Tag Archives: food

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? 🙂

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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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A Month of Milestones

15 Jul

I’ve been terribly remiss about blogging (as is apparent, how clever of me to point it out!) and am going to blame it squarely on eustress: good stress caused by positive life changes, in this case a new job, a visit from family, travel, several celebrations, and the contradictory urge to romance my couch and see no one but my Boy.
With that long-winded excuse out of the way, let’s collectively acknowledge some fun milestones in this, the best of months:

  • July 1: A bloggy birthday! Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas turned 6 and I did nothing but blow my blog a kiss. Finally, I understand all those couples who have to halt a moment and calculate how many years they’ve been married. The ones whose limbs are extensions of each other and those who think in twos. Not-so-Little Blogette and I, we’re at that comfortable juncture. I love her like an old shoe. She knows I’ll be back. I’ve been coming back for 8 and a half years. But in the meanwhile, there are sparkly heels to be tried. Oh, and speaking of heels…..
You likey?

You likey?

  • July 7: On this day in 1994, a girl tapped my shoulder as I sat on a class bench in front of her. “Excuse me, are you OJ?” she asked. “No, I’m Janice!” I replied huffily, knowing full well that she knew my name. What didn’t penetrate my thick skull was that she was trying to start a conversation. A lesser mortal would’ve run for the hills. She, she came back, and for the last 20 years has been my dearest friend, soul sister, and rock of Gibraltar (no connection to the one I couldn’t visit!) Her name means “Jewel of the World” and my lord, how she has shone me through my darkest hours. We now know why we weren’t given sisters: having each other, a birth sister would be a mere appendage.
  • July 9: Daddy blew out a ring of candles on a cake brought by SOMEBODY ELSE. HMPH. That’s right, snatch cake-sending rights away from your first-born now. That dethroned monarch business just never ends. But my Daddy, he had a birthday, and oh how the world is wealthier because his goodness dwells in it! (Still throwing that corner tantrum, though. )
  • July 25: SO excited about this upcoming birthday, not only because hell-0, it’s a BIRTHDAY, what’s not to be excited about, but also because it is another important milestone. Champagne and cake all around! Would it be terribly inappropriate to wear a huge party hat, get one of those tooter horns and be my very own one-woman parade? No?! See, this is why I love you guys. :mrgreen:
Here, make do with the cake our SIL baked on July 4

Here, make do with the cake our SIL baked on July 4th

~

In Other News…
When the Boy’s brother got married last year, I heard a strange word for the first time: “co-sister”. Apparently, in the south of India, this term denotes women married to brothers. Being a similar combination of un-Southern and irreverent, my sister-in-law (the one of cake fame above) and I cracked up over the term, came up with instagram hashtags for it, invented a co-sister ghetto sign, and even harmonized “Hey sister, co-sister” (Lady Marmalade). Can you tell I love her? Will I be forever banned from kanjeevarams and mallige for this? *beats chest at the thought of no more bisibele bhaath in her life and eyes some Angus divinity in its place*

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My 18-month-old niece called me this morning. She is currently visiting family in Texas, saw her mother’s phone lying around, found my contact on it, dialed, and chirped “Hi OJ Mami!” When my uterus finally un-puddles itself from the floor, I can’t wait to watch her in mid-toddlerhood-almost-preteen action.

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We’ve been taking visiting friends and family to this Gujarati thali place that serves the most amazing shrikhand and khichdi, among other delicacies, but I won’t be going back for a bit, because the last time I had 5 helpings of khichdi and they started looking at me funny and avoiding my gaze and I’m mortified that I might have eaten them out of business. This redness of face isn’t rosacea, my friends, it’s ignominy.

How do you solve a problem like more khichdi?

How do you turn a seventh helping down?

How do you walk away from yummy khichdeeeeeeee?

Ignore the glutton, she’s just being a clown.

 

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Swimming: I’ve been the resident hippo lately, breast-stroking gently through cool, turquoise waters on these warm summer days while our American neighbors wear toddler-sized swimwear, chug beers, burn themselves to a crisp, toss their hair and pose, and do everything but swim. Most puzzling, this behavior.

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Books: Sindh: Stories From a Vanished Homeland, by Saaz Aggarwal, and To Marry An English Lord, by Gail MacColl and Carol McD Wallace. Both recommended for history buffs, albeit very different eras and geographies.

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Heard in the OJ-Boy home:
Me: I think I’m getting food-averse. I don’t think I’m so interested in it anymore.
The Boy: Good. Now we can buy a house next year.

How large can I make the font for HMPH??? 😡

Adios, my friends, pardon my future busybeeness, although I will put up a recently-published article before the month is out and would love to hear your thoughts!

Fresh, Fun Food Phrases

20 May

Pardon my alliteration allergy as it gets the better of me again: a deadly, devastating disease that doggedly drives one dotty.  Today, because it’s my favorite day of the work week, because it’s the farthest day from Monday, and because Tuesday’s child is full of grace (at least in her insane imagination), I bring to you a fresh platterful of Parsi food phrases!

Ready? Set? Go!

Bhujelo papad nai bhongi sake“, cannot break a roasted papad.

Pronounced: bhoo-jay-low paa-pud nuh-i bhawn-gee suh-kay

Everybody who knows what a papad is (and for those who don’t, it is a very thin, crisp, disc-shaped cracker made of dough and eaten as an accompaniment with Indian meals) knows that a roasted papad is among the most brittle, fragile things in the world. I routinely break mine even before roasting, but ignore The Resident Klutz.

So bhujelo papad nai bhongi sake refers to a person so lazy and/or inept that they are unable to break even a roasted papad.

Give it a try: Perin Kaki won’t be able to manage a house full of guests. Evan toh bhujelo papad nai bhongi sake! (By the way, true story. May Perin Kaki get lots of ready-roasted papad, wherever she is in the firmament.)

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Daar bari gayi“, someone whose dal is burnt, i.e. someone who is miffed/bitter/in a huff.

Pronounced: Daa-r buh-ree guh-ee

Wouldn’t you be pissed off if the dal (lentils for non-desis) you so lovingly stirred and simmered, all the while inhaling the aroma of garlic and turmeric and ghee, dreaming of topping it with crispy onions and garlic, fused with the bottom of your tureen and decided to char? Similarly, someone whose “daar bari gayi” is in a foul mood for a multitude of reasons not necessarily associated with the universal Indian lentil!

For example: Khursheed ni dar bari gayi because Jimmy didn’t get her jewelry on their anniversary.

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Karakri biscuit“, a person as brittle/fragile as a biscuit.

Pronounced: Kuh-raak-ree biscuit

Usually used to refer to someone whose health is fragile/prone to illness, likely to crumble easily like a cookie/biscuit (the English/Indian sort–not the flaky, madly yummy American kind!)

This is how we say it: Arre no no! Don’t offer her street food, she’s a karakri biscuit as it is!

Or: These NRIs are such karakri biscuits-the smog bothers them, the food affects them, and they routinely pass out in the heat!

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Chhamna jeva pug“, feet like a pomfret.

Pronounced: Chhum-naa jay-vaa pug (like hug)

Before you start visualizing feet growing gills and reeking of fishy smells, let me assure you that “chhumna jeva pug” merely means flat, wide feet– shaped like a pomfret, the Parsi National Fish. Growing up, I had a friend whose mother would constantly point out her “chhumna jeva pug”, to which she’d retort that chhumna (pomfrets) didn’t have any pug (feet)!

Get your Parsipanu on: Where do I find shoes in my brother’s size??? He has such chhumna jeva pug!

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Ghotala-ma-goas“, bungle in meat.

This good old favorite has already been shared on the blog! Go read about it!

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Kaando khai toh gaando thai“, the one who eats onions goes mad/crazy.

Pronounced: Kaan-doh khaa-y toh (like toe) gaan-doh thaa-y

I grew up hearing Adi Kaka chant this line with great relish (no pun intended) each time someone at the dinner table asked for the kachubar (Parsi onion salad). I don’t think it is any particular warning against onions  as much as it is a fun bunch of words that rhyme. And given that the lot of us are dotty anyway, this beautiful bulb couldn’t possibly be more crazy-inducing.

Still, chant it with me: Could you pass the kachubar, please?

Sure, but remember, kaando khai toh gaando thai!

~

Did you get your bellyful of Parsipanu? 🙂 Which phrase is your favorite? Does your native language have interesting food metaphors? I’m listening!

Spiritual Sundays

7 Apr

The Boy and I, by virtue of living in crunchy granola California, have turned increasingly spiritual and high-minded. Afloat on an ocean of good intentions and noblesse, we invite you to share this beautiful, light-radiant journey with us as we experience it each Sunday:

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Our first act of worship feeds the soul (and other assorted body parts). Gently-poached eggs rest calmly upon a pair of perfect crabcakes, drizzled with hollandaise and a smidgen of paprika. Completing the holy trinity is a side of herbed potatoes that can be best described as divine. The benediction virtually spills out of us and far in the distance, angels tune their harps.

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Consider it your fabulous fortune that you are about to be enlightened: Did you know Zoroastrians in India worship 3 grades of fire at 2 different kinds of fire temples? Agyaris, temples of the lesser fire, are places of worship where the fire consists of only 11 different varieties (from the homes of artisans, farmers, soldiers and civil servants, priests, etc.) Atash Behrams, temples of the greater fire, house a perenially-burning entity (as does an Agyari) that is the combination of 16 unique fires. Why am I sharing this today? Because the picture above is our version of an Agyari. Prostrating before Tiffany-blue platters and paying homage to lemon-print cushions, the Boy and I worship Our Lady of Immaculate Homesteads.

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Our next pilgrimage takes us to this vibrant green wood, a good indication of afterlife beauty. The hum of humanity falls away, and all at once, we are enveloped in A Great Calm. Here, we rest on this bench and ponder Questions of Significance. Like whether we should have ordered one pancake less that morning. Or whether almonds should be coated in dark chocolate or caramel. If our stomachs weren’t that loaded, we would feel our souls levitate.

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Turning our attention to more earthly pursuits, we gaze upon the wonder of this valley. Deer watch us from a distance, and so pious are we that not once do we discuss the venison cutlets at the Rendezvous in Pondicherry. Somewhere beyond those purple-hazed mountains lies an abbey that I would run into after trilling about hills and music and my heart wanting to sing every song it hears.

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At the entrance of our favorite forest, we take a moment to breathe. Heady from the oxygen-and-pine-needles high, we resemble whirling dervishes, spinning our sins away. Our veneration, friends, is about to get intense.

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The forest floor greets us, an emerald ocean of universal compassion, swathing us in its cool, unjudging love. It is the natural equivalent of the Hugging Amma, and we demonstrate obeisance by furiously capturing it for posterity. This is one deity that must grace our humble home.

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Presently, we chance upon a stream, and proceed to wash away our sins by wiggling toes and splashing each other’s sinful faces. Did you know we need to wash before we enter the inner sanctum of an Agyari or Atash Behram? For every cleanliness-obsessed Parsi, there are three rules on how to scrub behind the ears. Heaven seems just around the bend, as we are tempted to float on our backs and sail away to a parallel plane, where our spirit guides dole out personalized M&Ms in silvery gauze gift bags.

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But then, gentle reader, we chance upon this. And our wretched spirits soar to the tops of these cloud-cossetted trees, awed by this magical Land of Wishing Trees, and never mind the mixed Blyton references, have you ever seen a 5’9″ woman this dwarfed??? Even as our bodies shrink and our souls expand, we whisper gratitude into the ether and thank the universe for landing us plonk in the middle of this paradise.  Newly awash in this unique redwood incense, we turn homeward, blessed for being able to choose our definition of spirituality, and for this, the best of Sundays.

 

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)