What’s the one thing you would never give up eating? someone asked me early this week.
I was stumped. It’s not one of those things answers I have prepped and ready at the top of my mind, just waiting to tumble out if I press play. I serioulsy couldn’t think of a thing. I thought some more, thirty seconds later I still didn’t have an answer.
Absolutely nothing, I eventually said. I love food too much to think of giving any part of it up.
I thought about it later, though. I’ve never needed to give up anything. Haven’t had any weird allergies thankfully, haven’t gone on a diet and never thought about wanting to quit something I love. And then it came to me — I recalled I’ve done some insane things in the past, like given up rice for month, chicken for even longer, sugar for a bit (though this one didn’t last long at all). This was all within the first year that I got married. I’m putting it down to some form of rebellion, and stubbornness to prove I could do things that weren’t done.
But I am just not strong-willed enough about food anymore. I think a lot of it has to do with a sudden increased awareness of what’s good and what’s bad for me. With many inherent bad food habits having weeded themselves out of my life, I’ve willingly turned toward a practice in moderation. I enjoy all kinds of food. I love a well cooked pork-belly as much as a simple meal of daal and rice. My eyes light up when I see a bowl of plain homemade lightly-spiced sabji, as much as it would if I saw an exquisite dessert. I’m adventurous and love to experiment with ingredients, cuisines, meats, style of cooking, as much as I am a curd-rice maami at heart. Both extremes can some times elicit the same levels of satisfaction in me. So for the last few years, I’ve just made my peace with eating what I want, as long as it is in moderation. And even when I trip up on the moderation, which happens more often than I am willing to keep track of, I know it is okay. It is really not the end of the world.
So I thought about it some more. What’s the one thing I would absolutely never give up?
I would die without carbs, I think. I cannot imagine a life without rice, pasta, bread, potatoes and everything else that puts the full into fulfilling meals. A majority of my instagram feed is a carb-fest and the I-must-blog-this mental list I maintain is growing out of control. The Hungry & Excited blog is undergoing an overhaul that’s taking much longer than anticipated. Only because VC and I have slacked off totally in sitting our bums down, putting our heads together and finishing it off. I outsourced the job because I thought it would be faster for a professional to do it, than teach myself CSS. But turns out I didn’t account for our own busy lives and our inability to coordinate simple work meetings between ourselves. But many of the the recent instagram pics have received the much-loved Recipe, please? and Blogging this? responses. I’ve decided I cannot wait any longer, so I’m going to share a few quickie recipes here.
Since I’m tucking away a bowl of veggie pulao, with aloo sabji and salad right now, and I have a sinful orange infused, chocolate chunk-studded bread pudding waiting for dessert, I’m thinking why should I have all the carb fun?
Easy Anda Biryani – I made this for the sister who had a few friends visiting her when she was in Goa last month, and apparently they couldn’t talking about the meal for the rest of the day. I’m definitely going to be making it again.
You need (I cooked this for 5 people)
2 cups cooked rice
6 boiled eggs
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
8-10 small pods of garlic and 1 fat chunk of ginger, minced or grated
2 green chillies, slit
Khada masala: shahi jeera, a couple of cardamom pods, cloves, 1 bay leaf, 2-3 pepper corns
Masala powders: turmeric, red chilli powder, dhaniya powder, jeera powder
Everest Egg Curry masala
1 carton coconut milk (200 ml)
1 large fistful finely chopped coriander and mint leaves
1) Cook the rice separately. I used a rice cooker with 1 tbsp ghee, 2-3 cardamom pods, 1 bay leaf and a stick of cinnamon, with 4 cups water. Basmati works best. But you can cook the rice the way you normally would, just ensure that the grains retain their shape and texture, and the rice isn’t mushy.
2) Set the eggs in a pot of water to boil. Set aside.
3) Warm some oil/ghee (i usually use a 50-50 ratio), throw in the khada masala, toss till it all gets aromatic.
4) Add in the onions, ginger and garlic and keep tossing till they begin to brown evenly, then add in 2 slit green chillies.5) Tip in the tomatoes and add salt and cook the whole thing down to a mush. Add masala powders in quick succession. A little of each goes a long way. Cook, cook cook till everything smells divine and turns to a glossy mush.6) Add chopped coriander leaves mixed with mint leaves, toss some more.
7) Tip in the coconut milk along with a little water till curry reaches the thickness/thinness you desire. Cover and let it bubble.
8) When the curry is cooked through, add a generous sprinkling of Everest Egg Curry Masala (or any other multi-purpose masala of your choice — Meat Masala or Kitchen King or even garam masala). Mix well cook for a couple of minutes and turn off.
9) Halve boiled eggs and place face up, drench them with gravy and sprinkle coriander and let it sit for a while.
