20 February 2009
Pic = Jhoomur Bose
Have I ever told you -- am assuming some people are here from my other blog Eve Emancipation -- that I don't like cooking for myself? However, when it comes to feeding people, I can do it any time. It's a little surprising since of the three major cooking influences in my life, two do it (cooking) because they have to.
While growing up, I have completely loved the food that my Ma and my Nani (maternal grandma) have cooked. Both make different things -- Nani is more traditional, Ma is an expert in Chinese -- and both have very different cooking styles. Both these ladies cooked to feed their families and Ma has been known to declare that she quite hates cooking.
Ma's problem was having to think up of WHAT to cook on a daily basis. I guess it can get tedious when you have two growing kids, a husband who does not help in the kitchen and yet insists on a five course meal. And of course, home-delivery wasn't such a big thing then. However, despite her lack of enthusiasm, Ma was a true-blue Army wife from the older generation. She made Papa happy with her food and she could cook up some exotic things when they had brigade commanders and GOC (General Officer Commanding) coming over for dinner at our house.
However, the one person who has made the most impression on me -- both food-wise and as a person -- is my mother's aunt. We call her 'Pimmi'. That is not her name and in fact I don't even know her real name, but in the true tradition of Bengali nicknames, she is Pimmi to everyone. She was Pimmi to Ma, to me and I daresay those who will come after us. There was always a great level of enthusiasm whenever we went visiting her and family on Sundays. Pimmi made the MOST awesome mangshor jhol (mutton curry)... perfectly succulent meat, with big, chunky potatoes and really spicy! The highlight for me though was being hand-fed. My brother was too small and little shit never got to taste that, hah.
So either Pimmi or her daughter Pinkidiwould make me sit on the table and would make huge balls of the rice-mixed-with-curry and feed me. It was sheer, sheer bliss. I can still smell the mangsho. As I grew up, I took to standing in her kitchen, plate in hand, waiting to be the first one to eat. The last that I visited them in 2003 -- I was 24 -- and Pinkidi fed me again. There was so much love that went into the cooking and then the obvious pleasure in feeding others... I will never forget that. When I cook, I try to be the same.
I guess offering to feed people by hand will startle most -- especially here in Australia, they'd insist on gloves -- so I stick to pouring my heart out in my food. Most people who've had my food have liked it. I am grateful to my friends who came home because "Jhoomur is cooking." In my single days, I fed bands of boys. (smiles) They kept me sane.
The recipes I will share here will be tried and tested. Most will be Indian food and from recipes I've gleaned from my mother and others. There will also be recipes from world cuisine as well and from books and websites. Those will be duly credited. Some will have stories to go with them, others strictly recipes. We shall see as we grow along. So here we go...
Before I start posting any recipes, there are a few things you will need to cook food, JB-style. Some I know the Hindi names for, others I don't. Please feel free to correct or add. As long as you have a basic wok/ kadhai (with a lid) and a saucepan with a lid, we shall be fine. However, these are the ingredients I simply cannot cook without:
Cumin seeds: jeera
Coriander seeds: dhania
Mustard seeds: sarson
Fenugreek seeds: methi
Black cardamom: badi ilaichi
Black peppercorns: kali mirch
Bay leaves: tej patta
Dried, red chili: sabut lal mirch
Cinnamon stick: dal chini
Poppy seeds: khus-khus
Cumin ground/ powder
Coriander ground/ powder
Garam masala: mixed spices, available as ‘garam masala’ in stores
Red chilli powder
Turmeric ground/ powder
Black pepper ground
Salt: let’s not forget that!
Notes and other important things:
1. Have a standard teaspoon and tablespoon ready
2. Wooden spoon/ spatula for cooking in non-stick ware
3. Dish-cloths (4), one for wiping your cooking bench, one only for wiping your hand, one for wiping spoon(s) and another for drying dishes
4. Chopping board, whether plastic or wood, you need one
5. Knives, one for your veges and one only for meats; I have more for specific purposes; we shall add along as we cook
6. Plastic bags to throw in peels and other refuse
7. Dustpan and small broom; I am very messy and find it handy to have these ready when I manage to spill stuff (which is regularly)
8. Someone to do the cleaning up after you. Bwahahaha, kidding! But if you can, it's smart to have an arrangement where you cook and someone else cleans. (evil grin)