A few weeks ago, I was hopping from bookstore to bookstore in search of a book called The Number Mysteries. A friend of mine had chanced upon the book, written by Marcus du Sautoy (famous Brit mathematician and a professor at Oxford), somewhere and wanted to buy a copy of the same for his son. The book was out of stock at all the bookshops i tried.
Mission forgotten, I was zooming down Sterling Road one hot afternoon on my FIL’s faithful 10-year-old Kinetic scooter (it is another matter and probably material for another blog post that my reckless driving sent it to two-wheeler heaven last week) when I went past the Oxford bookstore. I suddenly remembered the still-mysterious book, made a quick, dangerous u-turn on the one-way road and got into the bookshop.
Bad luck here too – “The book’s out of stock ma’am. Why don’t you leave your phone number and we’ll give you a call once we get the book?” Tired, I went up to the coffee shop nestled on the first floor of the shop. It so happened that I found myself taking a table next to the shelf stocked with cookery books and spent the next hour and a half sipping cold coffee, poring over every book there. Two books caught my attention, one on Oriya cooking and the other on cookery tips. While the first one had too many non-vegetarian dishes for me to ignore, the latter was full of tips more suitable for western kitchens.
Desperate to buy something, i picked up The Greatest Cookery Tips in the World by Peter Osborne. It turned out to be a good decision. I carry the book in my bag and read it on the go. The best part is you can simply pick it up and open any page to read out tips one after the other. No need for bookmarks!
Like I said before, it has tips more suited to the western style of cooking, but there are gems tucked away here and there. It acts as a handy reference guide for international weight conversions, oven temperatures, spoon measures across ingredients with different grain sizes and textures and has a whole lot of useful tips if you cook with half-processed western food and equipment.
There are also many easy solutions for small kitchen distasters and simple grandma-style tips. Here are some of the interesting ones:
– To measure honey and syrups easily, use a metal spoon that has been dipped in hot water. Honey and syrups will not stick to the heated spoon
– If you’ve over-salted vegetables, drop a peeled, cut potato into the water and simmer till potato is soft. It should have absorbed a lot of the salt. Over-saltiness can also be disguised by adding tomatoes or yoghurt if it is suitable for your dish
– Citrus fruits yield more juice if stored at room temperature. If stored in the refrigerator, you could microwave them for a few seconds before sqeezing to increase the amount of juice produced
– Now this one’s not unknown, but a lot of us don’t really bother to do it each time: Before resealing a bottle of sticky food/liquid, wipe the rim and the lid with a paper napkin dampened with a little water to prevent the lid from getting sticky
-To stop a chopping board or bowl from moving on the kitchen counter during use, place a damp kitchen towel underneath
Self-raising flour – add 2.5 tsp (1 tsp = 5 ml) of baking powder to 225 gm of plain flour
Icing sugar – add 1 measure of cornflour to 9 measures of powdered sugar
Sour cream – add 1 tsp of lemon juice to 150 ml single cream. Stir well and leave to thicken for 30 mins
There are a couple of more interesting ones that I have taken pictures of. There are there in the slideshow.
And now for a recipe. While I had no empty vegetable basket to complain of this morning, I could not think of anything interesting to cook. I usually opt for mix vegetable curries on Monday mornings to start the week on a colourful note. But the prospect of yet another beans-carrot-potato-capsicum curry did not really bring any cheer to my dull Monday morning.
Tarla Dalal came to my rescue once more (I’d prepared a fancy-sounding but simple dish from her book yesterday too). I flipped through the old book graciously loaned by my friend Viji and stopped at a page titled Vegetable do Pyaza. I remember this dish from many restaurant outings with my family in Delhi. Do Pyaza simply means doubling the quantity of onions compared to regular dishes.
The nostalgia effect so produced ensured my settling down to prepare this one. So, here it is.
Subz do Pyaza
(Quantities mentioned here serve 4. I usually mention quantities for 2, but I was expecting a couple of friends over for lunch and I thought I might get one dish out of the way right in the morning)
1 cup each of diced cauliflower (i didn’t have any, so used some potatoes instead), carrots, french beans, tomatoes, peas
1 onion – sliced
2 tbsp of cream (i left this out too)
1 tbsp ghee (i actually used oil)
To be ground into a paste:
Red chillies – 3
Coriander seeds – 2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Ginger – 1/4 inch piece
garlic – 2 cloves (i left this out)
Onion – 1
Heat ghee and add sliced onions. Saute till they turn translucent
Add ground paste and cook for a few minutes
Add vegetables and a cup of water. Cook till they’re tender
(I had yellow and red capsicums on hand and couldn’t resist adding a cup each!)
Add salt and cream (if using)
Mix well and serve
Although it is a simple enough dish, grinding some of the ingredients makes it a little out of the ordinary. The addition of the capsicum, I felt, was a good decision as the resultant curry was bursting with flavour.