Friday, 21 February 2014

desi omelette; the perfect weekend brunch

weekend brunch
an omelette is a blank canvas for breakfast, lunch or dinner. at its simplest and most frugal, a briefly whisked mixture of egg seasoned with salt and pepper is poured into a well-buttered hot pan, nudged with a spatula to make soft gentle curds and then left to set until just cooked. the centre should remain tender. it can be made substantial for lunch or dinner by way of fillings. almost every country has its version, from the crêpe like french one to thick italian frittata's akin to crust-less quiche or the intensely herbaceous baked iranian kuku. a desi omelette is the sub-continental version.

eggs and i used to have a complicated relationship. when i was younger i disliked yolks (especially soft-boiled or sunny sideup). mama on the other hand saw them as essential nutrition and insisted that both m and i have one for breakfast. i can remember the dread of a soft boiled egg as it if it were yesterday. mama would bring them to the table in their shells, nested in an egg cup with buttered toast on the side. i would sit and watch the egg warily hoping that the need to get to school on time would do away with breakfast. that of course was wishful thinking as mama would make sure that i would eat before leaving. i loved all manner of omelettes, pancakes and baked goods though since the yolks in these were camouflaged. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

tartine's salted chocolate-rye cookies

salted chocolate-rye cookies with a cardamom laced tea
meet the cookie that tastes as good as its raw dough. the truth is i usually bake so that i can indulge in the dough or batter. it almost always tastes better than the baked version. this is not the case with tartine’s salted chocolate-rye cookies. these slightly irregular discs spread a little in the oven; their surface cracks intimating an interior that is dark and fudge like. the pinch of salt on its mound is savoury at first bite and then sweetness floods the mouth.

in my growing years, it was the biscuit and not cookie that reigned supreme. i met my first chocolate-chip cookie in chicago in the summer of 1999 and was instantly smitten. cookies command an easy affection because they are a little bit everything that is good about baked treats. they are soft and crisp, fudge like without being cloyingly sweet and they can be studded with chocolate chips and nuts. whilst i still love a biscuit of sturdy constitution, one that holds itself even when dunked, there is nothing i love more than a warm cookie with a milky coffee.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

on how kichari soothes an upset stomach

i remember a complex set of rules and regulations about eating out from my childhood. pakistani tap water is unfit for drinking and therefore we always had boiled and eventually filtered water for this purpose. when we ate out we always bought mineral water. at casual and street-food like dining places we were not allowed to eat salad (because this was likely to have been washed with tap water) and there was no to be no ice in our cold drinks. ingredients that spoiled easily, especially those requiring refrigeration like diary and seafood were only to be eaten at trusted places. these rules were meant to protect us against water borne diseases and diarrhoea.

the lack of salad did not trouble me as much as being unable to drink mango milkshakes so thick that they would require effort to be pulled through the large straws inserted in them. the same is to be said of club soda with fresh lime and seven-up. also off bounds were the treats from the mooli wallah outside my school gate. i envied my classmates who would get long juliennes of mooli heavily anointed with chaat masala. this snack with its sharp, chilli and chatpata flavours would make the lips tingle and the mouth pucker but fell foul both on account of the ‘tap water’ and food hygiene rule. by secondary school i had worked out a way in which to eat mooli without my parents finding out. fortunately my stomach was sturdier than that of my sibling and rarely suffered setbacks. m often had an upset stomach and at times like these mama had to keep him from his favourite foods like mangoes, biryani, pulao, channa dhal and saalan chawal. she would also prepare kichari. kichari has the disposition of nursery food. it is gentle with a mere suggestion of spice. some may even call it bland but its restorative qualities are well known to the sub-continent and are echoed in other cultures that have similar rice based dishes. 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

o's favourite kedgeree and its relations with kichari

m's kedgeree
it is a well-known fact that kashmiri’s love rice. my maternal family has kashmiri heritage and it is here that i first witnessed rice being scooped up with naan. babcia often found this trait peculiar given that it involved eating two forms of carbohydrates together. years later when i married o i discovered that he has similar loves. in fact i sometimes wonder whether he is secretly a kashmiri given his love for rice, eating two or more carbohydrates together and even kashmiri tea whose dusty rose colour i love but whose thick milk skin crusted with pistachios i cannot abide. when it comes to pakistani food he loves the labour intensive biryani with a heady masala base, a simpler and judiciously spiced chicken pulao or even the gentle and nursery like kichari intended to soothe poorly constitutions. he is partial to italian risotto, spanish paella, korean bibimbap and chinese egg fried rice. it should therefore come as no surprise that he took instantly to kedgeree.