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thetravellingpot

The tongue never lies.

Easy food hacks

Admit it! We all have been there! Those days when you have no energy to cook but everything ready made tastes like cardboard. Chicken takes a lot of time to cook, eggs take some time to boil and the oven needs to be preheated for you to bake the fish.

Here are a few little small hacks that might help. In the next few posts, I have decided to put my favorite easy recipes for when I am in the phase of the dreaded cooking blues. And being someone who stays by herself, that can happen pretty often!

So! Without further ado, let me present you our first dish!

  1. My signature amazing jumbo egg-chicken-cheese sandwich.

You need:

  1. 1 egg
  2. precooked chicken slices
  3. cheese slices
  4. salt
  5. hot sauce (optional) (I use Cholula original)
  6. ketchup (optional)
  7. tomatoes sliced (optional)
  8. Corriander leaves sliced small (optional)

Crack the egg into a cup and put the cup in the microwave on high for 45 seconds. After 45 seconds, take it out, the egg should now look like this:

Microwaved-Eggs

Slowly slide your egg out onto a piece of bread. Now you can choose whichever type of bread you like, personally I use whole wheat, but if you are looking for something a little more fancy, you can use some garlic bread slices such as this:

pic5tgSrq

Doesn’t it now look beautiful? (I am actually making googly eyes here, hehe!)

On the other slice of bread, put a little mayonnaise, one slice of pre-cooked chicken slice (you can choose your flavour, there are many available), one slice of cheese and tomato slices on top (optional) sprinkle with salt and hot sauce (optional) and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds for the cheese to melt and become all gooey and like heaven melted on your bread.

And then, the rest is just a breeze! Put the two slices of bread together! Le presto! Your jumbo sandwich is ready!
images (3)

Chop! Chop! Have a happy meal!

Today you may call me Mia and Bon appetit!

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Julie & Julia

 

Today I am watching Julie and Julia, a story of two beautiful women separated by miles but united by their love for food and cooking. I do not know what the story means to any one of you reading this now, but for me, it is related to the serenity of cooking as well as the adventure of starting a new project. How do I do justice to the feelings I am feeling now? Hmm. Let me bring my scientific training here into play for a little while and divide these two into boxes. Today I will talk about the serenity of cooking 😀

  1. Serenity of cooking.

This is what Julie says in her blog “I cooked artichokes with hollandaise sauce which is melted butter that’s been whipped into a frenzy with egg yolks until it’s died and gone to heaven, and let me say this: is there anything better than butter? Think it over: every time you taste something that’s delicious beyond imagining and you say, “What is in this?”, the answer is always going to be, Butter. The day there’s a meteorite heading toward the earth and we have thirty days to live, I am going to spend it eating butter. Here’s my final words on the subject, you can never have too much, butter.”

Have you found that thing you would do if you have thirty days to live? Personally I would not eat butter all day but eating amazing Indian food for the rest of my days seems beautiful!! But what would I eat?  Biriyani or tandoor goes in the top 2 contenders for now!

Cooking for me is a form of unwinding at the end of the day. When I am cooking, it is almost like an innovation. For me, I am usually bad at following recipes to a T. I would have to innovate at some point or deviate or go off completely on a tangent. (Sinful laughter here! )

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When I am cooking I am almost as if on autopilot, my neurons and my nose do most of the work. Some people go by the taste, but I, almost always go by the smell. And my two favorite smells in the kitchen are the smell of freshly squeezed lemon juice (Oh my!) and the smell of fresh coriander leaves!!

growing-cilantro

Coriander! That magic herb which lights up my kitchen! And a third close contender is small sliced up chillies just sizzling on a dab of butter or ghee on a pan! Oh! I could die and go to heaven!

And that reminds me, Do tell me what your favorite herb is!

Let me leave you with this conversation between Paul and Julia, the defining moment she realizes what she would do for the rest of her life!

Paul Child: What is it you REALLY like to do?

Julia Child: Eat!

As not to be left behind, today, you may call me Mori and Bon appetit!

What does your cooking type say about you?

I recently read Banana Yoshimoto’s “Kitchen”. This riveting paper back started with a very simple declaration by the author:

“The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it’s a kitchen, if it’s a place where they make food, it’s fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. White tile catching the light (ting! ting!).I love even incredibly dirty kitchens to distraction — vegetable droppings all over the floor, so dirty your slippers turn black on the bottom. Strangely, it’s better if this kind of kitchen is large. I lean up against the silver door of a towering, giant refrigerator stocked with enough food to get through a winter.”

