Tag Archives: cooking

The Business of Fish

16 Jan

This piece first appeared in the December 2014 issue of India Currents magazine. I’d love to hear your childhood food memories! Share? 🙂

~

Among my earliest childhood memories is a shot of thrill up my spine on hearing a certain raspy, faraway voice calling “Paaplet! Kolmi! Bombil-waleeeaaay!”

That was Moti, our family fisherwoman for three generations, hawking the just-caught contents of her woven basket to a lane of Parsis willing to pay top rupee for their palates. Much hubbub would follow, as someone, typically a domestic or child tall enough to reach the window, was sent to wave her down. “Yete!” she’d screech, with all the decorum of a hurricane ripping through an island, and begin her ascent to our top-floor home, green glass bangles and thumping gait announcing her presence long before she huffingly-pufflingly made it.

Moti smelled of scales and salt and the sea, odors I came to associate with happiness. In a Parsi child’s life, especially one stereotypically expected to manage her own kitchen in adulthood, an education in fish is vital. The lessons of laal pani versus safed pani, and using your finger to scoop under the gills to check for freshness are Fish Purchasing 101 tips. The nose is your savviest instrument, and one as undiscerning as mine is a serious liability. Then there is a banquet of bliss to choose from—all those varieties of fresh and saltwater fish, seasonal and available the whole year through—bangra (mackerel) and raawas (salmon), boi (mullet marine) and boomla (bombay duck), and the thrill of discovering bonus gharab (roe) in one of your chosen future meals.

It is a messy business, the selection of fish. Not for those who aren’t accustomed to ooze and blood and scales. Its parts callously lopped into diagonal chunks, its silver-grey body glistening enticingly, a pre-purchase fish is a thing of beauty. It is here that I realize the staggering power of social conditioning, for a joyous childhood ritual that entails a dead creature’s guts can only be that.  Or perhaps it is a lesson in focusing on the end result: the perfect, well-seasoned accompaniment to a meal of dhandar. H.e.a.v.e.n.

A trusting rapport with your machhiwali is expected to be one of life’s most enduring relationships. And when she moves on to a better place, where crispy-fried boomlas (I’ve mentioned them three times already in 300 words, can you tell they’re a favorite?) are dished hot and fresh by harp-strumming cherubs, you know better than to mess with the line of succession—her daughter or niece will become your supplier. Our Lady of Piscine Perfection is now Moti’s niece Tanuja, who has discarded the colorful nauvaris of her Koli roots and the ginormous beaded nath of Moti’s era, but thankfully, none of the accent or the mannerisms that we almost expect of our fisherwomen.

It is a centuries-old communication, this unique and frequently amusing haggling between housecoat-clad Gujarati speakers and the shrill and shrewd sellers of fish. Odd words fly in Marathi, exclamations peak like stiff egg whites and many an eyebrow does a Prabhu Deva, with flung arms for company. Accusations of looting and starving little children are routinely hurled, as both parties bemoan a time when the catch was fresher, prices cheaper, and their respective communities were pretty much the only inhabitants of Bombay, apart from the Sahibs.

The last time I was in Bombay, I partook of this ritual gladly. From carrying out round thaals (plates) to pile the carefully-selected purchase on, to washing each piece carefully under running water, scrubbing the scales and poking fingers into icky crevices, anointing each piece with flour and salt, rubbing the mixture in, letting it sit 10 minutes, and then washing everything one more time, I was never more closely connected to my bloodline. It came to me easily, though it was the first time I had actually done it from beginning to end. I was a natural, I felt at ease. I had learned my lessons well from years of bearing witness.

Here in America, the process is supremely sanitized. Cleaned, deboned and ready to cook, artfully-arranged slices are put on display, eliminating consumer participation in so many crucial steps of the acquisition process. It reminds me of a time when a friend confessed she hated having a C-Section. “I feel cheated of a natural birth,” she had said, “I know I should be grateful for a healthy delivery, but I can’t help feeling duped.” Oddly enough, this is exactly how I feel walking into my neighborhood Safeway or Chinese supermarket—clinical, disconnected, disappointingly sterile.

