Many bloggers come from the tradition of cooks, especially those from the old cultures. They take pride in showcasing family or regional recipes that have been simmered by generations of food enthusiasts. Every dish has a name and a story. In some places the recipes are still learnt by watching mothers and grandmothers cooking. Until the modern times it was uncommon for a daughter to be inefficient in the kitchen. Welcome to my world!
Our society has needs and demands that replace skills like cooking, hosting and housekeeping. In fact, they are looked down as hindrances for equality and progress. In our era – ruled by economical gain, technological prowess and the entertainment industry – prosperity and auspiciousness are evaluated by pertinent ideals. Dining on fast food and takeaways, or eating out in the restaurants, serve the means. When growing up, I didn’t have the will, time or necessity to learn cooking. The priorities were elsewhere.
Like many of my peers disenchanted by the skin-deep pursuits of life, I’ve also taken a detour from the upbringing of superficial values. As unfashionable as it is, I enjoy being a humble and simple housewife. It is a fulfilling responsibility and gives plenty of freedom for self-development, meaningful relationships and other privileges of life. It also places me in the kitchen a lot!
I won’t be able to share culinary gems with concealed historical anecdotes, handed down by the ancestors, but remain an innovative apprentice. One of the things I would like to improve is recipe-writing. I would appreciate your advice. Most of you are organized bloggers and some of you are professional bloggers. How do you measure and document the ingredients while cooking? It becomes tricky with a spontaneous cooking style executed without pre-drafted notes. I usually end up with a generic idea of ingredients and no idea of amounts!
I don’t think I’ve made the same recipe twice. A week ago I fried eggplant and okra julienne in the oven and served them in tomato gravy. It was brilliant! Against my habit, I duly noted the ingredients in order to replicate the dish. On the second run I had freshly made cheese at stock and rolled cheese balls to go with the sauce. It was good but not as excellent as previously. It made me doubtful about following a recipe to a tee. It seems that something is lost – perhaps the magic of fingertips, intuition or intimacy – when measuring cups and spoons are introduced. There is a subtle difference, similar to that of eating with fingers versus utensils.
Cheese balls are mild and soft in texture and taste. Crunchy cucumber salad with roasted peanuts and grated coconut create a nice contrast. It matches well with a paperthin puff-bread, poori.
Pooris are usually made of wholegrain wheat mixed with a dab of ghee. I use spelt flour instead. Sometimes I add rye flour, too. If possible, it makes them even more palatable! In Bengal refined wheat, maida, is used and the bread is called luchi.
Street vendors in India make pooris by hand, without the help of a rolling pin. They challenge the size of a football. The pastime of slapping, flipping and puffing pooris is fun entertainment. It is one of the endearing antics found only in India!
As the name indicates, bitter melon or gourd, karela, is bitter. It is a common vegetable in Asia, Africa and Caribbean. It stimulates the appetite and is often served as a side dish or a starter of a meal.
Small bitter melons are less grumpy and don’t require seeding before cooking. Once again, oven roasting works well with karela.
Serve everything with light and fluffy Basmati rice.