Believe me, having spent a winter in Canada in -30 degrees Celsius where food was the only thing getting in the way of me and my hibernation, I could see the wisdom in the last line above. Now, being a food lover myself, it got me thinking about kitchens I have loved and the reason why I cooked. Why I made up concept food in my mind. Why I never tasted the food when I cooked. Why I loved to surprise people with a delicious meal, something new but something simple and why I just started a food blog.

From the time I was four, I remember sitting down with my grandmother and learning to make Rotis (they are the equivalent of tortillas only made of wheat). Learning to appreciate the softness of the dough we started with and the thickness and roundness of the roti being rolled out. Rotis were followed by learning how to make pithas (the traditional sweet meats we made at each festival). Eating them raw, eating them fried and cooked, I made sure I tasted them all. When my grandparents moved to the States and my Dad got transferred back to where we lived, I loved my Dad’s cooking. Sometimes, when it was almost bedtime and he was in a hurry to concoct something, he just mixed stuff together life a witches broth and it turned out to be the tastiest thing we had ever eaten. But when I needed something satisfying as well as filling but that would make me feel light, I turned to my mothers cooking: it was the simplest of them all and the best to eat on a hot summer afternoon.

soupThis made me realize a very important fact, just like our handwriting reflects our character and personality, the way we cook and eat reflect a lot about our personality.

My mother’s cooking which was simple but very satisfyingly made, enhancing the natural flavors of the raw material, always reflected her family’s values: simple living and high thinking, it never makes you dissatisfied or feel overfull. My father’s cooking on the other hand, rich in spices and tastes reflected his enjoyment of a luxurious life which indulges in the arts and culture, which appreciates the many colors of life. My grandmother’s cooking on the other hand, bordered a lot on snacks and sweet-meats which can be distributed around and which catered to the taste of people. It showed her open heart, she always loved to feed people!

Cooking, thus, I concluded, is another method to discover who you are and discover how you want to change yourself. Is it possible to change your lifestyle by changing what you eat and how you cook? I certainly believe so. Where and how you learnt cooking and what spices you assimilate in your life plays as much a role in shaping your thoughts and your future as that million dollar deal you might just close.

This reminded me of another book I recently read, “Mistress of Spices” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. She talks about spices:

“Fenugreek, Tuesday’s spice, when the air is green like mosses after rain.” 

Or

“For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.”

spices

Traditionally cooking used to be the women’s domain and looking back, I can’t help but reflect upon how unfortunate it was that half the population was deprived of the joy of cooking. As stereotypes get broken and lifestyles change, we are seeing more and more men get into the holy art of cooking.

But when I reflected upon what cooking is for me, I asked myself how I liked to cook and what I liked to eat. I love cooking and eating soups. Not the thick soups that we find in some parts of the world which are very filling. But the light and water-based soups we find in most Asian countries. Hot and sour soup, lemon-corriander soup, potato-onion soup, clear-chicken soup, corn soup…. And why do I like it? It makes me enjoy the subtle flavors slowly and lightly without overwhelming me in any one particular taste too much. These soups that also come with mysterious flavors from spices and herbs which are added in microscopic quantities, make you wait for a particular flavor for your tongue to discover. A hint there and a whiff here, you are hooked!

Hmm.. I wonder what does that say about me?

cooking1

Share with us about your cooking type and what you think it says about you!

Bohemian

This day started like any other. I had been to Bohemian once before and had sampled the artfully unconventional dishes by Chef Joy. This time though it was to celebrate the coming home of some of our dearest friends, Sayan Da and Esha Di and Esha Di’s birthday.

The design had changed a bit, the artwork had moved and the chairs resettled but I love redecoration and so i was thrilled. The photo wall was a treat to the eyes and the awesome menu with a personal welcome note by Chef Joy describing his journey and his passion added that extra intellectual zing and some motivation to follow your dreams. So, me and monu and Goru settled down for the treat by the delightful couple and we decided on our dishes. Oh my gosh! We couldn’t even have imagined a better taste even in our most sinful dreams.

We started with a starter which sounded promising: Daab Chingri dynamites!