I can imagine how hard this must be for vegetarians to comprehend. They are as much products of their socialization as I am of mine, but the human relationship to food is an intimate one, and in a gourmand community like mine, it includes passion, devotion, and obsession. Having incorporated so many elements not quite our own on the long road from religious refugees to a privileged, respected, and still relatively unknown minority, our cuisine and its methods are understandably something we Parsis are immensely proud of. (So if you have considered offering a thoughtless suggestion like “Why don’t you turn vegetarian?” please know we’re already debating how much spice to marinate your brain in for those breakfast cutlets tomorrow.)

From what I’ve learned in my score and 15 years on god’s bounteous earth, it is that life has a way of presenting precisely what you fight. So a fishless future isn’t the worst fate that can befall me.  (I’m so glad you can’t see my dilated pupils and crossed fingers right now.) But I also know that I am the honored carrier of the DNA of a long line of fin fans, and this—both the process and the end result— is one of my life’s joys.

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Happy Hausfrau Series: Pancakes From Scratch

29 Aug

Greetings from the home of the happy hausfrau! Don those aprons and follow me into the kitchen, chop chop.

Those of you who remember my post about meeting Ceej in Paris know that it ended with the certainty that we would see each other in another country and another city someday. Because that’s our thing. He’s my people. That’s what we do. So it won’t come as a surprise when I mention that we recently added another continent to our list when he flew into San Francisco and waited the equivalent of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous eras for me to conquer rush hour traffic and screech into the airport.

Now he’s known me as the local cab-grabbing Bombay girl, and the Goa-in-the-monsoon party girl, and the I’m-in-London-life-is-perfect tourist girl, and the oh-look-Shakespeare’s-house-in-Stratford-upon-Avon girl, and the escargot-gobbling-soaking-in-all-things-French-from-His-Highness-the-Francophile girl, but this time, this time my friends, he was seeing me on home turf. And no one who enters the Happy Hausfrau’s kitchen gets out without a bellyful. So in his honor, I whipped up some super easy, seriously delish pancakes that I’ve made about a dozen times since. Now you can enjoy them too!

First, get your crew in a huddle. A VIP is about to be born.

Gather them all

Top row: Salt the city slicker; Flour the floozie; Sour Cream the sulker

Middle row: Baking Soda the blitzer; Vanilla the vivacious; Sugar the sexxxeh

Bottom row: Butter the badass; Eggs the what-else….eggstraordinary!

In a generous gesture of going the extra mile to show you what else you’ll need for Operation I’m-in-Heaven, I took this picture.

tools of fools

And forgot to add  the 17 and a half measuring spoons you’ll need. Just mentally throw those in, won’t you?

Imagine there’s a picture

It’s easy if you try

Runnin’ outa them spoons

Sure makes OJ cryyyy…..

Ignore me. It’s a disease. Just buy the Boy a drink sometime, if you ever see him lurking in a bar, shadows under his eyes from all the trilling in our stage home stage home.

Where was I? Oh yes, slaving over pancakes, while you folk croon and be a waste-a-time! Some people.

cream it

Scoop dollops of the sour cream into a measuring container and make sure you have one (1) cup.  Isn’t it onederful that ghastly spelling isn’t among the many diseases I inflict upon the world?

dump

Dump it in a big mixing bowl. Who else loves white on white? *raises hand* Go look at this and levitate.

Next, add seven (7) tablespoons of flour. Like thees:

come flour with me

Three guesses what song I’m thinking of when I say “flour”.

[Hint: Say “flour” Southern-style]

[Hint: “Pack a small bag”]

Sigh.

[Hint]

Time to end that white perfection with a dash of brown. Sugar! 2 tablespoons! And yes, if you have a rare form of OCD that compels you to continue the white-on-white-on-white pattern, feel free to use white sugar. We’re just terribly healthy in this home, you see. Sour cream pancakes flipped in butter absolutely must be made in organic, golden-brown demerara.

soda so good

Gently take one teaspoon of pure artisanal baking soda. Breathe a prayer into its aura. Tinkle a silver bell at it. Delicately sprinkle on the mound, taking care not to disturb its electric violet halo. Feel the hush descend on you as the mound….awaits….more……

salz

More white! This recipe is getting holier than the Pope! You think he’d like my pancakes? I could’ve offered eggs benedict to the last one. Pity.

