Wednesday 11 December 2013

Waiter there is too much Acidity in my Soup!!

Cookery shows on television have always interested me. Though I don't cook much, the shows do provide some amount of entertainment and a lot better than watching reality shows or the MiL-DiL battles. Till a few years back, the cookery shows were mostly studio based. There would be a host with a guest who would display her cooking skills or rather how she cooked a particular item. It would mostly be a low cost operation with a long shot of the guest and a close up of the food. Presentation was secondary. The host would keep jabbering in the background with no clue whatsoever as to what was being made. Soon the host got replaced by a starlet to increase viewership and so did the guest. The western versions were a little better. The host did the cooking and knew his stuff...well most of the times. There were no competitions or contests. Floyd was my favourite.

As time went by, there came a new show from down under which had a set of people, amateur chefs, competing amongst themselves to be the master of all chefs. It was a very interesting concept as the competitors went through various rounds with theme based dishes and getting eliminated as one moved to the next round. What made it interesting was the presentation of the show and the fact that the judges were accomplished chefs, owners of restaurants and food critics who not only knew their pots and pans but also the difference between sauté and satay. There would also be guest chefs who would bring in their creations and the competitors had to recreate them.

What the show did was add glamour to a socially unacceptable profession in this part of the world and transformed a person from a cook to a chef. What it also did was introduce the viewer to the entire process, technique and time that went into creation of dishes that takes us a very little time to devour. That a dish needs technique in its preparation and has various components was something I may say was unknown or rather unsaid to a layman. To most of us cooking does not entail much. You take a main ingredient, be it a veggie or meat, chop it or dice it, add oil, masala, water, bring it to a boil and it's done. If you want a curry just add more water. It's always the masala that added taste and that the taste of the main ingredient has to savored as well is simply unknown. The meat or fish is invariably overcooked beyond recognition and to repeat myself, masala is king.

Anyway coming back to our program, after watching several seasons, I have begun to look at my regular food in a new way. There are new terms added to my food/cooking vocabulary. Just collecting all the ingredients is now "mise en place".

My regular aloo subji is now made with the best potatoes from Punjab or wherever boiled to the right consistency without getting mushy. Lightly sautéed in oil with some cumin, turmeric, curry leaves and some green chilies to add "heat". Have it with Indian flat bread with some lime pickle for a very fulfilling meal followed by a yoghurt smoothie.

One also has to cook in a manner as to retain the original flavours of the main ingredient or the "hero" of the dish. That poses a great danger to those who anyway hate their Eggplants, Okra, and bitter gourd.

The other day my father declared that his raspberry sorbet had too much "acidity". Acidity is a term one normally associates with the stomach arising from eating too much or too little, symptoms being nauseous belches and a burning sensation. I have also been enlightened by a toothpaste advertisement that acidity is also caused in the mouth when going through the motions of eating. Anyway, what would normally have been called as sour is now acidity. One also needs to know how to "balance" this acidity with any sweetness of a dish.

Caramalization is another term that I used to associate with the burning of sugar. Now anything that is being browned is being caramelized including onions. If you want to have "protein" in your meal, a multi vitamin pill is not sufficient and meat is the answer.

My grandmother who was born and raised in Gujarat would love to add some Lasan Sev or leelo chivdo to her veggies. I have also followed her footsteps and do it whenever the opportunity offers. Now I realize that such sprinklings add some "crunch" to otherwise mushy and tasteless vegetables.

Ice cream is no longer made at home by freezing some sweet flavoured milk. You can have some made instantly with liquid nitrogen. You can also have some "rocket" in your food, a term I am still looking for the local equivalent. Edible flowers is the other thing though using rose petals in the form of Gulkand is an age old thing. The humble raw mango/amla Murrabba is a "preserve" or is that a "reduction". If you feel you have to bite into your Pasta, remember if still hard it is not uncooked but "al dente" and that's how it is eaten.

And not to worry if your Undhiyo is not what it is supposed to be. It can always be your "take" on the traditional one. Even if you don't assemble all the "components" and present them individually, you are being innovative with a "deconstructed" one.
I have also been made aware that testicles, tongue, trotters and brain are beautiful and need to be cooked with love and care. This will surely help those with low appetites. Bon Appétit .


  1. `Rocket' is also known as Arugula. You can get it at many places. Godrej Natures basket carries this. Trikaya agriculture grows this and places which stock Trikaya products should have this. You get it at Crawford Market. You get it at Sunil Bhajiwalla at Pali market. Now get out and buy it. No excuses.