The Democracy on your plate

Surely enough everybody would have heard that the devil lies in the details and in order to tame the devil more often than not, you need to have a keen eye and a bucket load of patience. This is quite true for cooking as well and I unfortunately learnt it the hard way this time. After some trysts with simple enough recipes, I thought I had already graduated to the apprentice level from novice, but kitchen (and life) have a harsh way of bringing you down (more like smashing you down) to reality.

I consulted with our local masterchef (or you can say my ‘sensei’) as to what I should attempt next and then went on to totally disregard her suggestion, primarily due to my personal reservations against ‘dum aloo’ and of course your chef had gotten too big for his boots. And after blatantly disregarding her suggestion, I announced that I would make ‘Dhaba style Aloo Pyaz Paratha’ (the Youtube title said the same, not my fault). So after watching a couple of videos, I realized I had learnt enough about Aloo Parathas. (more than enough to give tough competition to Sukhdev’s in our next cook-off in Murthal).

‘Mera Lakshya’

So I stole a look at my phone, the digital clock said 6:49 pm (of course I use my phone as clock all the time, my wristwatch needs to be repaired and the only service shop is near our sensei’s house so you know who needs to be blamed). I did some basic maths and figured I could wrap up the process in an hour, after all how hard can making a paratha be. I started with the usual stuff, carefully kneading the flour to make the dough. I have gradually become better at it after “too-less-water” and “too-much-water” (phases my novice brethren would understand) by mastering the technique of incremental water addition strategy. Now that I had made the dough, I recalled the next steps from the video and started making the “aloo mix” with boiled potato, onion, coriander powder and some other stuff (What? You expected me to professionally list down the ingredients? Then I think there has been some misunderstanding and you are reading the wrong blog post).

Lakshya clearly visible in the distance

The process went smoothly, and I had fresh dough and the stuffing ready and I was ready to move on to the next phase. You can say, it was almost as good as done. I started the stuffing process following the Youtube instructor’s protocol of making a bowl shape with a piece of dough and then filling it before closing it like a “momo”. The easier this had looked in the video, the tougher it seemed to me as I struggled to ‘fill and seal the deal’. Ultimately, I resorted to ‘just fill and close’ strategy of mine as I ran out of patience. Then came the part of flattening it with a rolling pin. After a few rolls, it started to get into a polygonal shape as I tried my best to make it circular. But heck, who cares about shape, if I am the one eating it. So I lit up the stove, and put the pan on it with medium flame (again learnt the hard way after burning my rotis a few days ago). I put the nearly flattened, paratha on it, and smothered it with oil on both sides (to my taste) after some heating. My heart had seen no greater joy, when the parathas started taking that familiar ‘brown’ outlook, and I patted myself on my back while flipping the paratha seemingly cooked to perfection.

‘Atleast looking like a paratha’

After having made 2 already, some self doubt started creeping inside, and while I was on the third, I decided to take a bite from one of the ready ones. And lo and behold, it was all uncooked inside. I immediately un-patted myself on the back and let go off some cuss words for my video instructor (as I imagined his would be uncooked from inside as well). This followed with an ‘aha’ moment that I had been putting lot less oil than needed, turning them into more of a cow fodder cake than an eatable paratha. I immediately smothered the third one with spoonfuls of oil, in the vein of redeeming myself for having spoiled the other two. I let it cook for don’t know how much time, I had stopped looking at the clock now. I had realized the parathas had a mind of their own and I was no one to judge them (whether they were cooked or not). They would let me know in due time, I supposed.

