Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cooking can be gross

How many times have I wondered why I don’t take an initiative to step into the kitchen and work out a quick recipe? Ok, maybe that’s asking for too much. How about just cooking to just eat something? Anything. But the same old, same old devil in the head reasons out, “Why? Why go through all the trouble? Your tired muscles needs some rest. Go make an omlette and sleep in peace.” Do I give in? Well, my tired muscles did need some rest. And yes, I give in.
It may be a bit too late in the new year to make a resolution. But I guess its never too late. So well, I resolve to cook. I also resolve to keep the resolution for as long as I can.
So before we lose steam, here goes. Step 1, enter kitchen. Next, open the refrigerator. I can see some veges staring pitiably at me. They’re probably thinking, 'if I am going to be slaughtered now, I’d might as well die a happy death, I was rotting in here'. I glare at them and pick two tomatoes. And then I glare at the rest. Oh you distasteful veges, how expensive are you? How do I slaughter you to feed my hungry stomach? I could feel an Ogden Nash rising within and I humbly silenced my imagination. I can see some spinach. Oh yes, some onions and garlic too. What shall it be? A glimpse of spinach can only remind a woman of palak paneer when it comes to cooking. It’s the easiest thing to make with spinach. But I have imagination running wild today. Lets try something different, I tell myself. Palak paneer kofta? Alrighty, that’s what it will be. Luckily, I had bought a few cubes of paneer, recently. About three days old. Never mind.
How do I do it? I quickly steam the palak. While it cools, I quickly get the gravy ready. Tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger, I drag them all into the mixie and imagine them crying, ‘No! No! Have mercy!’ And I laugh at them triumphantly. You shall be minced, dissolved and fried, you delicate half dead beings of nature! On a slightly saner note, I ask myself, why the whole hue and cry about vegetarianism? Don’t these poor living things cry just like that hen when her neck was chopped? Perhaps the hen was louder.
Never mind, I tell myself. I can’t change the world. I can make resolutions and feed my hungry tired stomach, and perhaps anothers if he/she is lucky (enough to come home well fed already). That’s all I need to do now. So two tomatoes, an onion, two pods of garlic and a small piece of ginger find their sad way to the mixie. I grind them to a paste and set the oil ready in a wok. That’s a kadhai in desi lingo. But I like calling it wok. Its Chinese, and not half as uncool. The wok is warm, and so is the oil. I add some cumin seeds (jeera?) and allow it to brown a little. And now I add the tomato mix into it. I stir and stir and stir, allowing the gravy to drink up the oil.
The steamed spinach has cooled. So I add some flour to it, a spoon of corn flour, some chat masala and salt. And knead it into a smooth dough.
Next? This is fun, I tell myself. I make small rounds from the dough, and then in various shapes just for the fun. But I guess it looks better when it’s uniformly made into smooth round balls. And while the oil warms, about 3-4 table spoons, enough for deep-frying, in another wok, I keep the rounds ready. I drop the pathetic, steamed and now dead spinach rounds into the hot oil and fry them. Keep them aside. The gravy is getting ready in the other wok. I cannot smell raw tomatoes any more. No, its not burnt black either. Its a lovely shade of golden brown. So I add about a spoonful of that spice which is the universal ready-to-use powder for most of North Indian cuisine and a sure shot way for a great curry -- garam masala -- and some salt. And savour the heady scent of tasty gravy. Wow! I can surprise myself sometimes.
The gravy is ready. In go the spinach rounds. I stir carefully to avoid breaking them. I take out the best of my expensive cutlery and decide to treat myself to a nice looking dinner. Some chappatis later, I pour the curry into the bowl and garnish it with some dhaniya leaves. Oh! My beautiful, beautiful curry! How do I ever eat you?! Not bad, considering the long break I took before this interesting experiment.
A few chappatis down, I retire for the night. It feels good to know you’ve kept a resolution. The first day always feels good, I guess. Nope, this shall not be the last, I tell myself. I remind myself of the resolution to keep the resolution. And let my eyes rest for the night.