wiser (recipe credited with her name, and the posts shown to her – though she cannot read!) or an aunt who shared a friend’s spice mix (in my very first post!).  Those of you who feel there is room for the benefit of doubt to be declared in favour of the plagiarist, I suggest perusing  the comments for more on the subject.

Over and above everything that has been explained in the comments, the recipe has a flaw. Yes, a simple flaw that any professional cookbook writer, even the anonymous kind who write for booklets that accompany cooking equipment, such as the Hawkins Pressure Cooker cookbook (claimed as the recipe source), will never make. But, which home-cooks such as you or I might, when attempting to recreate recipes from cuisines essentially ‘exotic’ in our kitchens even when we feel a familiarity from years of association through friends and neighbours.  A point in case is my ‘flawed’ tempering for avial which was promptly noticed by a reader.  Mustard seeds are rarely used to temper avial; I did it instinctively but it is against the norm.

As I developed my chhole recipe I was oblivious to the knowledge that black cardamom is best suited to recipes that call for a long braising.  But Musical knew better; she is the real Punjabi after all.  The light came on…the penny dropped – why it was that Punjabi garam masala, which relies heavily on this spice, is never roasted! Or why my mom, who loves this spice as much as she loves her tejpatta, always adds both to the pan of chhole being cooked, and not to the masala!  Black cardamom is used a lot in Kashmiri cooking too, but usually receives a long simmer in a broth, or is briefly added to hot oil before being drowned in water!

If you are not very careful, a spice that has already been smoked, may burn and even turn bitter on further roasting.  Yes, remember Manisha and a couple of other readers commenting about a bitterness that disappears the following day?  Well, it is recommended that recipes that use this spice sit for a day to allow the smokiness to mellow!  No, I am not changing the recipe.  That flaw is there like a protective watermark, don’t you think? Besides, I like it the way it is; and my family is very fond of my chhole.  A lot of you count it among your family favourites now!  It is not the top post on this blog for nothing.  Or the one with the most comments.

So, there it is – the flaw – all ‘exposed’.  This flaw is reproduced in all its glory in the blatantly copied recipe.  The copied recipe mentions exact quantities of ingredients (except for red chillies and coriander powder), the exact method for preparation, step for step – including observations and tips, and of course, the flaw.  There are other copied recipes on that blog (from other bloggers), with a word changed here or there, but the body intact in every other way including capitalization of arbitrary words as per the original recipe (yes, quite the copy-paste exercise there)!  She knows about copyright; her pages are protected by Copyscape, for God’s sake!

Whatever.  Case closed.  Just don’t sing about it. Or spew poetry.

To all who want to write responsibly, read these guidelines.  It is not that hard to get it right.

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  1. Anita, a fabulous tea party and I missed it, not because I don’t drink tea but because I forgot :(

    Let it be known that you were missed!

  2. Couldn’t make it to the party but love how you write.

    I wish you could have written as well on this…You know where it hurts!

  3. Oops! Just saw I did remember after all. :) Could you please delete the previuos comment?

    Sure! ;-)

  4. Fabulous round up and as always, excellent write up. I omitted the black cardamom, since I didn’t have it @ home and was too lazy to buy it just for the chole :) No wonder I didn’t taste any bitterness!

    Now try it again – with – the flavour is very unique! Roasted or not! ;-)

  5. Great roundup Anita. Thanks for hosting this lovely ‘yearly carnival’. Didn’t know the little info about the Elaichi..thanks for that. Hope your posts inspire everyone to give due credits wherever necessary!

    I too hope they will contribute to greater awareness and inspire responsible behaviour.

  6. awesoem work ,,,nd lovely writeup,..loved the kulhad chai pic,

    Thanks for the contribution!

  7. oh! I thought it was about the amount. I shall try your version again :)

    Glad you’re taking the right side ( if you know what I mean!)
    :D Glad to have your support! Do try the recipe again!

  8. This kulhad chai is killing me after that detailed comment on ‘freedom’..where did you get this kulhad chai ??
    I want that smell …:)

    Where else but at the railway station! :)

  9. What a party! You guys had fun writing those posts and indeed Anita, you enjoyed putting it together for the round up. I’m sorry I could not make it. I was with family and in the village with left me no time to post. I did want to be part of this like before. May be another time.

    Why next time when it can be fixed right away! :) Thanks for talking about it!

  10. What a great party- I am sitting here sipping my morning chai and wishing I had the cakes and spicy nibbles listed here. Thanks for hosting it!

    I MUST try out your chole recipe, especially now that everything has been revealed.

    One little thing: the link to my entry seems to be missing. Thanks!

    There is a silver lining to ‘virtual’ parties I will have you know! :lol:
    Oh yes, you have to try my chhole; I insist!

    I think I was writing your bit from memory…cold brewing was new and it stayed in my mind…and then I forgot to put the link! Sorry!
    Thanks a bunch for your support, Nupur.

  11. Hey its a nice party with such lovely goodies. I wish I get the time to go through each and every recipe.

    As for the flaw….. when i made this recipe, my punjabi mother-in-law was skeptical and curious as to why I was roasting the black cardamoms and not adding it directly to the chole. At home when we make chole, we just add the black cardamoms directly.