Daab Chingri Dynamites
Daab Chingri Dynamites

They came in a beautifully arranged long plate, these perfect little mouthfuls of the most delicious Daab Chingri preparation ever. One mouthful of the tastiest herbs added to the perfect spices and it was gone and that one mouthful is enough to get you craving for more! We divided up the rest two spoons among us ruefully!

The second starter if possible was even more amazing. Stir Fried Mutton with Mustard and Coriander, it was like nothing i had ever tasted before. The consistency is like minced mutton, but the mix of continental and bengali cuisine, with Chef Joy’s secret ingredient made every morsel amazingly tasty and satisfying. The more we tasted, the more flavors we discovered. We savored each little flavor which came with another swirl of the tongue and our taste buds were rolling up with pleasure.

The main course now and my personal favorite was this : Pabda rolls stewed in Cherry tomato and Spinach broth. I have only one thing to say about this amazing curry dish. U must try it! Pair it with rice and a side dish of Prawns steamed with Yogurt and Gandhoraj

Pabda rolls
Pabda rolls

for a whole-some meal.

What meal is complete without desert and the desert menu at Bohemian had quite a number of Bohemian sounding items for our wandering hearts to warm up to:

Coffee and cigar mousse!

Coffee and cigar mousse
Coffee and cigar mousse

And the name does not bring false promises for you can taste the cigary taste in your mouth along with the coffee. It does take a bite or two to get used to, but the mousse is so airy and the cigar so subtle, it melts in your mouth with the most delicious blend of coffee and cigar ever, you will definitely acquire the taste and then never get enough of it!

Caramel Custard with Crispy fried milk!

caramel custard with crispy fried milk
caramel custard with crispy fried milk

This yellow custard mountain had a special tangy surprise for our palates! It was caramel custard as we know it with a twist! More points to Chef Joy for innovation of course! We sampled each spoonful paired well with those little milk crisps surrounding the custard making it a treat for the eyes too.

Now before you go, one more thing, do check out the graffiti in the washroom, it will strike right to your souls, oh artistic ones! And i leave you with the picture of the hanging picture wall from Bohemian to feast your eyes on!

Hanging Picture Wall
Hanging Picture Wall

Santa’s Fantasia

Kolkata, the land where food is worshiped, mixed, tasted, devoured and conceptualized brought me to this Tribal food restaurant in this small little gali in a side road not much trodden upon. Golpark. The steps were heavy with anticipation as we entered the inconspicuous restaurant with two rooms, one themed “seafood” and the other themed “Tribes”. I was especially happy seeing Odia tribal delights at this restaurant. No-where else have I encountered Odia food ever! Of-course the expectations are high when you see the top drink in the menu as something you have grown up with. My recommendation? Go for it! A favorite of the Odias, this drink known as Tanka torani, made from leftover water from water-rice or Pakhala, completely hit the bull’s eye. Just the right amount of salt and spices made this an awesome summer special. It is tasty and cools the stomach as well. My recommendations in the menu would be Bansa-poda

Tanka Torani served in special bamboo glasses.
Tanka Torani served in special bamboo glasses.
Ngatok: Fish cakes from Nagaland
Ngatok: Fish cakes from Nagaland
Bansa-Poda mansa with special mutton-rice
Bansa-Poda mansa with special mutton-rice

mansa (Bamboo-burnt-meat), another Odia tribal specialty which was lip-smacking. The mutton had a hint of the bamboo as well as a slightly smoky taste alluding to the clay oven. It was not even a little gritty! This amazing dish perfect by itself when paired with their special mutton-rice makes a hungry stomach go “ummmmm”. Also, do try their fish cake from Nagaland known as “Ngatok”. You will find the pictures here.

Nana’s Kitchen

My stomach and taste buds were screaming with happiness after their very satisfying and finger-licking good “Chicken-Kasa and Rice”, an Indian specialty by my Dad (nana). Actually, chicken-kasa is one of the very famous North Indian specialties but nowhere, no-restaurant or secret recipe trumps the chicken kasa from Nana’s kitchen from my very own home. Its a family tradition for us to magically materialize after Nana has finished “kasing” the chicken and then lick the plates clean with a divine-like reverence. And this is followed by my Dad turning the rest of the Kasa into finger-licking good chicken curry with a lot of gravy to be had with rice.

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