Oh, and in case you are actually following this recipe (who does that?) this is salt. A full half (1/2) teaspoon of it.

eeeeeeeda

Now to change things up a bit. Crack two (2) eggs into a separate bowl. Don’t you deeply appreciate how I’m including the number next to the number name? Like a proper grown-up. It’s fun to pretend.

whiskey

Wield the whisk. In our house, she’s called Whiskey. Which is all terribly confusing when the Boy’s brother visits, because he means the other kind and doesn’t take well to being presented with our wiry beauty in a glass tumbler.

churn, churn, churn

Turn your attention to the Bowl You Left Behind. Give all the ingredients a stir. Don’t kill yourself, though. Less is more. Said the President of the Lazyass Cooking Crowd.

dribble

Time for the two families to meet and Culture Shock to reverberate. Merge. Meld. Combine. The Montagues and Capulets enter an alternate reality even as the Italians want their story back from the clutches of an apron-clad airhead.

more whiskey

Add a half (1/2) teaspoon of vanilla extract and put Whiskey to work again. Don’t bother with your high-powered electric whisks for this effort. We don’t need nothin’ terribly smooth and creamy.

churn, churn, churn part 2

If it looks as smooth as this or George Clooney in Intolerable Cruelty (yes really, those are your options), you’re good. Move on to ze next step. Or l’étape suivante, as Google educates me.

(Ceej! Is that correct?)

griddle

Time to get hawt. Or haute. Let griddle-bottom make contact with stovetop and Turn. It. On.

utterly butterly

Rip open a stick of butter desperately. Pant for effect. Hear it sizzzzzzzle. Ooooooh. Fan me, someone.

caking it on

Quick, don’t let the butter burn, even if you’re all hot and bothered. Turn the stove down to medium heat and ladle the batter onto the griddle . Let batter and butter cook until small bubbles begin to appear on the uncooked surface. Then flip over.

the other side

Like so. And cut away all the oozy gooey stuff that somehow miraculously ended up in my mouth. This kitchen is a spooked place, I tell ya. Cook this side for approximately the same time as you cooked the other. Which should be anywhere between 2 to 4 minutes, depending on how madly attractive your griddle is.

drizzle

Once done, remove the pancake to a plate and repeat the operation with the remaining batter. Or, if you’re greedy like a certain somebody I know, place a small square of butter atop your New Religion, drizzle maple syrup all over, and convert.

finale

Dig in. Take one heavenly bite and watch your fork and mouth form the soul connection of a lifetime. You can burp your thank you later.

No buddies were harmed in the making of this divinity.

Signed,

People for the Ethical Treatment of Pancakes

Happy Hausfrau Series: Key Lime Tart

11 Jul

Greetings from the home of the happy hausfrau! Don those aprons and follow me into the kitchen, chop chop.

Remember my aunt who hung out with Freddy Mercury in her late childhood/early teens/whocareswhen,shegottohangoutwithFreddieEffingMercury? Yup, that one. Not only did she shoot the breeze with an international rockstar, she is one herself–in an arena lit up with the warm, flattering lights of two microwaves, one stove and an oven. And on our visit to her gorgeous home last year (where the chocolate-and-steel-blue bedclothes matched the bathroom linen and I was in color-coordinated heaven), she fed us a zesty tart for dessert one night, made from the key limes in her garden. Not only were we fed multiple helpings of dhansak, kebabs, assorted side dishes, dessert, chocolate, and 75 things for breakfast the next morning, she bade us goodbye with a bag of those precious key limes and a quick and easy recipe to churn out the good stuff. So this recipe comes to you all the way from San Diego. Oh the places I trudge to for you guys!

First, let’s get our Border Patrol ready. And pardon the poor picture quality. The resident photographer decided to go for a walk at the precise moment I was baking. (Which goddess had a gazillion hands, by the way? Indian mythology is not my strong suit.)

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Back row, left to right: Tony tart-shell (readymade, from good old Safeway’s freezer section, and pulled out to room temperature 20 minutes before bake time), Daniela sour cream (whose yankified name is Daisy), and Miguelita the namkeen item commonly known as salt.

