Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Random thoughts - whose job is cooking anyway?

Recently, I've noticed this trend in media where the onus of what was once thought of as a woman's domain is now being shifted on to men. Specifically, there is this ad that seems to have become very popular, acquiring several 'likes' from men and women alike, where a father asks the groom's family whether he knows how to cook and on him answering in the negative,  how they expect his daughter to survive on noodles alone. The ad ends happily with the 'boy' asking the girl's family to come and visit him in ten days, in which time, he hopes to learn how to cook something good enough for the girl.
While I am as much of  a believer in equal rights for women as the most ardent of feminists, this advertisement struck me as wrong on so many counts. First off, cooking is a life skill - and both men and women should know enough of it to be able to survive on their own. Secondly, shifting the responsibility of cooking from one gender to another doesn't solve the problem of gender bias. It only changes the angle of bias. Similarly, whether you do 'ladki dekhna'(bride seeing) or 'ladka dekhna'(groom seeing - which in practice, never happens), the process is nothing but regressive at its best.
 In an ideal world, men and women (not boys and girls) would find their own partners when they are ready to, and cooking would be something that whoever enjoys it on a particular day does. It wouldn't be any one partner's duty to ensure that hot food is served at the table at pre-fixed times.
Sigh!!! If only ideals matched reality!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kaima idli - Deep fried idli coated in a spicy veggie masala

Kaima idli, chilli idli, fried idli, idli chilli - the monikers are numerous, but what they all refer to is this delectable dish that is made by first deep frying idli pieces and then, if you can resist the temptation of polishing off the plate of fried idli,  coating them with a spicy mix of vegetables.
I first tasted this dish at Saravana Bhavan in Chennai and believe me, it was nothing short of an explosion of flavors on the tongue. Since then, I have eaten this innumerable times at different restaurants and loved all the variations that the chefs with their individuality have brought to the dish. Here is my take on this dish. I have created a collage of the various steps involved in the preparation of this dish so that it can be recreated with ease by anyone who wishes to try it out.

What you need :

Idli - 8, diced
Onion - 1/2 of a large one, sliced thin and long
Green chilli - 2
Carrot - 1/2, grated
Capsicum - 1/2, chopped fine
Ginger - a small piece, julienned
Garlic - 3 cloves, chopped fine
Tomato - 1, chopped
Oil - 3 tbsp.
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Chana dal - 1/2 tsp
Oil - for deep frying
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp (adjust to taste)

Dice the idli into pieces. It helps if you refrigerate the idli for at least an hour. Deep fry the cut pieces in hot oil until brown and crisp. Drain off excess oil an set aside.
Heat 3 tbsp. of oil in a pan. Add mustard, urad dal and chana dal. You can also throw in some curry leaves at this point. I skipped that as I didn't have any on hand. When the mustard seeds pop, add the chopped green chilli, ginger and garlic and saute. Lower the heat and add in the sliced onions. Saute until the onions turn pink. Add the grated carrot and capsicum. Stir well and cook covered for a few minutes until the capsicum starts to soften. Add in the chopped tomato, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. Stir well and cook covered until tomatoes turn mushy. Add 1/4 cup of water and let it boil for a minute or two or until most of the water has evaporated. Now add in the fried idli pieces and mix to coat well with the vegetable masala. Remove from heat and garnish with some freshly chopped coriander leaves.
Serve hot immediately or after a while - the only difference will be that if served immediately the idli pieces will retain their crunch, while if eaten later they will be slightly softened by the moisture from the masala. Either way, it will be a treat for your taste buds.