Saturday, November 18, 2017

Mouthpiece #63

For the clinking-clanking love...
(Alert: it is a long one, please bear with me)
I don’t know how it came to me but it did one day. I think I can even remember the precise moment when it happened. While I have been at the receiving end of the joy it was bringing to me every single time but this was the moment when I acknowledged it and decided to write about it. I think now I know how it feels to be deeply in love. I wonder why did not I think about it earlier, but I guess, nature has its own plan of sending things one’s way. I very humbly accept it and thank the cosmos (the kaaynaat) for letting me bask in this fuzzy feeling which, I think, is definitely a little more than just love.

Without further ado, let me just plunge into divulging the mysterious ‘it’ - it is my adoration and fondness for the unsung heroes in any kitchen - the pots and pans, the friers and cookers, the scoopers and servers, the spatulas and turners, the griddles and skillets, the cutters and knives, the blenders and mixers… oh, the list is just so long.

Why, unsung heroes because we talk, hear and make a lot of fuss about what to cook, how to cook, which ingredients to choose, how to ensure quality and taste all along, but never give the ones who actually make cooking possible, their due.
So my dear companions in kitchen, I am feeling extremely happy to be expressing my gratitude for you today through this platform.

Well it began with the basic stainless-steel kitchen set that I began my journey in kitchen with. It had all the basic components from cooking utensils to serving dishes, plates, spoons and forks. Looking back at that time from now, I can say that working with familiar sonorous sound of steel utensils in the foreign land did play some role in making me feel comfortable in the new kitchen. Inaugurating the brand new metallic utensils with some sweet dish to mark beginning of their life with me, was a small ritual that I liked following at that time. Though the set had very limited number of pieces but it was quite sufficient to cook a decent meal and to even serve some guests.

My mother played a significant role in increasing my kitchen possessions. On every visit back home, she would have kept something to grace my kitchen even further. From new stylish stainless steel glasses, big thalis with raised edges, futura anodized cooker, sets of dibbas for pinnis/snacks to spatulas of different sizes, shapes and styles - she would keep one thing or the other ready along with innumerable other gifts to be packed with me while going back. My kitchen kept getting richer and richer and I enjoyed working with new utensils experimenting to my heart’s content. I think it was in Banaglore that I started developing a soft corner for tea cups and the sight of bright coloured, fancy, quirky tea cups started alluring me into buying some of them. Well, this softness did not remain restricted to tea cups only, it swelled and gradually engulfed many other items too.

Just the other day I was going through my prized possessions and realised that I actually have 9 kadaahis (pans). Dear readers, before you question my sanity, I can explain. There is one big iron one which I take out to make methi-aloo, kala-chana for the ashtami puja and for that lip smacking ajwain-waale-small-potatoes. How can I cook these three in any other kadaahi because that richness of colour can only be lent by an iron utensil. Moving on to three aluminium kadaahis of three different sizes. These were gifted by mummy from time to time and come very handy for all kinds of tadkas, dry sabzis, halwas, panjiris, and in fact, almost anything that needs steam cooking but not pressure cooking. There is one specific kadaahi for deep frying and using any other kadaahi for this purpose is almost sacrilegious. So I have already explained the reason behind the existence of 5. There are two small ones, one with lid and other without. The lidded one is typically used for keeping the leftover liquid-subzis because I prefer to reheat them on the gas-top. The other small one is to fit in where nothing else works like making ghee out of butter, small quantity of tadka for dal or for making manchurian etc. There is one super big kadaahi which sees the light of the day when besan-ki-pinni, gajar-ka-halwa or gobhi-gajar-shalgum pickle is to be made or even for cooking hakka noodles. It is wide mouthed and allows more surface area to work on. Okay, now for the last one which is my recent prized possession. This one is the latest addition in my kitchen which I purchased two years back and it is non-stick kadaahi. I like to handle it very gently for the sabzis which need just tender steam and not too much frying and scraping of the surface.

Coming to spatulas and turners, I would not bore you with the number of them that I have but there is good enough reason for each one of them to be present inside my kitchen cabinet. One cannot just work in a big kadaahi or pan with a small serving spoon, or serve with long handle-spatulas. There needs to be a specific one for a specific task - big scooper kinds for cooking gravy-sabzis, flatter ones for lifting and turning dry-sabzis, turners of different kinds for tawas and griddles, specific ones for deep frying, wooden spatulas for non-stick pans and pots - you get the point, right?

And cookers, let me just tell you that I have five of them and no, no one can replace any other. They are there because they are very much needed and used. The latest being the new Prestige cooker which is a delight to work with. I think I did mention it a few times at home how I have fallen in love with this cooker. I like the safety valve of it which actually starts dancing when the steam is building up inside. The cute podgy whistle sits prettily on the top. Another good part is that this cooker comes with a glass lid too, so the cooker can be used as serving bowl when the cooking is done. I think I have blessed that soul many times who came up with design. May God increase your tribe :)

I think I do get a certain pleasure in taking the right utensil and spatula out once I decide what is to be cooked and this combination is almost fixed for different dishes. It is fixed to such an extent that there is a designated pan for my peels and pips too. No, no, I did not buy it purposely. It came with my OTG, it was actually an iron baking dish but after many years of use, it started showing some signs of wear and tear but I did not want to part with it. So I employed it at another designation. I am sure, it doesn’t feel bad because it has no replacement in this new position. It is the first thing that gets picked up when I start my work in the kitchen every single day with raw ingredients. I think if we just go by the companionship, I think I have the maximum with this pan.

Since last Diwali I have started a new tradition, and to tell you frankly, I have complimented myself many times for coming up with this. I have decided to gift my kitchenmates a new companion every Diwali. It began with a set of microwavable casseroles and last Diwali it was, of course, my Prestige 2l cooker.

My dear kitchen comrades, thank you for being there and for being you. Each one of you is valued and appreciated for adding your unique 'clink’ and 'clank’ to my cooking.

What's new in the kitchen? Crispy Halwa
I was introduced to this dish by my mother-in-law, who is a wonderful cook herself. She knows how to bring out the best flavours with just some very basic ingredients. There are many dishes that I have learnt to cook from her but I think she makes the best crispy halwa. Crispy halwa? It sounds pretty strange isn’t it? The texture and the smart twist that it gives to the regular sooji halwa is just amazing. Since I had never seen her making it, I did not have the confidence of doing justice to it for a very long time. But as I got more comfortable in the kitchen, many things started feeling/appearing more logical. There is a feel that one begins to develop around various ingredients and their unique flavours. One fine day, I just attempted making it and it turned out to be a grand success.

After having made it many times now, I feel making this halwa is even simpler than the regular Suji halwa. Crispy halwa is one-pot dish which does not even require preparation of separate sugar solution. I would say, this is a jazzy and stylish version of the good old halwa and when you have guests over, it surely will earn you some brownie points as a chef.

Suji: 1 cup
Sugar: 1 cup
Milk: 1 cup
Cardamom: 2 (coarsely ground seeds)
Raisins and almonds: 1 cup
Ghee: ¾ cup

Take suji, sugar and milk in a bowl, mix well and let them rest for 1-2 hours. In a heavy bottomed pan, pour ghee and warm it up. Pour the suji-sugar-milk mixture in the hot ghee and immediately start scarping the bottom of the pan as the mixture tends to stick to the pan. Reduce the flame and keep frying while continuously stirring for partly crispy partly soft feel of the content. It will start leaving the pan gradually. At this time add the cardamom powder and nuts. Serve it hot for that mmm… experience. 

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