Front row, left to right: 3 limes called Lupita (key limes are ideal, but any other type will do, including lemons), our good old eedas three, and a can of Sweet Caroline, I mean condensed milk. Sorry, I have a Neil Diamond hangover.

Invisible (and also optional): A sprig of mint leaves for garnishing.

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Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees before you begin to assemble the ingredients. Oooooooh, there’s a GHOST IN MY KITCHEN!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust kidding! It’s called a camera flash. :mrgreen:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext up, break a leg. I mean an egg. Then, repeat twice until all 3 Humpties are floating on a serene ocean of whites.

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Ready for the bidaai? Hold your tissues, now! Separate the yolks and the whites to background cries of “Nahiiiiiiiiiiiiin!” from the dulhan-ki-maa. Does that really happen, by the way, all the sobbing? Parsi brides are only too happy to run off into the night and get down to business.

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Next up, let me tell you a wee story: a few months ago, the Boy baked me a brownie cake. It was delicious, and as we ate the whole thing with fork and hammer, he may or may not have mentioned that our whisk’s motor burned out during his enthusiastic endeavor, and I had the pleasure of discovering it mid-bake. So to make up for that little episode of intentional forgetfulness, he surprise-ordered me a replacement. With a heavier motor this time. IN PINK! How much do I love this man.

Stop standin’ around, y’all! I haven’t all day, ya know. Git to work!

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Beat them eggs. I can’t even go all Paula Deen on you guys now. ‘Tis not appropriate.

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Sigh. Stand back and watch magic happen as the cascading condensed milk folds creamily into the frothy eggs and Carlos Santana’s ‘Maria Maria’ plays in my head:

Tartina, Tartinaaaaaaa……….!

She reminds me of a key lime story

Growing up in San Diego

She’s livin’ the life just like a Parsi star!

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Now comes the hard part. Zesting the limes.  It ain’t over ’til the fat lady grates. This step can be done at any point in the process. Sometimes I do it right at the beginning, and at other times halfway through. Us hausfraus need variety, you know.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat is the zest of two limes. Guess who got lazy and ‘improvised’. Wait, are you guys looking at ME?? 😯

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Juice the limes. If you squeeze all 3 like the recipe suggests, you should have half a cup.

“Juice, Rahul, juice?” Name that retarded movie. Or stand in the rain in a wet saree and pretend you love a stuttering ham, whichever’s easier.

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Add the zest of 3 limes, the half cup of lime juice (thanks for the catch, Alice!), two tablespoons of sour cream, and a pinch of salt to the egg-condensed milk mixture.

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Blend for about 1 minute. Not blend in, which is entirely different. I’m so glad we had this English lesson.

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Pour the mixture into the tart shell. It will look like this. And yes, the blended mixture looks lighter in color, so don’t worry you’ve done something wrong. (What’s that? You don’t worry? It’s just me then? 😦 Sigh.)

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And the dish should look like this. If you’ve used the finger-to-mouth technique I shared with you in this post. This step is optional.

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Pop the tart into the oven in its baking tray. You may want to put another baking sheet under it for ease of operation and in case of spills. I usually do. Set the temperature to 350 and the timer to 24:30. Why 24:30? Because I said so. Man, I love the dictatorial control I have over your pie destiny right now. :mrgreen:

A word on the oven settings: each oven is different, so you may want to bake for approximately 17 minutes and then check for doneness and add minutes accordingly. The crust should look like its sallow Brit limbs spent a couple hours at the beach.

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Pull the tart out of the oven when done. The lime mousse consistency should be somewhat firm, but not immovable. Which is an excellent parenting strategy as well, but ignore me.

Let your child tart cool for approximately 30 minutes and then stick it into the refrigerator. 2 to 3 hours is recommended, overnight is ideal.

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Pull it out of the refrigerator right before serving and stick a sprig of mint in the middle as a garnish.

In an act of poetic justice, I served this tart 2 weekends ago to my aunt’s son and daughter-in-law, right after a meal of….you guessed it, dhansak. 😀

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Enjoy, my friends. And don’t forget to tell me if you liked it!