‘This needed some serious biting skills’

And it turns out paratha 1, me 0, as the third one indeed turned out fine (and by fine I mean an eatable variant of a stuffed ‘Thepla’). My pride and self-confidence as a junior master chef had taken a heavy blow and might take some time to recover but while I was reflecting on the mistakes I did, I realized some very vital things about cooking not from just this dish alone but from all the things I had tried my hands at. And it was this:

‘The kitchen runs on a democracy’

There are no big and small players in the kitchen, or to be more specific in the ingredients and the recipe. A menial looking bunch of mustard seeds sometimes can hold the key to making or spoiling a game. I realized why the masterchef’s tread carefully with ingredients, as in why its always 1 tablespoon and not 1-3 tablespoons, and also understood the value of the flame gradient and time to cook. I mean , you can see with cooking a dish, devil indeed lies in the details if you want to make it proper. Otherwise if the recipe is open-source, why doesn’t everyone turning up to cook the first time always make the perfect dish. It is indeed because of the democracy prevalent in the ingredients and in the process of making a dish. You need to attribute equal value and care to each part, even if its about sprinkling some coriander leaves in the end, for that is what is key to the divine taste of it. Right from chopping the veggies to garnishing the dish, you need to be disciplined to understand there are no key phases as such and every phase is key in itself if you really want to cook. Only few like our sensei, have inadvertently, grasped this concept over their years of training and now perfectly respect this due diligence of democracy on your plate.

So apart from having my dream crushed of rivaling Sukhdev’s, I also learned some new lessons which perhaps is part of the process of learning to cook. So given Modi, gives us enough time by extending the lockdown for few more weeks, I would definitely be able to cook stuff in a blindfold, it would be a different matter whether they would be consumable for not.

Happy Cooking!

Disclaimer : All the view or opinions above are strictly my own and I hold no responsibility if after having read some stuff up here you end up burning down your kitchen. You would have to be completely out of your mind to heed to any of cooking recipes or ideas mentioned here.

Philosopher’s Survival Journey: Custard & Fried Rice

With the advent of second week of lock-down, I began searching for more tasteful alternatives but at the same which were easy enough given my cooking standards. Going through the shelves of super-mart, I came across Custard Powder . When I flipped it, I discovered that the recipe for making custard was written there and it involved just milk. So I added it to my basket and took it home.

Discovering Custard Powder

You were expecting that the next line would be that I did not end up trying it. But problem is that with this lock-down, we are all doing the unthinkable and hence I did make the custard. It turned out to be decent, a little think but at-least I could eat it and as for others , its does not matter in this era of social distancing. I don’t have a picture for the custard as I did not anticipate writing about it in a blog.

The first level up that I did was to step up from plain rice to Ghee Fried Rice.

I added in all kind of veggies I had with me to give the rice that colourful look. I even garnished the rice with coriander leaves to give that final restaurant style touch . I know just the coriander leaves won’t get me there but at least I have moved up the ladder .

Philosopher’s Survival Journey : Dal Chawal

Contrary to how she has introduced me in this post here , I am just an average simple guy who like many other bachelors has been left confined to my pad without the usual cook and the maid. What has probably added to my challenge is that my flatmates who were supposed to be my companions in this time had that rare common sense of flying back to their hometowns and save themselves from this atrocity.

For the most part of the day, I don’t have issues with the imposed confinement in-fact I rather enjoy it with my Netflix , Books , YouTube Videos and my never ending thoughts about the mountains . Plausibly, one of the reasons I am looking for the lock-down to end and the world to survive : would be getting a chance to visit those serene mountains and breath taking valleys.

I am finding myself fleeting away but before I go there , I will put an effort to complete what I started on this page. Re-entering my survival journey narrative, no cook indisputably means no food on the plate. I would have happily passed away the time with corn-flakes and oats but that was not acceptable to my taste-buds or to my neural system controlling these urges ?

And where did I find myself starting from? The staple of most of the households in India , The Dal Chawal . This is the only dish I knew to cook and hence in the need of hour I re-created this classic dish.

I survived the first week of lock-down with this dish but then I started experimenting and that is what is going to come in the upcoming posts : How I am leveling up . To set the right expectations for the readers, my creations are not going to be glamorous compared to the other fine creations on this blog. I am probably not going to share recipes as these are standards, and I think you would be doing a much better job than me. Thirdly, one thing she rightly said about me was that I am lazy, so I am not going to be consistent with my chronicles.