It’s not a very long story, actually. Over the past few years I gave into TH’s helpful insistence on delegating more housework to the maid so that I had less on my mind and hands. But that is more complicated than it sounds.
There are two kinds of people: those who like to have extra hands to do their work, and those who wish they could do without. If you have a slight OCD regarding how you want things in your home and kitchen, you may have to start by teaching the maid everything. And then you have to remind her constantly (about the same thing) in a kind of continuing education for her (which has nothing to do with your OCD). If you can look the other way, then it is all fine and dandy. I cannot. I cannot drink out of cups with the lightest tea-stain; I have to have my veggies cut exactly so; the rug centered, the doors shut, and the windows open. All this takes supervision. I mean, really super-vision! One time I caught her about to chutney a roach along with the coriander! I don’t know how I saw from the corner of my eye what she could not while putting the ingredients in! Enough to say that after that there was little chance of her being allowed to cook unsupervised. To me it always felt as if the maid was in control of my time!
A few months ago she took sick and was out of circulation for almost two months. I loved the feeling of freedom that brought. I was back in charge of my time. I could overrun my class without worrying if I needed to call and leave instructions for dinner. I could make mid-morning tea and call it as a break; maybe even plan lunch or dinner while the tea brewed as I used to before I had all this extra help. More than anything, as before, I could plan pizza or paranthas for weeknight dinners! With the maid I was more worried about whether she had had too long a day! No wonder I used to insist she take Sunday afternoons off!
But she got better and was back. I couldn’t fire her; she needed her job. One fine day she had a fight with her husband and decided to quit. I had to capitalise on this before she changed her mind. Two days later the carpenters were in and we were working on modifications to install a dishwasher! Spent a day traversing the city shopping for one and finally selected Kaff, no reason other than that they had a built-in option while all others were stand alone machines. It’s installed and working!
I know it is not like having a maid. But, dearies, that is the point! You should look at my stainless steel shining like new silver! Okay, so I have to scrub the milk pot a little, and scrape the food off the plates (which we did earlier as well). This takes maybe five minutes a day. Add another five for loading the dishwasher. The dishwasher is unloaded in the morning while I am waiting for the water for the tea to boil. I tend to clear up as I work so another 10-20 minutes is a good estimate of general kitchen clean-up time which is no big deal and you know that every corner is wiped clean. So, is this extra half-hour (not counting time spent cooking) spent in the kitchen really worth it? To me it is. It translates into not having an outsider hanging around for a good part of the day. It means my time is mine alone. The maid for sweeping-and-mopping is in and out while I am still reading the morning paper.
I am not saying it’s for everyone; but it is certainly for me. It also helps that there are just three of us in the house, all adults. I do not have young children pulling me in different directions, or elderly parents needing special care. The 85 years old father-in-law, by God’s grace, is very fit and fine, with no food restrictions whatsoever (other than that he and TH are vegetarians). I love spending time in the kitchen (this blog is a BIG sign!). Which is not to say I don’t have days when I’d rather not do anything, including mess in the kitchen. On those days my family is happy to suggest eating out; they are also perfectly happy eating butter-toast.
Right. Really. So I have all this supposed extra time now. And what have I done with it the last few weeks then? Spent a Saturday at my sister’s enjoying good food and playing with the niecelet. Last week there were just the two of us at home; father-in-law was away at a spiritual retreat. The maid was the last person I needed hanging around! Sunday we rode the DTC around town running errands and doing sundry stuff. Mundane is underrated, believe me. Spent 3 evenings this past week at the theater at the Sahitya Kala Parishad’s Bharatendu Natya Samaroh, a Festival of Modern Plays. Planning to make that 4 evenings this coming week. Last night, immediately after locking up the office, we left for my sister’s place again. Next Saturday the family is planning to visit and check out the new machine! This Sunday or the following, I am planning a High School Reunion Picnic in the park!
Another BIG plus is I get company in the kitchen! It’s like this. TH hates to cook but feels guilty when I do all the work. So he hangs around as I work. Isn’t that cute? 😉 And, on occasion he can be made to cook. You already know his prowess with aloo paranthas. Well, it is winter time and the time for stuffed paranthas in Delhi. Last Sunday we ate this season’s first batch of gobhi paranthas. Guess what, TH makes the awesome kind!
Since he steps in on a rare occasion he doesn’t mind the extra time stuffed paranthas require. Here in UP-Punjab, the veggies for stuffing are raw. Potato is the only exception. Grated cauliflower, mooli, even carrots, or chopped methi and spinach (kneaded into the dough) are excellent in paranthas and great ways to enjoy the seasonal bounty. The cold weather is also perfect for a richer diet of fried paranthas served with fresh butter.
Gobhi ke Paranthe
(Cauliflower stuffed paranthas)
(makes 10 medium paranthas)
1 medium cauliflower (about 700 gms), broken into florets
handful fresh coriander
5 hot green chillies
2 T grated ginger
wholewheat atta to make paranthas (while kneading add 2 teaspoons of oil and season flour with a little salt)
oil or ghee for frying paranthas
Knead wholewheat atta into a soft dough as you do for roti. Mince coriander, green chillies, and grated ginger in the jar of a food processor. Put aside. Using the fine grating blade grate the cauliflower florets. Remove to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of salt and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes. Squeeze the grated cauliflower, pressing between cupped hands, to remove as much water as you can (ask people with stronger muscles for assistance). Mix in the minced coriander-green chilli-ginger mix. Adjust salt to taste.
Pinch off lime-sized balls of dough. Roll them out to a circle of about 10cm diameter, trying to keep a thicker centre as you do so. Heap stuffing on to it (check pictures to get an idea of how much!) and pinch the sides (TH has his special technique so that all the folds don’t gather at one point). Gently roll out, about 3mm or so thick, dusting with flour as needed. It is okay if the stuffing breaks through a bit here or there; it is inevitable if you like thin paranthas. Lift the rolled parantha on to your outstretched hand and gently flip onto a heated cast-iron or non stick pan. Flip when the paranthas has just firmed up, a minute or so. Brush with oil (about 1/2-3/4 teaspoon), flip and press down with the back of a spoon inbetween rolling the next parantha. Brush the other side with oil. Remove when crisp and golden brown on both sides. Serve immediately with a dollop of fresh homemade butter, Punjabi mango pickle, and yoghurt.