Happy Hausfrau Series: Lagan-nu-Custard

14 Jan

Greetings from the home of the happy hausfrau! Don those aprons and follow me into the kitchen, chop chop.

Starting November and lasting all the way through February is the season for Parsi weddings and navjotes. The highlight of these events that host anywhere between several hundred to a few thousand guests, is the sit-down, four-course meal, served on banana leaves and rounded off with our recipe for today–lagan-nu-custard, which simply means ‘wedding custard’. A Parsi wedding is a not-too-frequent occurrence, and many a gourmand attempts to wheedle an invite, openly citing the cuisine as their reason for doing so. Now, whether you’re invited or not, you can make authentic lagan-nu-custard in your own kitchen!

First, the colony of characters:

colony ni gang

Starting from the left, top row: Mr. Makhania, Coomi Condensed Milk, Darabshaw Doodhwala, Vinifer Vanillawali, Safed Khansaab

Starting from left, bottom row: Ms. Skinny Badaam, Messrs. Edulji Eeda, Eski Elchee, Jerbai Jaiphal

Sigh. You need their passport names, don’t you?

Oh alright.

Here we go:  Butter (just enough to grease the baking dish), condensed milk, full fat milk (you can even use low-fat, like I did)-half gallon/1.89 liters, vanilla essence, white sugar, sliced almonds and/or pistachios, 5 eggs, powdered cardamom, powdered nutmeg.

Now, pour the milk into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Like so:

dairy queen

Switch/ pull off the heat.  Next, open the can of condensed milk and get down on your knees.

Coomi

For what we are about to receive

Let us be truly grateful.

And for what we are about to do

Turn the world momentarily blind.

Cue finger-to-lid-to-mouth technique.

Pretend you didn’t just read that.

Continue.

slurp

Turn off/remove from the heat and pour Coomi in. I once had a neighbor with that name. She married a man from Herzegovina and adopted his unpronounceable last name. Don’t you love how I’m so generous with other people’s lives?

Moving on….

soogar

Dunk 300 gms of soogar into the saucepan.

Soogar is swit and I’m a twit.

Give it all a big stir and turn the heat on. You can pretend you’re Gloria Estefan while doing this next step.

stir the heat around

Turn it up, turn it up, not upside down

Turn it up, turn it up, not upside down

Stir the heat around

Got to make the custard

Stir it round and round

Love to stir it

Love to stir it….

*waits for you to finish waggling rear end*

Now mi amigos, if the milk is slightly thicker and ivory in color, pull it off the stove and let it cool. And get to work greasing a baking dish with a stick of butter.

buttah

Like so. Ignore the chef’s desperate need for a manicure. She’s like this only.

Next, whack each of the eeda into a bowl….

edulji eedaVegetarians don’t look!!! Oops. Too late. 😳

5There were five in the bed

And the little one said

Move over, roll over!

And then there were four in the bed.

You can take the teacher out of school, but you canna take the school out of the teacher, no ma’am!

whack! biff! thwack!Beat the eggs and beat ’em good.

Once frothy, pour into the cooled milk (or the milk into the egg dish, whichever is larger)…

pour

And add the final touches to your piece de resistance…

viniferVanilla essence, 1 tsp. That hand model should be sued.

Eski

Powdered cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon.  Or edited out of the frame.

jerbai

Powdered nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon. Or made to wear gloves.

box

Whew!

Now get rowdy and beat it all up again.

dhishoom

If you’re OCD like someone I know, shudder at the splatter.

If you aren’t, proceed to the next step.

almonds

Add sliced/slivered almonds to the mixture and pour it all into a baking dish.

unbakedEet veel luke like thees.

Then, get ready to say your goodbyes.

adieu

There, there. Here’s a hanky. It’ll be back soon. In 45 minutes, to be precise. All golden brown and tanned at 350 degrees.

finale

And voila! Cool and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Serve cold the next day.

And remember, before your guests gather to devour, call out a resounding “JAMVA CHALO JI!!”

