Tag Archives: home cooking

Don’t Get Caught In A Pickle

Caught in a pickle

Every family has their secrets. Some are the pink elephants of traumas, tragedies or other unspeakable tales. Some are the revered ones, such as traditional knowledge or crafts, that are guarded like the family jewels, passed carefully from one generation to the next. In the rich depository of such ancestral inheritance, what I considered exceptionally valuable, was a recipe for mango pickle.

Sounds innocuous, but if you had ever tasted this delicious sun-dried, spicy mango delight at my grandmother’s, you would understand. It seemed unlikely that any other preparation could ever match that taste.  After her demise, my uncle took over. As he got older, the preparation became my sister’s responsibility. An essential requirement is the stark, dry heat of Nagpur or Nasik. In my mind, this is how I rationalized the difference in taste from the other Maharashtrian pickles available in Mumbai. That and of course, the exceptional ‘family recipe‘. To me it was as precious as the traditional medicine for jaundice that is passed on in a cousin’s family. Or as notable as the anecdotes about another ancestor’s medical prowess. It was unique, and our own special inheritance.

A couple of years ago, I happened to be in Hyderabad for some work. Our hosts were kind enough to take us out for a sampling of the local thali meal.  I cannot describe my shock at finding ‘my’ pickle in my plate.  I was even more stunned to discover that this was the popular Aavakaya pickle.  Every Andhra household prepares this and my friends were confused and surprised at my excited reaction.  A couple of them offered to bring me homemade bottles, as most of them had it at their homes.  I was humbled and delighted, all at the same time.  I now had easy and limitless access to this delicacy.

But the irony was not lost on me. Despite having a liking for spicy food and having sampled many pickles, I had not ‘discovered’ that what the younger family had assumed ownership over was actually a given in a far larger collective. The rich variety and diversity of food and culture in India does make familiarity with all foods near impossible to the lay person.  (I have no idea how a South Indian recipe became a staple part of my centrally located grandmother’s recipes.)

But how easily we become proud and possessive of something that actually belongs to the whole world.
Just because of our ignorance.  Because of our limited knowledge and experience.

When one applies this across other subjects, the gravity of the repercussion is self evident and significant.  We debate over ideas and beliefs, one region against another, one religion against another, one nation against another.  Vociferously, righteously clinging to our claim over what are often universal truths and planetary gifts that we mistakenly believe we own exclusively.  Only because we view them from some historical, blinkered perspective, often relying on mythical memories to back our version of things. Makes me wonder, how much of the rigidity and conflict would dissolve – if we began to respect how much we all have in common and that  we have simply failed to see – nothing is ours alone.

The same also applies to what we consider our unique failings and challenges. In Marathi, we have a saying, “Gharo Ghari matichya chuli“.  What it implies is that every household that you visit, essentially faces the same challenges.

In a conversation about plagiarism,  I heard that some people deliberately do not attribute credit to the original source whose quotes or teaching they share.  Because if they have subsequently lived it,  they feel that they can now ‘own’ it.

Perhaps eventually, we will come to realize that all roads lead home and far enough down these roads – all paths are one.

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Filed under Flow, Meal Experience, Relationships, World and Community

What does your cooking say about you?

Who you are shows up in everything you do…  

Consider this:  If its 2 minute noodles that you make when you have to cook – well, that could mean you like to get things done quickly, without a fuss, just meeting the basic needs of the moment.   If you add in the cheese, vegetables or the eggs – you probably have an interest in flavor, as long as there isn’t too much of a fuss.  Or you aren’t completely insensitive to nutrition and self care.  On the other extreme, if you enjoy preparing an elaborate 7 course meal, then this could mean a willingness for hard work, liking for details and an interest in sensual tastes!

This thought came to me as I prepared my nth salad in the last few months.  One of the reasons that I make them so often is of course the fact that I have found a great supplier for my greens.  But there is certainly a great deal of alignment between making Salads and who I am:

Salad

  1. Keep it Short and Simple : I have a preference for crispness, essence, efficiency and speed.  
  2. Start with what you have:  I rarely look up a recipe and go shopping for ingredients.   My cooking is usually a putting together of what ever is on hand.  My approach to life has been pretty much the same… if life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.  Or reach for the tequila and salt!
  3. Be Resourceful and Adaptable: I generally make things up as I go along, modifying the process as per what happens along the way.  
  4. Enjoy Variety:  A small number of ingredients can be mixed to provide a wide range of tastes.  Keeps things interesting!
  5. Make it Colorful:  The bright, radiant colors appeal to me not only in food, but in life.  I like to think its been a fun and colorful life.
  6. Be Health Conscious: With my personal life and work both revolving around matters of holistic health and well being, this is a given.

