Friday, January 25, 2008


"Top 10 Reasons I Hate to Cook"

"Heat changes food; change it the right way and you have success!"

In the 21 years I have been in India, under the watchful eyes of my family, I have rarely stepped foot in the kitchen. The times that I did, were either to help my mom bake a cake (that is the only way I could convince her to bake one), or make myself some eggs (when I was old enough to operate the burners). My knowledge of cooking and all things gastronomic started and ended with eggs, perhaps the odd cup of tea, though I hardly recollect it.

The US brought with it a whole world of new experiences, amongst which was the compulsion to cook; and for a beginner to cook for 5 people is reason enough to hate it. But somehow, defying all logic (as I tend to do), cooking grew on me, though I can't make the simplest Daal and Rice. The rice, I have gotten a hang of, thanks to the microwave oven. Daals... let's not even go there.

But as with everything else, I have my theories as to why I started enjoying what I should probably have despised. Cooking, they say is therapeutic, and a stress buster. I certainly agree with that point of view, especially when I cook for myself. I don't understand other people, when they say they can't cook for themselves. I find the effort I put in, makes the meal/dish taste that much better. Unfortunately, cooking for other people, means keeping in mind their individual tastes and curbing your natural instincts, which robs the fun from it. But as my grandmother says, those who love eating better learn to cook well!!

I am hardly a master of the culinary world, though with the introduction to Good Eats, by my good friend Ashwin, I feel like a genius. Though limited by hardware, I find myself willing to put in that extra effort in order to compensate for the lack of mechanized beasts that simplify the prep. My cooking skills are basic. The need for instruction is over-whelming. But considering it has been barely 18 months since I started (even less if we are looking for quality), I am well satisfied. This post is looking back at all the experiments, some good and some gone terribly wrong, and a big Thank You to the people that have ingested the bad with the good.

American Born, Confused Chinese
This was my first attempt at a "recipe". A simple lemon, garlic, ginger and soy based dish with chicken, this soon became a favorite with the tangy-sweet loving simpletons.

With The Good, Comes Bad
This absolute disaster occured Dec 2006. Armed with a sub-par recipe (created by yours truly) and little know-how, this Fish-Mustard-Pea concoction is my biggest disaster till date. Barely edible (though I survived it), this dish was probably my best looking. The best tasting, for sure, is Beer Barbecue Chicken Fried Rice.

Tandoori Chicken and Pulao
This dish turned out to be far simpler than expected. Maestro Chef Yogesh Pai has perfected his spicy variant of this popular barbecue dish over the months while Vinayak's Pulao makes for the perfect unassuming accompaniment. Serve with loads of yogurt and lemon. Keep the fire extinguisher handy.

This Good Eats method (season 7, Ep 8) emphasizes fast cooking for nuclear families. A meal for as many as the oven can hold in half an hour. Unfortunately for me, the cooking alone took me about 45 minutes. I blame it on my oven though. The results, however, were scintillating and far beyond my expectations.

Hail Caesar
A modified (throw in everything you see) version of Caesar Salad, with chicken and Ranch dressing replacing the raw eggs. Olive oil did enhance flavor, but she turned out to be less photogenic.

House of the Rising Bun

Baking is probably what the wise were talking about when they said, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach". Though it has little to do with the stomach. Just the smell of fresh baked bread or cookies makes the stoutest men into putty. These cinnamon rolls were

relished without the cream cheese frosting. A lemon-ginger experiment was too good to be true. You just had to be there...

Seafood Extravaganza
A fish curry (bangla style) gone wrong (thanks to sweetened coconut milk) was a blessing in disguise. The dish was meant to be spicy, but the sweetness added a new dimension to an already brilliant dish. I had to lick my plate clean. The shrimp appetizers: Garlic Shrimp with Parsley, Kerala Chili Prawns

The Chicken is an egg's way to make more eggs.

Eggs... Spinach, garlic, spaghetti sauce and CHEESE. Now available in Omlette and Scrambled variants.

Ham Salad, Mutton cutlets and the simple 'ol scrambled eggs, pepper and salt.

The Butcher Shop:
He must be a leg man!

Organ-ised Butchery

Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookies.