Day 16: Obsessed with Food

What is it about a pandemic that has people going overboard with food? Everywhere you look – Facebook, Pinterest, WhatsApp, Instagram – there are pictures of people celebrating with food. And that too, usually making things they’ve never tried making before. Dalgona coffee, different types of bread, cakes, gourmet dishes, just to name a few. How does a pandemic create a food obsession?

The manner in which so many of us are going on, it almost seems as though they are on a foodie vacation, instead of on a lockdown that doesn’t look like it will end any time soon. Have you folks thought about how these food items reach your pantry shelves and freezers? Have you spared a thought to those farmers who aren’t working, fields that are staying barren and unfarmed, supply chains that have been disrupted across the world?

What makes you believe you are coming out of this ordeal unscathed? You may not catch the virus as long as you stay inside and social distance, but what guarantee have you that you will also have enough to eat? The shops are stocked for now, but it is only a matter of time before they start running out when supply trucks don’t deliver because there is nothing for the trucks to deliver.

Granted, food is a source of comfort for many. Food brings people together. But, it could also turn into one of the most divisive forces when people can’t get enough to feed their own families. Remember the story of Marie Antoinette who allegedly gave a solution to her country’s starving population – ‘If they don’t have bread, let them eat cake!’? She was beheaded (due to her family connections, not for being an idiot), but it might be wise to heed that cautionary tale.

Several countries have already begun rationing the food purchases of its residents. It may not be apparent immediately, but a time may come when there is a huge food shortage as a fallout of this pandemic. There may be parts of the globe where people are dying of starvation, while another section is forced to throw away food because they can neither sell it, nor use it themselves. No matter how much money you have today, you may still end up without enough to buy staple foods.

Conserve what you can. Do not waste time preparing fancy gourmet lunches and dinners. Keep longer lasting foods for later, for when you have already gone through the perishables. There is no need to hoard, but buy food in small quantities and keep them for a time when even that may be deemed a luxury. Use your common sense – ‘Do I really need to try out that new recipe my friend posted on FB that needs quite a few ingredients?’ or ‘Is it really necessary for me to post competing pictures for every fab dish my friend posts on Instagram?’. Think again before deciding to take up a cooking challenge or a food challenge.

Stay Safe. Be Wise.

Honey Glazed Pork

I have been promising all and sundry that I’ll pen down this recipe – ever since December. Well, finally here it is.

Ingredients:

  1. Pork – 1/2 kg, washed and cubedPork 1
  2. Garam Masala* – 1/2 tbspPork 4
  3. Red Chilli powder – 1 tbsp
  4. Kashmiri Chilli powder ** – 1/2 tbsp
  5. Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  6. Coriander Powder – 1 tspPork 3
  7. Green Chillies – 3 or 4, slit open
  8. Garlic – 20-25 cloves
  9. Ginger – a small piecePork 2
  10. Large onion – 3-4, sliced thinpork 6
  11. Tomato – 1, diced
  12. Curry Leaves – 1 stem
  13. Honey – 2 tbsp
  14. Curd – 1/2 tbsp
  15. Cooking oil – as required
  16. Salt – to taste

Rather than buy from outside, you can make the masala at home. Just take some cardamon, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, pepper kernels and grind them up. You can even store it for future culinary ventures.

** You can even skip Kashmiri Chilli powder as it is for the colour, rather than the taste.

Making it:

  1. Rub all the powders – garam masala, chilli powder, kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric, coriander, salt – together on the cubed pork pieces.
  2. Add the curd to this mixture. Rub them all together so that the meat is well covered with this mixture, and leave to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Once marinated, take the meat in a pressure cooker, and it will look something like this.Pork 8
  4. Add the green chillies, tomato and a handful of the diced onions to the cooker.Pork 9Pork 7
  5. Now close the pressure cooker lid, put on the whistle, and cook on low flame till one whistle blows. After that, increase the flame to medium and cook for another 15 minutes.
  6. Once this is done, turn off the flame, and keep the cooker aside. Do not attempt to open it now, as some more cooking will happen as the pressure goes off by itself.
  7. Next, we are going to saute the onions. Get a non-stick pan, and add oil to it. Heat it and once the oil is hot, add the remaining onions to it.
  8. Saute the onions for 5 minutes, then add the ginger, garlic and curry leaves. Saute again till the onions turn translucent.Pork 12
  9. Now, we are ready to open the pressure cooker. You will see that the meat is swimming in water even though we had added no water during the cooking process. This is because the water content in the meat oozes out while it is being cooked.Pork 10
  10. Add the meat to the non-stick pan, and start reducing the water content. You can also discard some of the water to speed up the process.
  11. Once the water has evaporated, then we are left with something like this-
    Pork 13
  12. Now, add the honey to the meat and cook for a few more minutes.
  13. You can stop at this point, if you wish to have a semi-dry dish. It is wonderful served with rice or chappathys.

For those of you who wish to have a dry dish, then read on. You would need some more sauces at this point of time –

  1. Plum sauce
  2. Worcestershire sauce (also called W Sauce)

Making it without gravy:

  1. Continue stirring the meat in the saucepan, while adding W Sauce and Plum Sauce. Caution: Plum Sauce means a slight sweetness, unless you want a very sweet dish, please use with discretion.Pork 14
  2. Keep stirring the meat in a medium flame. As it progresses, the meat keeps changing as shown –Pork 14Pork 15Pork 16Pork 17
  3. The end product should look something like this –DSCI0581

The best part about making a dry dish is that the meat and the fat becomes indistinguishable and equally tasty. So, cholestrol-watchers, beware!