    Your write up is good as always and I liked the chai pic.

    Sometimes our moms-in-law really do know better! ;-)
    Truthfully, I or my family never detected even a hint of bitterness…so the roasting only helped with getting a really dark masala! But it is also true that adding back cardamom directly to the chhole draws out the flavour best!

  12. Wow..loved to read about black cardamom. So far i hate the aroma/taste it gives to any dish, but I always roasted it like any other spice. I want to give this spice another try by adding it chole as it is :). Thank you Anita.

    Ahh..did i again miss the party?? With so much going on, I can’t keep track of things these days :(

    You have very good reasons to be away! :)
    Black cardamom is definitely worth trying again – a very unique taste and aroma!

  13. Thanks for the round-up, Anita!

    And folks, is your black cardamom sticky inside? Mine always is and I think it shouldn’t be, now that I learn it’s smoked – doesn’t smoking something make it drier?

    Thanks for joining the cause, Sra!
    My cardamoms are usually moist…

    • Sra, just checked the few I had in my pantry. Dry as a bone. Maybe it is the Madras humidity?

      Mine tend to be on the moist side….they seem to dry out as they sit longer.

    • Pitch it if it is sticky inside. It shouldn’t be.

      I blamed the bitterness on the quality of my badi elaichi. Who knew how long it had adorned the shelves of my Indian grocer before I bought it. These things have no dates, not of packaging and certainly not ‘best by’ either.

      Thank you, Anita, for this party with a cause. It really doesn’t take much to right a wrong and I’m not referring to the flaw in the recipe. Many bloggers get away with content theft by saying “it’s my m-i-l’s recipe” and while it is possible that it might indeed be, the words that help craft the recipe are copied from other bloggers. I have to wonder why.

      Mine are usually a bit sticky/moist…If they are too dry they are probably too old!
      There indeed are many recipes that we have to credit our mom’s and moms-in-law for – they are after all our primary resource. But, we also know that they rarely give an exact recipe in terms of quantities or steps; we get a better idea because we have watched them cook and eaten tasted cooking. So if someone else’s MIL’s inspiration looks too much like mine, well, it is too similar for the story to be true!

  14. Great roundup Anita and I love that kullhad chai pic.

    Like A&N, I too thought the flaw was in the quantity of the cardamom. Thanks for letting the cardamom out of the chole. :)
    :D A few more…or less…won’t matter! If they are exactly the same amount…not that is fishy!! ;-)

  15. Thanks Anita for this fabulous party and some things to ponder upon :-)

    (I happened to be one of the lurkers, glad to be out tho’)

    talking of the copy and the copyrights, I discovered (ha! discovery indeed) quite a few of mine copied.. well, one was the MIL’s recipe as she claimed, the others were disposed on the classic Indian recipes following the same procedure and ingredients.

    I love the not roasted punjabi garam masala and that is the only garam masala I make and use. Next time i go to India, I am going to bring back the kullard.. for the chai for A, and for the Bengali misthti doi! reminds me of the “thek” and the early mornings in the train.

    Oooh, mishti in kullahad! Love it!
    Expose her I say…and then go and share more of your home-cooking! MILs have their pluses!!
    Thanks for delurking!

  16. Well said, Anita! And you are justified in exposing her: what she did and continues to do- as well as her recent post in reaction to this one- is inexcusable, and I am so disappointed in her. And I am disgusted. But she chooses to continue her stance, and so be it; let her dig her own hole. Now, on to brighter things.

    A very big happy anniversary to you, and well-wishes for all of your faithful readers who appreciate candor and honesty.

    Amen to that – on to brighter things!
    How about a new post then?
    :)

  17. Great round up Anita – thanks for the efforts and what a lovely tea party this was – Boston Tea Party – you have nothing on us! :)

    Thanks for your support (and the tea err, coffee!), Miri!

  18. I love your blog totally, from the layout to the motto (reuse, reduce, recycle) to the writing approach. And this round up is just great. I have been following all the food bloggers (Indian ones) great events very closely, like chalk and chopstickes, and mad tea party etc. Although could not really got smart enough to participate, but I hope one day I will be able to do that. But till then, I will keep absorbing each and every flavor, moods and words from you all- the wonderful bloggers of India.

    Even I am not creative enough for that wonderful event that brings out such amazing prose from food bloggers!
    Thanks for reading, Chandrima!

  19. Anita..I had tried your chole recipe and it was kind of bitter..and thanks for solving the mystery :D :D I just thought I had done something wrong..and I never kept it till the next day…err…bitter or not I ate it all up :D And next time, I promise a better effort..and thanks for letting me into the party with my uncooked tea.

    Honestly, we have never found it to be bitter! It must be my years of ‘roasting’ practice that makes me stop just in time! :)
    For the Party there is never any need to cook! ;-) The criteria are that you have a good time! Your entry was purrrfect!

  20. Hey Anita thanks a bunch for including me in the round up! that was a surprise since I was the lastest :P

  21. wish u nd ur family happy dussehra :-)

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