To Live, Love and Learn: A Cookworm's Tale
My friends have observed, and quite accurately too, that I don’t cook Indian food too much. Not that I don’t like to eat it, I love to. But when you have parents who cook amazing Indian meals, all you feel like bringing to the table is something more, something new.
A recent meal has been an example of this perfect, if somewhat odd, blend of very different food cultures. My parents cooked up Mughlai parathas with Alu ki sabji, and I baked an Apple cake for dessert.
For the Mughlai paratha dough, you need flour, salt, water and milk made into a soft dough. It should not be sticky at all. Next you need eggs and spicy chicken or mutton keema to stuff in the parathas. For the keema, you can add any spices that you like, apart from salt. Cook it till the meat is cooked and keep aside for later use. The egss must be beaten with some chopped onions and chillies. For the next part, follow the step by step explanation below. You need a flat and large surface to work the dough.
Roll out the dough as thinly as possible (put oil on the working surface so that the dough doesn’t stick). The shape really doesn’t matter that much, since you will be folding it anyways, but it’s best if it is rolled out into a circle. Lift the rolled dough off the surface very carefully and put it over a slightly heated non-stick pan.
Add the egg mixture at the centre immediately. Then add the keema.
Spread out the mixture a bit and start folding the sides of the dough over the eggs and keema mixture.
Add oil around the edges of the folded dough. Flip the dough after a minute, to let the other side cook through.
Cook both sides till done. The eggs and keema mix will be well cooked due to the heat locked within the paratha.
The Alu ki sabji to go with the paratha is the simplest to cook. Add some vegetable oil in a hot pan or kadhai. When the oil is heated, add Nigella seeds or kalonji (funny, isn’t it? We Indians add a bit of Nigella in most of our meals!), chopped onions and saute till golden brown. Add turmeric and then chopped potatoes. Add water and cook till done. You can finish it off with a pinch of garam masala if you feel like it.
For the Apple cake, 8 ounces of flour, 6 ounces castor sugar, 4 ounces milk and unsalted butter, 2 eggs, 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder and 1 and a 1/2 tsp baking powder. For the apple caramel, skin and chop two apples. In a pan boil 100ml of water and 4 ounces of sugar till golden. Add the chopped apples and some cinnamon powder for flavour. Cook till the apples are golden brown and soft (but not turned into a muchy paste).
Preheat your oven at 160°C. In a bowl, add the butter, milk, eggs and sugar and whisk till light and frothy.
Slowly add the flour and fold in gently. Do not ever over beat the flour and egg mix for a cake dough because that will release the gluten in the flour and make the cake dense and heavy.
Now add the cinnamon and baking powder and gently fold in the apple caramel.
Pour the cake mix over a greased and dusted baking dish (or a baking dish lined with baking paper). Bake in the preheated oven at 180°C for 30 minutes (or till done. Check by inserting a skewer or knife. If it comes out clean without any of the dough sticking to it, its done. Take it out immediately!).
I used a square mold because that makes my job easier when I have to cut up the cake later. You can use any shape you fancy.
Well, I already mentioned how odd this meal is. If you look at it from a historian’s angle, it spans a part of the history of India…starts with a Mughal flavour and ends with a British dessert. I guess that’s exactly how we experience our food legacy in India. Its a brilliant mix of so many cultures and cuisines that anyone interested in cooking can choose to cook anything they want, mix and match parts of meals that certainly would be unorthodox in a professional chef’s world.
We are home cooks…why should we limit ourselves to such boundaries anyway?