Enjoy with chappathy or rice.

BON APPETIT!

Paneer Butter Masala

Paneer Butter masala

This weekend I tried my hand at a perennial Indian favourite – Paneer Butter Masala.

reI don’t know if this is really how Paneer Butter Masala is made – but the following recipe is definitely a very tasty one.

Ingredients:

  1. Paneer –  250g, cubedPaneer - Cubes
  2. Butter – a small stick
  3. Cumin seeds (jeera) – 2 pinches
  4. Tomato – 2
  5. Cashewnuts – half a handful
  6. Ginger – a small piece, finely chopped
  7. Garlic – 5-6 cloves, finely choppedGinger-garlic
  8. Kashmiri chilli powder – 1 tbsp
  9. Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  10. Garam masala – 1 tspChilli-turmeric-garam masala
  11. Sugar – 2 tbsp
  12. Salt – to taste

How to Make:

  1. Leave the cashews to soak in hot water for 30 minutes or so.
  2. In the meanwhile, puree the tomatoes in a food processor, making sure there are no pieces left. Keep aside.Tomato Puree
  3. Take a saucepan and heat it on high flame. Once hot, add the butter and turn down flame to simmer.
  4. Add cumin seeds and sauté for 15 seconds before adding the next set of ingredients.Butter and Sumin seeds
  5. Add 1 tbsp sugar and again keep sautéing, till the sugar turns sticky and brown.
  6. Add the chopped ginger and garlic, and sauté for a minute or two, till it starts turning brown.
  7. Now, pour the tomato puree into this, and increase the flame a bit. Add the chilli powder. Turmeric powder and garam masala to this mixture and turn down the flame again to simmer.
  8. Now, we need to keep stirring the mixture, till the water has almost evaporated and the oil starts separating out (as shown in the pictures).Oil separating
  9. Pour  one and a half glasses of water in the pan and keep stirring. Add salt to taste.
  10. Take 3 or 4 cubes of the paneer and crumble it up. Add it to the pan – this is to add some thickness to the curry.
  11. Now, puree the cashewnuts along with the hot water in which it was left to soak. You will get a milky liquid – again, make sure that there are no cashew bits left, else the curry will have a gritty texture, instead of the creamy one we are aiming for.
  12. Now, increase the flame, and once the mixture starts boiling, add the remaining cubes of paneer.Paneer added
  13. Once the paneer is in, don’t stir too much, or it may crumble.
  14. Pour the cashew milk into the saucepan.  Stir a bit more and finally add the remaining 1 tbsp sugar.Cashew milk added

Paneer Butter masala

Your paneer butter masala is ready.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves to add that extra fragrance. Serve hot with chappathi, roti or parathas.

Chinese Spaghetti

The Final Product

Yesterday, I tried my hand at cooking spaghetti – and it turned out to be pretty good, even though I do say so myself. Here is the recipe I followed –

Ingredients:

  1. Spaghetti
  2. Garlic – 8-10 cloves, chopped
  3. Onion – 2, chopped Garlic and onion
  4. Carrot – 1, gratedGrated Carrot
  5. Beans – 8-10, choppedChopped beans
  6. Eggs – 2, beaten
  7. Olive oil – as required
  8. Spaghetti
  9. Sweet and Sour Chilli Sauce – as required
  10. Dark Soy sauce – 4-5 drops
  11. Salt – to taste

Mode de Cuisson (a.k.a How to Make the Stuff):

The Mixture –
  1. Take a non-stick pot, and heat it on a stove to get it completely dry.
  2. Add olive oil, turn up the heat, and wait till the oil heats up.
  3. Once the oil is hot enough, put the heat on simmer, and add the chopped garlic and onions to it.
  4. Stir, so that it doesn’t burn, till the onion has turned colourless.
  5. Add the beans and grated carrots to the mix, and keep stirring.Carrots added
  6. Now, make a small pit in the centre of the vegetable mix in the pot, and add the egg inside. Wait a bit for the egg to start cooking, and then start stirring just the eggs in the pit till you see egg lumps forming inside. Wait a bit more and then mix it with all the vegetables. [By waiting till the egg lumps start forming before mixing with the vegetables, we can ensure that the veggies don’t go all soggy and will retain its crispness.]Egg pit
  7. Once the eggs have cooked well and mixed with the vegetables, add the chilli sauce. Keep stirring till this also blends in. You will start to get a wonderful aroma now.Cooked eggs
  8. Add salt to taste, and the soy sauce to the vegetables. Keep stirring to mix well.
Now you can turn off the heat, and get to work on the spaghetti.
The Spaghetti –
  1. I first broke the dry pasta in half, so that the spaghetti fitted into my boiling pan. But you can also go without this step, if you half a large enough pan.
  2. Take some water in a pot, and get it boiling.
  3. Pour some olive oil over the water, and drop the pasta into it.Olive oil and pasta
  4. Now wait for about 10-12 minutes for the spaghetti to cook fully. You can test it by stirring the strands around, and trying to take a bite of it to see whether it is done. When the spaghetti is done, it will have lost its deep golden hue, it will no longer resemble a stick and will instead be limp and you can bite into it.
  5. Add some salt to the pasta before straining out the water.Strained pasta
The Grand Finale –
 For the final act, once again turn on the heat over the pot of vegetables, and add the spaghetti to the veggies. Toss them together, till the spaghetti is well coated with the veggies and sauces.
The Final Product
Now enjoy with a glass of wine and some ketchup.
Mmmmmm….the aroma is quite appetizing. Let me go ahead and take my advice to enjoy it 🙂