Finally, cooking Indian for TV: Chana Dal Masala

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

I have a morning ritual of sorts that I like to follow, which include setting out a fresh pot of coffee to brew, catching up with my emails, and enjoying breakfast while reading through my favourite blogs. This little routine of mine almost always never changes. Except when something (delightfully!) unexpected happens. Like on Monday morning, for instance.

As I sipped on my last few drops of coffee, I received an email that instantly caught my eye. The subject simply said: The Mom Show, and its contents blew me away. I was asked if I would be available to do a cooking segment on Indian food for one of their upcoming episodes. They wanted me to show a few simple, kid-friendly recipes and discuss the best ways to introduce young kids to Indian food. Sweet! The catch? It would have to be taped the very next day in the afternoon. What could I say? Me, on TV, on The Mom Show, talking about Indian food? You bet I was available! Once things started to take shape (picking out the menu was a breeze!), and the timing and all other necessities confirmed, I set out to take care of another important task – my wardrobe! What followed, was a really looooong day of running from store to store looking for the perfect outfit, which might I had, didn’t quite exist as I had hoped! But whatever, I had a look at the clips after the shoot and think I looked pretty cute yapping away on the best ways to introduce kids to Indian food.

The taping took merely half an hour, but I was at the studio close to over three hours – prepping the food, and watching the taping of other segments being filmed. Needless to say, it was another long day but one I will never forget! By the time I got home, I was exhausted and the strain of the many hours spent shopping, prepping and finally shooting, made me crave for some homemade comfort food. And Dal-Chawal (lentils and rice) was what it just had to be for me! Trust me when I say this – no matter how tired you may be, the mere 10 minutes you’ll spend in prepping for this meal is truly worth it all the way. But why wait for the dreaded day when you feel that even lifting a finger could drive you to your grave? It tastes just as good when you’re your normal happy, active self. I can truly promise you that!
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To market, to market: Tamarind Fish

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

You know how sometimes, no matter what you do, you get the feeling as if your life is running on repeat mode? Day in and day out, things seem to take on a ridiculously standard routine – you read similar topics in the paper every morning, you watch reruns of the same TV show each day, you drive to same store to shop for the same produce each time, and the worst of all, you eat the same thing for your meals every other day! For the past couple of days, this has been exactly the feeling I find myself going through. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed like my meals were boringly repetitive. The inspiration had disappeared to a remote corner of my creative mind somewhere, and all attempts to revive it had been failing tremendously. That is until Hubby Dear (the sweet caring soul that he is!) decided to whisk me away on a foodie adventure.

We drove down a short distance to the nearby town of Hamilton to visit one of its indoor farmer markets. The ride there was surely scenic, but what took my breath away was the array of fresh, vibrant vegetables! Being the ardent carnivore that I usually am, it was almost surreal to feel my excitement at the sight of rich green broccoli. And I don’t even eat broccoli, no matter how delicious it may look! I was smitten, to say the very least, and within a couple of minutes found myself buzzing around from vendor to vendor picking up a colourful assortment of plump, juicy, fresh produce. Eggplants of different colours, tomatoes of various shapes and sizes, robust bunches of radiant greens, bread, fruits and spices – you name it and I bought it. Bagfuls of it. But the highlight of my shopping would have to be the huge bunch of baby Bok Choy that I picked up for a ridiculously nominal price of a couple of cents. Yes, cents!

Once the veggies were washed, prepped and duly packed in the fridge, I couldn’t wait to plan my week’s menu. Inspiration came flooding back and my mind whizzed with fantastic new recipes waiting to be created and played with. Although I mentally created new flavour combos for all the veggies I had in store, I knew exactly how I wanted to savour the Bok Choy. I went with my classic favourite – simple, quick and satisfying. But I had to pair it up with something that could lift its humble spirit to new heights, and this is what I came up with.
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Inspired by Serving Crazy with Curry: Baingan Patiala

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

Talk about being fashionably late, that too, to your very own event! Would it make it easier for you all to forgive me if I said I was busy celebrating my B’day (which just happened to be yesterday, yet the celebrations began 2 weeks in advance thanks to the ever wonderful Hubby Dear!)? I know, excuses, excuses! But still, I’m here now – with a killer recipe in tow!

I first spotted this book at the airport en route to Delhi many moons ago. The title caught my eye and I made a mental note to pick it up on my way back. Pick it up I did, but somehow never got around to reading it. That is of course until I announced it as the month’s pick for the Cook’s Book Club event. Although I thought it was well written, I was sorry to note that I didn’t quite enjoy it much. The story line started out with a bang, but kind of got a bit predictable for me. Nonetheless, I fell absolutely in love with the colourful characters! Set in an American Indian household, the book touches upon the troubled relationships within a family. And in the midst of it all, there is of course, food. After devastating events take place in her life, Devi, the story’s main character, goes into a trance and begins cooking. She cooks when she’s angry, she cooks when she’s sad, and she cooks when she’s happy. In short, her cooking was her way of communicating how she felt.

While I wouldn’t say I’m as dramatic as Devi when it comes to expressing my feelings, I can’t deny the fact that my cooking has many a time reflected my moods. Like the time I baked four large pizzas because I was feeling artistic and wanted to create a masterpiece, literally! Or when I bake a lusciously rich chocolate cake to give myself a pat on the back. Or even the time when I cooked an extravagant 5-course meal to thank Hubby Dear for a wonderful Valentine gift.

When I look back, I always seem to remember food as something that brought our family together. Whenever we were happy or had any big news to share, food would most definitely become the center of our attention. I remember most of our birthday celebrations not by the gifts we received, but by the feast my Mom made for us. Trips home from college during the summer were often preceded by many telephone calls of planning out the menu for the day I arrived. Most of our weekends were spent entertaining friends and family. I fondly remember my Mom working her way through a lavish meal irrespective of how many guests we were expecting. She would always say that it’s better to have food left over than let your guests leave feeling unfull. It should be noted that unless you eat till you almost drop, my Mom thinks you haven’t yet had enough. And so, it is from her that I have inherited this need to cook for my loved ones, and feed them till I know they can’t be fed anymore.

Take for instance this lovely dish of eggplant. I remembered eating something like it a few years ago at a friend’s home. A bunch of us were getting together for a game night and she made an elaborate meal to kick off the evening. Then, a couple of days ago, we invited a few close friends over for an evening of cards. As I was halfway into the book and still immersed in Devi’s character, I wanted to make a meal reminiscent of game night. That’s how this recipe came into being.
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