Enjoy. 😀

(Pictures courtesy the Happy Hausfrau’s direct beneficiary, a.k.a. the resident photographer, a.k.a. the Boy)

Cook Like You Mean It, Feed The World Your Love

5 Nov

While the Boy and I were dating, I cooked for him exactly once. Dumped a packet of readymade Parampara masala into a pressure cooker with some mutton, and dished it up with rice when he returned from a business trip. “Parsi women don’t cook,” I said in an off-hand way, and we moved on to other topics of conversation.

I wasn’t lying. I grew up in a home with family cooks since my great-grandfather’s time, where both Nana and Mum made the sourest of faces when said cook took a day off, and have cousins who engage a caterer to supply their meals on a daily basis.  And, worried that his beloved daughter would have to enter the kitchen, my grandfather sent along a cook with my mother after marriage. That’s right. Other people give their daughters furniture and jewelry. My mother brought along her very own cook. “Slaving in the kitchen,” I was informed by the women in my father’s family, “is not for us.”And so it stood, not questioned or even considered.

The first time I cooked a meal, I was 23 and fresh off the boat in America. Painstakingly referring to my mother’s handwritten recipe notebook, I curried eggplant for my flatmates. It didn’t taste bad. It just didn’t taste of anything at all. “This is shit,” laughed a new flatmate, as I struggled to keep my face composed. I shut the book firmly and put it back in the suitcase that had traveled across the oceans with me. It was the last time I referred to it.

I was clueless. I didn’t know how ingredients blended together, what spice played off what herb on the palate, and which vegetables took longer to cook. Breathing deeply and refusing to be disheartened, I tossed out all written rules and lunged at cooking with my gut. I got creative, I improvised. Rarely measured, and went with what felt right. In a month, my flatmates were marveling at my rapid improvement, and the woman who’d called my food shit was eating second helpings, along with her words. Some months later, I was hosting a lunch for 20 hungry students (who, agreed, will eat anything), whipping up batches of freshly fried fish for 4 non-stop hours, all by myself, and reveling in my newfound skill.

No deaths were reported that day, and from then on, there was no looking back. I fed myself and my friends many hearty meals in the years that I lived in America. When I moved back to Bombay, my kitchen activity churned to a grinding halt. Home claimed other parts of me, and I didn’t care about mucking around in the kitchen when my childhood cook was at the ready, serving up all my old favorites. It was no wonder then, that the Boy realized with delighted surprise only after we moved to California, that his spouse could throw a meal together and he didn’t have to pretend to love it.

The last year and nine months have been a journey of elaborate, made-from-scratch home-cooked dinners to throw-something-together-after-12-mindnumbing-hours-at-work meals. I have ground and peeled and grated and stirred, pureed and sautéed and infused and simmered. Concocted my own potions, and experimented with the tried and tested. Alongside my steadfast mission of honoring my roots, I have expanded my repertoire of recipes, scouring cookbooks and aunts’ memories, discovering food bloggers, and calling my mother at odd hours to ensure that exact taste of home. I have delighted in the heady scents of spices, the delicate notes of lavender and lemon, the more temperate palate of soups and bakes, and the kick of fiery Thai curries. The Boy devours it all like he was born to it, wants dhandar and fish every Sunday, recommends my dhansak to anyone within earshot, and is wowed by all the things Parsis can do with the humble eedu.

I cook for friends. I create for family. I conjure with all my senses and rejoice in feeding people. And today, I take a moment to acknowledge the amazing lady from whom this love of food and its preparation is inherited. Born on November 5th, 94 years before this one, my Granny left us many years ago, but in so many ways lives on. A sorceress in the kitchen and puppeteer of an intricate ingredient minuet, her food—comforting, flavorful, hearty, deceptively simple, nutritious, and madly scrumptious—was the stuff of my childhood dreams, and I am so, so glad her love of the culinary arts skipped a generation and was bestowed on me. (Also inherited were the chubby genes and the ability to be a human pillow that annoyingly skipped a generation too, but never mind that. 🙄 )

I do not aim to match my grandmother’s skill, for that is the stuff of family legend, with relatives traveling miles out of their route for a taste of her good stuff. I only wish to be the flag bearer of her passion for the things that nourish our body and spirit. George Bernard Shaw was bang on when he said “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” And I know he and my mum’s mum are having an agreeable chin wag about that wherever in the firmament they are.

