Really real fears and some really simple recipes

So, I think I’ve lost it completely. I’m not sure, but I probably have. Is that in itself proof of madness? When I was little I thought people who are called mad may well be laughing at the rest of us judgemental lot because they probably know that we are the ones that are really bonkers. We probably are. I am really really confused on the question of realities right now. I mean, who’s to say what’s really real, and what’s not.

The decidedly sane ones, that’s who.

But I’m also really scared. That’s real to me. I’ve always been the fearful sort, though perhaps not in obvious ways. My present state is one of all round fear, of all things and people. I’m scared of everything really. Including and especially my mind. And this leads me to tonight’s post subject – the fear of cooking.

Some sweet friends of mine keep telling me that they wish they could cook, too. I think everyone CAN cook. It’s a free world that way. Perhaps they are just scared. And when you are really scared, you tend to spoil things. Like in love. When you are crazy about someone beyond measure, is when you are most likely to ruin it – because you are just so darned scared of doing exactly that. I’ve observed people mess up and take aaages over even peeling potatoes, simply out of sheer nervousness. I just want to tell everyone, it’s not difficult AT ALL. Cooking, I mean. Really. I used to be scared to light a stove for the longest time. And then I had to. And I wasn’t anymore. The truth is, there’s nothing to be scared of, except for your own fear. It’s all instinct, just trust yours. And always remember, less is more.

So I’m sharing a few quick, easy, vegetarian recipes. All 3-5 steps at the most. For those who are a bit scared, like a certain someone who is like a daughter to me 🙂 For those who tend to just not start cooking/keep thinking about it – like A in Delhi 🙂 Also for vegetarian friends of mine, like K in Mumbai, with heartfelt thanks for everything 🙂 For Amma, who is the queen of quick cooking 🙂 Most of all for my sister – she knows why 😉

Beans-carrot subji:

I made this to go with curd-rice, on a particularly hot day. One needs sustenance, but not the kind that will feel like lead in your stomach.

1. Chop up a couple of carrots and a lot of beans (not the flat kind,but the cluster-kind) into as tiny pieces as possible.

2. Heat some oil in a kadhai, sputtered some jeera (cumin) seeds and then add some garam masala powder, and salt. (As I’ve observed the great Floyd do as well, I wait for the powderiness to cook out.)

3. Throw in the beans and carrots and fried them for a few minutes. Then sprinkle some water, and let them steam, covered, till cooked (which takes all of 10-15 minutes depending on the quantity you are cooking, mine was a kadhai-full).

Enjoi. (Also feel free to add chopped onions, or just a smashed garlic pod or two. Change the masalas. Do your own thing. That is the idea.)

Choulai/mulaikkeerai and aloo subji:

I was very excited to discover choulai at the vegetable vendors’ yesterday. I mean amaranth leaves, in large, purplish red-and-green bunches. It’s very healthy (high on iron) and sustainable (check this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranth), and usually available only in the south of our country. It’s really tasty, and probably the only green leafy vegetable I’ve found fit to eat this summer. I was a little trepidous, since I haven’t cooked it before, but again, I went by instinct. Turned out pretty well, and pretty too. (Now I’m thinking how to cultivate it in my little balcony-garden.)


1. Choose a large cooking vessel (because the leaves take up a lot of space before they cook down), heat some oil (I used mustard), and sputter some whole jeera in it.

2. Add some sliced onions (I used 3 small white ones, which were left over from the onion soup making time), 2 slit green chillies, a tbsp each of ginger-garlic paste, jeera powder and dhania powder, salt, red chilly powder (to taste), and let fry for a minute.

3. Add a small chopped tomato and a healthy pinch of hing (asafoetida), mix and let fry covered for another minute.

4. Then throw in some medium diced potatoes (I used about 5 medium ones for a giant bunch of the choulai), mix and let fry for about 5 minutes, covered, on low heat (basically till the potatoes turn slightly golden).

5. Then add the choulai leaves (taken off the stem, though I didn’t bother chopping them, you probably should) bit by bit and mix, till they all reduce and everything fits easily in the pan. Then cover and let cook, stirring occasionally till the liquid dries up and the potatoes are cooked through.

Yummm with ghee and rice, paruppu-podi (that’s dal powder), and/or dahi, and some sliced cucumbers drizzled in lemon juice on the side. I’m thinking you could make a non-veg version by throwing in some tiny shrimp as well.

Simple everyday Bengali dal:


1. Cook masoor (red) dal in water, with a pinch of turmeric and salt to taste. (I use a pressure cooker, but masoor dal will cook fast even in regular boiling.) Mash well.

2. In a deep pan, heat a tsp of ghee (or butter/oil if you prefer), and sputter some kalonji (nigella seeds/kalo jeere) and slit green chillies. (Add/substitute with a pod of garlic/jeera seeds/mustard seeds – have fun basically. Masoor dal is easiest dal to cook with because it takes on flavours easily, I feel.) 

3. Add the mashed dal to the pan and mix, add water if required to bring to desired consistency, then let it come to a boil on low heat. As soon as it starts to bubble, throw on some torn-up dhania leaves and turn off the heat.

Louwly and light.

Minimal-effort baingan fry:

1) Cut brinjals (the small, round/ovalish kind) into half, lengthways, like this:

                   

Best thing is this can be done sitting and chatting with a friend, watching T.V., reading something, just enjoying a spell of good weather in your balcony, whatever. Brinjals are non-messy vegetables. I love them.

2) Heat 2-3 tbsp mustard oil (for 1/2 kg brinjal) in a kadhai, and add jeera powder, red chilly powder, salt, turmeric powder and coriander powder, and let cook for a minute on low heat – stirring to not allow any lumps. (I put a lot of masala, you can put according to taste, please. Also, you must remember that brinjal is one vegetable that requires more oil than others, to cook.)

3) Throw in the brinjal and mix well, let cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.

         

4) Gently but firmly turn the brinjal in the kadhai, lower the heat, cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until cooked (depending on quantity of the vegetable) – turning the whole lot with a large, flat-ish spoon every 3-4 minutes to avoid sticking to the pan. You can also sprinkle some water if you feel that it is tending to stick, then just remember to let it cook uncovered for a couple of minutes at the end to dry it up. Sprinkle chopped dhania leaves and serve.

I learnt this last recipe from a dear colleague who lives in the Himalayan hills and cooks fantastically well, but simply – like all of us working women do.

Okay I think mebbe four recipes and sic pictures are enough for one post. I’m still scared of everything, my present, the future, the past, everything. I’m scared to post my recipe for qwickly-make-saambar because my own people may call me a heretic only. Maybe I will overcome this fear and post the recipe some day. Let’s see. Here’s to real lives, real people and real cooking, until then.

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