Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Soon, I shall host 'Khana Khazana' !!

subtitle: My tryst with cooking ...

The most important thing that you would do when you start living abroad is cook yourself. No, its not due to the scarcity of eating places, but rather because even the Indian cuisine places are not 'indian' enough (meaning spicy) and the amount you would spend for a dinner outside would buy you food for the whole week if you cook it yourself. Anyways, now let us get on with my story which I am itching to tell :D.

So on 29th, when I reached the city, I was given this room to stay temporarily until the room which I have been allocated gets ready. The whole structure of the postgraduate accommodation in this particular hall of residence (euphemism for hostel?) is in the form of apartment blocks. Each flat in such a building would have 7 bedrooms and a kitchen shared by the 7 residents of that flat. And my flat currently has only one resident- me! (since this is vacation time)

1. The first 2 days I was too busy with other things to even explore the kitchen. On the third day, I find that the kitchen is pretty good. It has a fridge, freezer, microwave, 4-electric stove, oven, griller along with shelves, dining table chairs etc. I look in the shelf belonging to me and lo behold I find three unopened packets of chinese noodles waiting to be cooked. I then look in the other shelves and find nothing. So, I thank the previous chinese resident, take out a bowl from my suitcase, bring some water to boil on it and put it in the noodles. Thats when I realise that there is no kind of masala/seasoning inside the pack. I cant eat just plain noodles! Looking deeper in that treasure-shelf I find some packet with all chinese characters. I open to find some kind of sauce, pray that it is the seasoning sauce and put some of it in the noodles that are almost ready. After the noodles are cooked, I still keep the stove going to evaporate all the excess water (there is no way I could drain the noodles otherwise) and finally sit down to it.
Yeah, it sucked. I finish it somehow and then shift all those chinese packets to some other shelf. Let someone else have the same joy >:). So, the first meal that an Indian prepares in UK is Chinese. Talk of globalisation :D

2. Two more days snail by and I decide to visit the supermarket everyone had been suggesting. I go and buy some juice, flavoured yoghurt, bread loaf and butter and something called 'fruit malt loaf'. Once I came back to the flat and started placing the stuff in the fridge that I realised my follies. Why did I buy breadloaf instead of bread which is sliced? Its quite hard to slice a loaf with an amateurish knife especially if you are an amateur at it yourself! The other bread loaf which I bought hoping it to be some nice decent fruit bread was totally inedible with its sticky nature and strong smell. Anyways, I makee some weird looking slices of the normal loaf and then try to put some butter on the slice. Thats when I realise that it is not India and it would take a whole day for the butter to melt. So I switch on the stove and put a slice over it and try to heat it a little. It works though some bread particles remain adamantly stuck to the stove and I have no means of getting them off. I have a sumptuous dinner on my few pennies worth bread-butter and get down to cleaning the plate. How can you rid the plate of butter when the only cleaning materials available are your hand, knife and plain water? Somehow I manage. All the experience in IIIT of cleaning the dishes after the maggi sessions comes in handy.

3. Now starts the glorious climax to the story. After another 2 days, on the 7th day of my stay, I finally decide to get going. The impending change of rooms had stopped me from buying any of the required stuff but I finally decided to get all I want (though I would need to make an extra trip carrying this stuff while changing my room). So first of all, I go to some appliances shop and get myself a dinner plate and 2 bowls .. all microwave compatible. Then I visit this shop specialising in southasian stuff (managed by a pakisthani I think) and buy rice, dal, oil and salt. The shop isnt so good but the girl at the counter (daughter of the owner) is too pretty and worth another visit. Then I go to that supermarket I had visited earlier and get a mixed vegetables packet. It is basically diced carrots beans peas and corn, which are little boiled and then frozen. I come back to my dear kitchen set up all my utensils, take out all the masalas from the suitcase and get ready to cook. Thats when I realise I have no means of cleaning the dishes after everything is done! So I rush out to find a supermarket nearby. Just then a couple enter the flat. An Indian origin girl and her british boyfriend (I presume). They have been given the room opposite mine temporarily they say. I wonder, here I am all set to experiment alone and now I will have company? However they are soon inform that they need to go to the block nearby and they vacate the flat immediately. So the whole flat is mine all over again. I go out find this supermarket and guess what? Its managed by gujaratis. They talk in hindi, show me all the shop and vehemently suggest that I should buy all my stuff from here only. (I wont, this one's near but lot costlier). I buy some dish-cleaning liquid and go back to the kitchen and am all set to cook.

3a. I immerse some dal in a bowl with water and wait for it to soak the water. Meanwhile I place a kadai/wok on the stove, put some oil and tadka/popu in it and wait for it to heat. Then, once it starts getting noisy, I put in a little water and some vegetable pieces from the packet. Then some salt, chilli powder, masala, stir lightly, cover it with a plate leaving a little gap for the steam to escape. Meanwhile I wash the rice and put some water in the cooker. The mixed veg curry is now almost ready. I know that generally, the ratio of rice-grains:water is 1:2. However in this case, it was basmati rice and they generally become very sticky when cooked unlike the normal rice. So I hazard just equal amounts of rice and water in a bowl, cover it with the dal bowl, put them inside the cooker which is on the stove and put the stove on the highest level. The curry is cooked, smells great and has been put aside for the time being. I put the weight on when the steam starts spouting out and get back to my novel and wait for the cooker to whistle. Which it doesnt! I check it to find some steam coming out through somewhere. Now, all the time I spent in kitchens in the past 20 yrs watching mom cook comes in handy. I gently tug at the weight, readjust the lid and lo..behold the steam builds up and the cooker whistles. The exhaust fan has to be switched on at this minute otherwies the whole kitchen would be steamy. After 2 whistles, the stove is put to a minimum and I wait once again. I conclude that cooking makes us 'hot' (literally atleast). After the third whistle, I switch off the stove and once again get back to the book. After a few more minutes, with the cooker having cooled, I open it, get the bowls out using a napkin (no tongs you see), mix some salt in the dal and its ready to serve!

3b. Yeah, so I serve myself. It tasted great (dont know whether its because I was too hungry with all the cooking or whether it actually tasted great or whether its the first actual andhra food that I have eaten since a week). After gobbling it all up, I set to wash the dishes. This time its much easier with a sponge and cleaning liquid. Everything cleaned and set to dry, I return to my room with a full and happy stomach for much needed sleep :).

Cooking has come by instinct to me and not through any deep thinking. So, I guess I am a natural and soon should be able to overtake the likes of those cooks who host those boring cookery shows :D.


kunal said...

at first glance I thought some cooking blog had subscribed itself to my bloglines account ;)

you do sound like an accomplished cook ... should I wait for your show? :P

Sreejith said...

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. btw add an extra helping.. u'll need the extra fat in the winter :P

playboi said...

you are back !! yayyy :D

gooood post :)
and do have some beer in my name .. heard its awesome tehre.
wine piega to bhi chalega

Karan said...

nice post!!

mythalez said...

@kunal, i thought u wud be the one who would produce the show ;)

@sreejith, well .. the amount of butter cheese that i m forced to eat in the canteen here shud be enough!

@playboi, back? i hav always been there for u baby .. or is it baboi? ;))

@karan, thanks ... :)

paresh said...

he shop isnt so good but the girl at the counter (daughter of the owner) is too pretty and worth another visit

would like to read more about that ...

do post some pics of the food you cook and otherwise as well.