Happy birthday, Granny. In these delicious ways, may I continue to honor you.

Happy Hausfrau Series: Akoori

14 Oct

Greetings from the home of the happy hausfrau! Don those aprons and follow me into the kitchen, chop chop.

This blog has given me many things. But since my last hausfrau post, its greatest gift has been the realization that you guys are kindred spirits. You love eeda. I love eeda. Ergo, TrueLuv4Evah. We’re twin flames! Yolkmates from lifetimes past! With the crack of each shell, our karmic connection  (and LDL) grows stronger! And in celebration of this life-changing event, today we make akoori: authentic Parsi scrambled eggs.

Joining us on this journey of Higher Learning are:

Clockwise, from top:  Salt, cooking oil, 2 medium onions (preferably red), fresh cilantro/coriander, the 3 Magi of Indian spices: coriander, turmeric, and red chilli powders, ginger-garlic paste, 2 medium tomatoes (no, you aren’t seeing things, I substituted), and 4 eeda.

Why are the eeda white this time? Because we’re an equal opportunity household and value diversity.

Start by pouring some oil into a pan and remembering to turn on the heat.

Drizzle and then sizzle. Oh yeah.

While the oil’s getting all hot and bothered, turn your attention to the onions. Onions, I’ve always felt, are the classic middle children of all god’s creations. Put to work, but not really acknowledged. Hands up if you’re a middle child. *keeps hers smugly lowered.* :mrgreen:

Peel and chop the onions into fours. The reason you’re being spoiled with so many pictures today is because we had a guest photographer in the house kitchen. I hereby dedicate a song to him: I love yoooooooou, You pay my rent.

Hit that ‘chop’ button. GRRRRRRRRRAAWWWWR!!!!

Once the onions are soft and translucent, add a teaspoon of ginger-garlic paste and order them to assimilate. They’ll meekly comply if you threaten to share the Parsi sugar-in-milk story.

Next, your tomatoes do the bump-and-grind routine. In red spandex. And leg warmers.

Add them to the pan and give everything a big stir. Oh you rabble-rouser you.

Next, add a flattened teaspoon of turmeric. …..

A heaped teaspoon of powdered coriander…..

And a flattened one of red chilli powder. You can substitute this with 2 green chillies if you wish.

We 3 kings of Orient are

Adding heat to OJ’s eeda

….and so on and so forth.

Dust the mixture with salt and stir, stir, stir.

Add chopped kothmir and stir, stir, stir. If you go all North Indian on me and call this “dhania”, this is all you deserve: 🙄

At this point, the akoori base starts looking decidedly green. In my mother’s kitchen. In mine, it stays red. But you know what Michael Jackson said. It’s what you are on the inside that matters.

Ready to crack your eeda?

Why do I have such gnarly fingers?

Oh look at that cozy family of four, the resident photographer gushed. We’re still humoring him. Because he pays the rent.

The resident photographer would like you to know that this is when you pop your waffles in the toaster.

(Pssst! English muffins/rotlis/toast will do just fine.)

He also thinks it imperative that you know the perfect heat setting to gently scramble the eeda.

I don’t eat no butter, he proudly proclaims.

(I get all my cholesterol from eggs.)

Scramble away, but ensure the eggs are still moist and slightly runny. They’ll continue to firm up after you pull them off the heat, and you don’t want them too dry.

Ladle the akoori onto the waffles and serve right away. And before you dash off, here’s a nugget of trivia: The Bollywood movie ‘Being Cyrus‘ was first titled ‘Akoori’, except there were concerns that the general audience wouldn’t know what that was.

Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas: educating the world, one clueless blog reader at a time. 😎

Jumjoji!

Happy Hausfrau Series: Papeta-par-Eedu

6 Sep

Greetings from the home of the happy hausfrau! Don those aprons and follow me into the kitchen, chop chop.

By popular demand (yours) and a need for a taste of home (mine), today we’re making a quick, easy Parsi dish called ‘Papeta-par-eedu’. Say it with me now: puh-pay-taa  pur  ee-doo. In English, eggs on potatoes.

