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

Bake your own Burger Buns

In Bread, on the side, Tea Party, Vegetarian on May 11, 2015 at 4:48 pm

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I don’t know about others, but I feel a sense of liberation when my maid calls her day off. My brain starts buzzing with plans of things I want to cook to make the most of her absence, dishes that I prefer prepping for myself even when she is there. It doesn’t include making roti. You’ll be surprised the lengths I’ll go to just to avoid cooking our daily bread. To keep me in good spirits Kumari, the maid, calls off often enough and I get to break the routine roti-dal-subzi meals. Like today.

In an ideal world, she’d take all Sundays off but I’m glad that she usually let’s me know ahead. This Saturday she informed me that she was planning to take Monday off. I started planning! :) I finished off the leftovers last night. Today there will be pasta for lunch – the tomato sauce is simmering gently on the stove. I might fry some eggplant, if I feel inclined [later: I didn’t.]. Dinner is going to be vegetarian burgers with home-made buns. Lately, I have been on a pantry-cleaning mission and ingredients that have been around for a long time are getting special attention. Every bottle of spice, or blends, and every container of strange ingredients sitting around, is destined to be consumed before the summer is out. With the second fridge also chock-full, that might well be wishful thinking but I should certainly have a cleaned-out pantry before the year is out. Then I can look forward to stocking it up again with new ingredients from near and far.

Tchoek Vangun hachi – cooking with sun dried brinjals

In Kashmiri, Under 30 min!, Vegetables, Vegetarian on April 2, 2015 at 3:59 pm
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Tchoek-wangun, Kashmiri khatte baingan, cooked with sun-dried eggplant

Drying is one of the oldest and easiest way to preserve food.  In a country with plentiful sun it is only natural that we should have a tradition of using the sun’s energy to process food. You will find wadi varieties from all over the country. Bengalis put their bodi into many dishes including shukto, Southen India gives us vadams and appalams in addition to celebrating dried vegetables in, the most delicious of all ‘curries’, the vatahkuzhanmbu. In Uttarakhand mountain cucumbers are combined with urad-dal to make wadi. Punjab’s famous wadis which come in various flavours (with plums, with tomatoes, and regular – all spiced up with generous amounts of black pepper) can be combined with the blandest of vegetables to lift them out of the ordinary. From the state of UP we have mangodi, small wadis made with mung dal. Kashmirs make sun-dried spice-cakes and call them veri. Pickles that have been cooked in the sun for a while are found all over the country.

Mutter Paneer, finally!

In Punjabi, Vegetarian on March 11, 2015 at 5:51 pm
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Lunch: mutter paneer, Jaini aloo, Punjabi masala papad, and roti

You may as well roll your eyes and wonder if it is possible for anyone in India, from North to South, and from East to West, to not have a family-favourite recipe for mutter paneer.  Heck, by now, half of America and the UK must have a house recipe they swear by.  But not so yours truly.  Believe you me, barring the rather successful attempt last month, I cannot remember when I cooked mutter paneer last.  It used to turn out so bleh that I stopped trying, turning instead to tchaman kaliya that has the added benefit of combining better with rice – the carb of my choice.

As you already know, the rest of the resident family is partial to roti.  It is my considered opinion that Kashmiri dishes lose half their charm when not served with rice.  The pros and cons of all this is that paneer is served on our plates only occasionally.

With the winter vegetables starting to look poor reflections of themselves by late spring, I picked up a packet of paneer instead from the friendly neighbourhood Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetable store last month.  And, keeping the roti-eaters in mind I decided to take a stab at mutter paneer again.  Very deliberately I set about changing a few things in my recipe in the hope of getting something respectable at the end.

I didn’t think I could either drop or add a new ingredient.  It is my guess that sometimes Punjabi cuisine gets confused with Mughlai and cooks create an ingredient list that stretches long and may even include nuts – cashews in particular.  Such recipes are usually also generous in their use of butter or cream seemingly celebrating the origins of a dish in a community known for their love of milk and its products.  However, I do not recall the food our Punjabi neighbours shared with us being particularly rich or heavy. My food memories, incidentally, are very sharp.

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