Category: Food

Stew Your Way

Having reached home late in the evening, sometimes it becomes difficult to decide on the “what to cook” part. When things don’t go as planned, we search for alternatives. But without agreeing to “order food” from outside, we may find the solutions at home itself.

There is no dearth of options when it comes to making sandwiches. Yes, just to be on the safer side, ensure that the fridge is stored with at least the basic vegetables. If eggs are there we stay worry free.

At one such time, I discovered that a vegetarian ‘stew’ can be a great option. A few potatoes and onions sautéed in oil are cooked in coconut milk with nothing but ginger cut to julianne, green chilies, salt and a sprinkle of pepper to taste. A tadka (incidentally ‘tempering’ is the suggested translation of the Hindi word) of mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves makes it perfect.

Since, I don’t have the habit of stocking coconut milk or coconut milk powder; my vegetables are cooked in water, and mixed with plain milk. The well mashed potatoes make the gravy thick and I find bread or buns to accompany it.

A pressure cooker does the job well. Microwaves also help to quicken the process.

In fact, stew is one of the most relished dishes in Kerala. Often, it is served as a side dish along with delicious aapams (made from a fermented batter of rice and coconut). An assortment of vegetables and garam masala (Indian spices) is a variation. An addition of poultry or meat to the onions and potatoes with masalas (Indian spices) and other condiments is yet another variety within the stew.

Interestingly, stew has a universal appeal. The method, preparation time and ingredients vary but, stew is a rather fulfilling accomplishment world over. And it has been regarded as “”comfort” foods, everyday dishes served to family or close friends in an intimate setting.”

What more can one ask for if a simple stew, cooked in less than 15 minutes and served hot in the comfort of the home. I relax to enjoy the complete meal.

French Fries, Irresistible !

French fries, the irresistible slices, have become a staple in our weekend diet.  Ignoring the calorie counts and the intake of starch, we blink away when holding a plate full of fries.

It is even more fun to watch a child when s/he is offered French fries. They pick them and observe them, before taking small bites. At times, they place a potato fry next to another to measure its height.

Technically speaking, the “French fries are batons of deep fried potatoes.” Here, the potatoes are  cut uniformly into long, but not too thin strips and is seasoned with salt.

My curiosity as to “why it is called French fries” took me on a reading trip down the history lanes. However, the claim on “who introduced the fries” is drawn in people and places, especially Belgium.

Well, to us, the French fries were introduced by a McDonald’s take away. They were “golden on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside”; just as the company has been advertising. Undoubtedly, they have popularised French fries world over.

With the growing number of packed food, frozen French fries come  handy. Nevertheless,  with a little time consuming peeling, cleaning and chopping, the fries can be made at home too. To avoid excess calories, pan frying is recommended.

Agreed, the home-made fries may not be as French as the branded fries. Yet, the wonder in the eyes of the children at having them home-made makes the mothers happy.

Cornering Corn

We ambled along the shore enjoying the music that played from an unknown corner, on a Sunday evening. People had thronged from near and far. The food stalls, ice-cream carts, fancy balloons and colourful toys were welcoming the strangers enthusiastically. Not to forget the nariyal paani (coconut water) and the bhutta (roasted corn).

A typical scene. Beaches around Mumbai have a familiar pattern. Interestingly, the beaches in India  seem to be picking up similar patterns. Yet, bhutta-wallahs (roasted corn vendors) in Mumbai have an exceptional flavour, probably it is their unique selling point.

They roast the corn on smouldering coal. Once the kernels change colour to a deeper shade with scatters of burnt black here and there, the bhutta-wallah removes it from the coal.  With a wedge of lemon, s/he smears the masalas, chili powder and salt to taste, as per our requirement.

A bite into the roasted corn stirs the palate with an array of flavours, and surprisingly the kernels are fresh and juicy. It is a wonder that, in spite of going through a process of fire and burns, the corn oozes the freshness as if it were untouched!

We continued our walk along the beach relaxing to the Nature’s treat and savouring the delicious corn. Somewhere, deep down, my heart was thanking the unknown person who had stumbled upon the recipe of a perfect bhutta.