I could go on with this flattering list 🙂

But the point is to encourage a similar introspection for you…

  • What do your cooking habits say about you?
  • Do you now notice something you haven’t appreciated about yourself?
  • Do you now feel there is something you would like to change?

If you find this inquiry interesting or helpful in any way, do share your insights as comments!

Recipe: Iceberg Salad

Iceberg lettuce + Cottage Cheese + Yellow Bell Pepper +Black Olives + Cherry Tomatoes + Green Pepper
Tossed in Olive Oil + Salt + Paprika + Dried Basil & Oregano

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Filed under Meal Experience, Recipe

Friends and food so go together…  One of my closest friends is one of the most awesome cooks I know.  As is his wife.  Their home reflects the generous, loving hospitality of the best of Punjabis.  You can rest assured that even the briefest visit to their home will leave you satiated and grateful.  Not only for the delicious food that they serve, but the loving attention with which it is prepared and the intense attention that is given to the finer nuances.  And more than anything else, the wholeheartedness with which the guest is made to feel pampered.

Years ago, this friend was famous for his beach barbecues.  He would marinate the foods from the day before and carry bricks and coals.  Then everyone would drive out to Marve beach and under moonlight, he would assemble the tandoor. Painstakingly preparing the tandoori delicacies for the entire party.  Amazing and touching.  Stuff the best of memories are made of.

For the last decade or so, I have come to count on his thoughtfulness.  Whenever he visits my place, we usually eat out.  He was most understanding about my disenchantment with cooking, knowing that I had grown weary with all the complications of cooking as a caregiver for those with dietary restrictions.

How we tend to lean on friends.  It has been only too convenient for me to maintain this arrangement. But now, with my relationship with cooking having healed – I was more than happy to cook a meal for him.  Spinach pancakes, a greek salad and an experimental sweet dish.  After having stopped use of  baking soda(high sodium) for twelve years, I finally prepared a cake again.  The Basboosa turned out to be interesting, though I used half the suggested syrup and served it with glazed strawberries.  Will probably use even less syrup next time!Basboosa

But my friend’s delighted appreciation of the food was welcome sweetness indeed.  Glad I have returned some of the happiness that has been served to me so often.

We easily fall into patterns in our relationships.  Sometimes they become a little skewed, and it is important to ensure that counting on someone does not lead to taking anyone for granted.

So while I delight in the way I am taken care of, there is also great joy in being there for my friends, in different ways.

It’s always nice to give back… from the heart.  And a delicious meal is always a good way!

 

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December 1, 2012 · 6:08 pm

The Magic Ingredient:You + Recipe Spinach Pancakes

Invest a small part of your self in the ingredients and experience the difference…

The growing interest in kitchen gardens and terrace farming is fueled by many factors.   I won’t discuss the more voiced concerns over pesticides,  genetically modified produce, hidden costs of packaging and transport, impact on the local environment, culture, etc… Instead, I invite you to notice some rather simple, less obvious benefits in growing at least some of your own ingredients.  Experiment with growing a few herbs, fruits or vegetables.  Other than their beauty and freshness, you may also benefit in other ways.

I am reminded of an instance at my sister’s house.  They had planted a few strawberry shrubs for the first time. When one small strawberry showed up, there was great excitement among adults and children alike.  Every day the kids would marvel at the small signs of growth and change.  When it was finally decided that the strawberry was to be ‘harvested’, they all gathered together in happy anticipation.  The single strawberry was cut into 6 pieces so that it could be tasted by all those present at that time!

This degree of awe and appreciation can only come by investing of yourself. Those small acts of watering the plant, noticing it change and simply gazing at the marvels of nature for a few minutes everyday – makes you a part of that plant.  Your energies are interlinked with it and when its used – its with a great deal of love, reverence and gratitude.  Even a few leaves of Kadipatta (curry leaves) will be broken off with thought and care. Because you would know firsthand, the amount of time and nurturing that it took for those few leaves to come into existence for your benefit.

Just try it for your self!

Spinach Pancakes

Ingredients

15-20 Spinach leaves, finely chopped after discarding stalks
10-12  Chives (fresh from the terrace garden!), finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt
Pepper
Paprika
2 Eggs
3/4th cup Milk
6 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons grated Cheese
Oil

(Makes 4 pancakes)

Method:

  1. Heat a little oil, add onions, chives, spinach, nutmeg, salt, pepper and cook till dry.
  2. Beat up the eggs, add milk and flour and whip the mixture again.
  3. Then add cheese and the cooked spinach mixture, whip together.
  4. Heat a little oil, pour in about 2 ladles of the mixture, sprinkle paprika.
  5. Cover for about 30 seconds.
  6. Flip around and cook the other side.