10) Once the rice is done, take a large, heavy-bottomed pot, grease it and begin layering the rice and gravy. Start with a generous layer of rice, and alternate with the egg curry, keep going till it all runs out. You could just serve it this way, but I prefer to cook it on the dum for a bit (refer link to see how I’ve done it before).
11) To cook it on the dum, I place my cast iron dosa tava (its really thick) on a low flame, and this thick bottomed pot on top of it, closed with a lid and i let it steam for 15-20 mins.
Dinner Toasties — made these on a rainy night when I was too lazy to cook and we didn’t want to order in. I had some odds and ends in the fridge, so I just threw it together without thinking too much. It was delicious, filling and a good meeting point between mini pizzas and grilled toasts!
I simply pre-heated the oven, lined a baking tray with aluminion foil and placed the sliced bread on it. Then I began making the topping, for which I sautéed some onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell peppers (which is what I had in my fridge. In the past I’ve used baby corn, cherry tomatoes, basil). Then I added in a spoon of chilli-garlic sauce (I use the Fabindia stuff), added in some chopped spinach and corn kernels. Cooked the whole thing down till the spinach had wilted, and all the water had dried out.
Next, I spooned it equally on the sliced bread, grated cheese over it and popped it into the oven for 12-14 mins till the cheese was melted and the toast was crisp.
Quickie Shahi Tukda — I made this early on this week because I really wanted a warm dessert to perk my spirits. I was stuck in the middle of an allergy attack, and two days of sneezing my lungs out had left me low on energy and with no will to do anything. I also had a loaf of terrible bread that I couldn’t bear to eat as bread, and less than a 1/4 tin of condensed milk in my fridge. It seemed like Shahi Tukda wanted me to make it, rather than the other way round.
1 used a little under 2 cups of milk with the malai in it. Whisked it all together and set it on the stove, on a low flame. Stirring it at regular intervals I let it simmer for almost 15-20 minutes till it had reduced considerably.
I added the condensed milk (about 4-5 tablespoons) and stirred it together, leaving it to simmer for 10 mins more. At this point, you should taste it and adjust sugar by adding more, if needed. You can also add kesar or elaichi to the milk but I didnt feel like either.
When it had reduced still more (you’re looking for a creamy, slightly thick — not runny — milky mix), I set it to cool.
Meanwhile I chopped about 6-7 slices of bread in half, dabbed them very lightly with ghee and toasted them in the tava till golden and crunchy. I arranged them in a shallow bowl (or deepish pan).
When the milk had cooled slightly, I poured it all over, pressing the slices slightly. I sprinkled it with roasted sliced almonds covered it and let it rest for 2 hours. You can also chill it, but I wanted to consume it soon after, while still warm, so I let it be.
it might seem like a lot of milk, and the bread swimming in it, but the longer it stays, the more the bread soaks in the milk and turns into a delectably creamy mush, so don’t worry. Refrigerate it after a while, though, if you don’t plan to eat it all up like I did.
Orange-infused, Chocolate-chunk Bread Pudding — Soon after I made the Shahi Tukda, I saw this post and regretted finishing up the bread I had in my fridge. But I quickly remedied it by buying a loaf of bread (and I never buy them in such quick succession) and decided I would wait for it to get slightly stale, in time to make this pudding for a weekend treat. It didn’t work. I couldn’t wait. So I made it this afternoon, as dessert for the husband returning from a work trip. I eyeballed the ingredients and just threw it all in.
Usually bread puddings bake to a complete mush, but the good thing I did was to cut the sliced bread into triangles and point the corners upwards, because while the centre of the pudding has turned warm and wonderfully creamy, the tops have remained crisp (but not crunchy) which gives a nice texture.
1) Toast 7-8 slices of bread, and butter them very lightly buttered. Chopped them into triangles and arrange them in a bowl, with the corners pointed up.
2) Zest a whole orange in a mixing bowl, add to it 5-6 tbsp sugar and whisk dry to release the oils. Add in 2 eggs and whisk it up till frothy. Gently pour in 400 ml warm milk, whisking slowly as you go. Add in a splash of orange juice and a generous glug of Rum and mix gently.
3) Pour the mix over the sliced bread. Roughly chop about 1/4 cup of chocolate chunks (I lazily hacked a slab of Morde) and add them on top. I took the trouble to squeeze a few chunksin between the layers of bread.
4) Pop it in the oven for 20-25 mins (170 deg C)till the custard bakes and the pudding jiggles slightly when shaken!
Bread puddings are incredibly forgiving, and just so easy and quick to put together. They’re also very, very improv-friendly which means you can spike it with just about any special ingredient your heart desires. I am now tempted to make a chai masala-flavoured one!
The husband came home from the airport for barely 5 minutes, before he was whisked again to meet a waiting client. The meeting continues over dinner. I can’t complain, really because it just means more pulao, more dessert, more carbs for me.