The eedu to my community is a member of the family. Would you eat breakfast without them? Would you not wait for them to join you at dinner? Part nutritious, part delicious and the stuff of Parsi legend, we break an eedu on top of practically anything: tomatoes, spinach, potato straws, wafers (yes, wafer-par-eedu exists), fried bananas, you get the picture. In case you don’t, know that we even break eggs in the immediate vicinity of new cars and newlyweds. No, I will not tell you what newlywed-par-eedu tastes like .

Without further ado, the cast of characters:

Clockwise, from left: Cooking oil, ginger-garlic paste, salt, coriander that doesn’t look like it just attended someone’s funeral, a medium-sized onion, 3 large papeta, cooked ahead of time for 3 and a half minutes in the microwave, 2 green chillies, 3 eeda (plural of eedu)

Next up, splash a little oil into a frying pan. And say “Hey, slick chick!”. The oil and pan will both thank you and then squabble about who that compliment was for.  Leave them to it and get busy chopping your onion and chillies. Remember my gallant knight from this post? He’s back to the rescue.

Toss the onions (and chillies–minorities aren’t invisible, we have feelings too) into the nicely heated oil and saute until half cooked. Why half? Because picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost.

Halfway through the half-cooking, (of course that makes sense), the twin sisters of superstardom, Ginger and Garlic, make an entrance in a teaspoon, slithering among the chanting crowds, blowing air-kisses to their translucent fans. Salt brings up the rear, carrying their make-up bags.

Let them mingle with the hoi polloi. You, minion, have work to do. Remember the 3 musketeers?

Hello, Peeluddin.

I say po-tay-toh, you say poh-tah-toe…………..po-tay-toh, poh-tah-toe…………..just peel the whole thing off. And please tell me you’ve heard that song. Don’t crush a retro girl’s heart.

Slice them poh-tah-toes into rounds not more than 1/4 inch thick. If I were smart like my Mummy, I’d slice them thinner and let them cook in the pan itself. But no, I must be rebellious and Subvert Societal Slicing Standards. Thank you for bearing with my alliteration allergy.

Add the slices to the pan, gently coating them with the onion mixture, and let them discuss stock market prices for 5 minutes or until cooked, whichever is sooner. This is supposed to be quick and easy, remember?

Next, flatten out the potato-onion blend to form a base, covering the entire bottom of the pan. This is important, our friend Eedu needs back-up. Then crack the eggs onto this base and marvel at the golden orb of perfection that is each eedu.

See what I mean? Sprinkle salt on top of the eggs, both yolks and whites. And then, I get to use my 2 favorite phrases:

1) Put a lid on it

2) Make it sizzzzzle, baby

Let the lid steam up. And control your anxiety about not being able to see what’s going on. Do you keep an eye on your kids all the time?

Teachers leave them eggs alone. (Name that song.) (Okay fine, so I modified it.) (A little.)

Depending on whether you like your yolks firm or runny, keep the lid on longer or shorter by 2 to 3 minutes. Once the egg whites start congealing like peace flags, you’ll know that is a Sign and the war is over.

Remember our pal coriander? Now’s a good time to lop her head off and sprinkle her onto the rapidly-forming eggs. I’d share a picture, except the dork who took it accidentally deleted it from her folder. The fools I have to deal with.

Put the lid back on for another 90 seconds. When you’re good and ready, no rush now, food and stoves have no scientific correlation to burning, yank the pan off the heat and let it cool a wee bit. [This PSA in the interest of your safety comes from Lady Burns.]

Carve a big slice of papeta-par-eedu, put it on a plate (or a baking tray or banana leaf, whatever floats your boat) and serve with rotlis (the Parsi word for roti/chappatis/unleavened bread) and a dollop of gaajar-meva-nu achaar (carrot-raisin pickle, served at Parsi weddings).  Like so:

You know when people talk about “ghar ka khaana” and I frequently catch myself saying “Not my ghar!” in my head? This is it. My comfort food. Warm, soothing, with simple flavors and memories of a childhood lived in a 100-year-old home.

Dig in. But not before you say “Jumjoji”, the Parsi equivalent of ‘bon appetit’.