The mixture tends to set, cook and brown very quickly.
For those who don’t mind a little indulgence, serve with a pat of butter and a spoonful of Sundried Tomato Pesto on the side.

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Filed under Healing Foods, Meal Experience, Recipe

Adapting to the flow + Recipe Spinach Mushrooms

You can never step into the same river twice…

A fundamental error we often make is in trying to recreate a peak experience.  Everything keeps changing and it is impossible to relive the exact same emotions again.

When you follow precise cooking instructions to the T, it may seem like the outcome is consistent.  That is what chefs and restaurants rely upon.  However, your interpretation and experience will never be the same, albeit you may notice only the grosser differences.

A lesson learned from attempting to recreate the stuffed mushrooms I had prepared some weeks back.  They had been rich and satisfyingly filling.  But this time, I scooped out the stem, dabbed them lightly with oil and put them in for partial grilling… and promptly forgot about it! I was distracted and by the time I went back, the mushrooms had shrivelled in size.

My first reaction was dismay.  In comparison to what I had been looking forward to, this looked liked a perfectly wasted opportunity.  For a minute I considered tossing them away.  But my innate persistence and resilience showed up.  I thought of putting them into a curry, but that would not do it justice.

What else was possible?  I looked again.  A touch of melted cheese would do nicely.  And the spinach stuffing I had planned could be changed into an interesting base.  It actually didn’t take too much time or effort to implement the new recipe, once I had accepted the change.  I knew the dish would be a reduced portion now.  So concurrently I prepared a small serving of macaroni in béchamel sauce.

Voila!  Instead of the original stuffed mushrooms, we now had macaroni and a side dish – attractive, tasty, filling and completely new!

Who says unexpected change can’t be for the better?

Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach

Ingredients

8 Portabella Mushrooms (stems removed and scooped)
Touch of Olive Oil
Sprinkling of Cheddar/Mozzarella grated Cheese

½  large bunch of Spinach leaves
10 cloves Garlic
1 medium Red Onion
2 Red chillies
Olive Oil

Soya Sauce (to taste)
Salt
Method:

1. Dab oil on scooped mushrooms and top grill with scooped side down for a couple of minutes only!
2. Turn them around, sprinkle a little cheese and grill again for a minute or two, just until the cheese melts.
3. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan,  add red chillies (whole), then garlic, onion and spinach, all finely chopped. Stir around until cooked, don’t add any water.  Sprinkle the soya sauce and salt, mix.
4. Serve as a bed of spinach mixture with mushrooms on top.

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Filed under Flow, Recipe

Energize your Day – Red Cabbage Apple Salad

Shifting mood and energies by experimenting with color and new combinations…

Whether it was the solar storms last week, or the emotional ups and downs all around… I was feeling tired and low.  Skipping a meal would leave me more drained.  What I wanted was a quick, energizing meal, with the priority being least effort.  What better than a salad for such situations? I found half a red cabbage.  It reminded me of reading somewhere that restaurants use red to stimulate appetite.  So now I looked around for all the red ingredients that I could find.  By the time I found the bright red pepper and a shiny apple, my mood had shifted.  Curiosity had replaced the lethargy. What else could I add here?  Walnuts with their mood lifting omega-3 seemed a great addition.  Sweetness would be most welcome in the moment.  Raisins and Honey could do that. A little mustard oil and mayonnaise dressing and I was good to go.  The bold, predominantly red ingredients before me looked like they needed to be cooled down. Vibrant, green iceberg would balance it all nicely!

Just then, an unexpected visitor came in with a sad, exhausted air.  I invited her to sample the salad.  When she looked at it, she brightened up visibly, exclaiming how impressive it looked (to her)!  One bite and she was smiling in delight.   The salad had done the trick.  Not only did it energize her, it raised my spirits as well!

Mission accomplished 🙂

Ingredients

1/2 head Red Cabbage,  thinly sliced

Equal amount of Iceberg Lettuce, shredded

1 Red Apple thinly sliced

1 Red Bell Pepper thinly sliced

Handful of Walnuts

Handful of Raisins

2 spoons Honey

Salt

Mayonnaise

Mustard Oil Dressing

(last 3 as per taste)

Toss it up and serve!

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