Cooking as therapeutic exercise

We generally associate cooking with its product – the edible food it produce. But here I would like to reflect on the process of cooking. For me, personally, cooking is a stress relieving exercise. The final product is one of the components not the only one. What makes great food great is not only the product, but the process – how well the cook has balanced the flavours, the textures and aromas. And this is something that the cook savours. For a good cook the best satisfaction comes from the orgasmic faces that eating the food brings out….

So let us look at what are various steps in the process.

Deciding what to cook?

This can be a major challenge sometimes, especially when you have abundant ingredients at your disposal. But if you have limited ingredients the kind of food that you can cook is obviously limited. You cannot make a chicken-noodle soup if you don’t have chicken and noodles, rest of the ingredients are optional in way.

chicken noodle soup

Gathering the ingredients

This I think is one of the feel good parts for me. Getting all the ingredients ready, washing and cleaning them. This also creates a sense of what will be the output. One can visualise the metamorphosis of the raw elements to something well cooked – how their colour, flavour and texture will change during the cooking. When you look at cooking as a process, a lot of imagination has to be therein you as a cook

The Spices and flavours

The natural flavours in the food are sometimes too bland or we need to temper them to suit our palate. Different cuisines uses different spices and herbs to make the food relishable. Lot of powders or different spices are used, while in some cases whole spices are used. The ginger garlic paste is another basic ingredient in many cuisines. And finally salt. Almost no dishes are made without salt. Put too little or none it becomes bland or tasteless, put a bit too much and it becomes salty!

The plate below has onion cut very finely, coriander cut, ginger garlic thick paste, black pepper powder, salt, paprika, chilly powder, coriander powder, and cumin powder.

spice set
spice set

The garam masala is another quintessential routine for much of indian cooking.You can make one yourself easily.

garam masala

Pepper and chillies of various kinds are used to add fire to the food. Choose yours wisely.

cjill
chillies

Fresh or dried herbs are a also used to give the required zest. Basil is the best!

basil
basil

The Cutting Board

I prefer  wooden cutting board. It is easy on the knives and it feels good to cut on it.

Mincing an onion in little pieces with a knofe which obeys and performs with movement of your hands is one of best experiences.

onion and garlic cut

Though onion can be cut in several ways, depending on what you are trying to make it taste like…

red onion cut

A baby cabbage is one of the most wonderful things to cut. To see the internal structure of the cabbage and you know it is going to be a nice dish..

cabbage cut

Halving mushrooms or slicing them is therapeutic in itself. You feel victorious after halving a packet of them. You feel something has been achieved for the day.

mushroom cut
cut carrot onion and sun dried tomatoes
cut carrot onion and sun dried tomatoes

The cutting tools – the knives  – are a separate topic in themselves and deserve their own separate post.. But as they say a good chef will not trade the knives with (think of something which rhymes with knives)…

Setting the stage

Once the ingredients are ready, cleaned and cut, our next step begins. This is the preparation for. the final act of cooking itself. It may be mixing things, marinating them or mashing them up.

preparation of chicken marination
preparation of chicken marination
marinating chicken with curd and spices
marinating chicken with curd and spices
putting the chicken on the spikes and put on fire test

 

and see the marinated raw chicken metamorphise to chicken malai kabab

The Cooking Medium

Each dish has to be cooked in the media it is meant to be cooked with. Depending on the cuisine it can be groundnut oil, coconut oil, mustard oil, butter, olive oil, sesame oil, ghee or lard. Each medium will give its unique flavour and aroma to the food. And some dishes don’t taste the same or even taste awful when not cooked in the preferred media.

When you add the masala to the medium, the way it releases its colours and aromas is something that I admire. The aroma of onions getting cooked in pure ghee… yum.. ir garlic getting cooked in olive oil…

The Cooking Vessel

Over last couple of years I have been introduced to cast iron vessels for cooking and I am not going back. I have already planned not to purchase any non-stick ones in the future. It is cast iron all the way now.

cast iron dutch oven cooking onion
cast iron
chicken cooking in a cast iron dutch oven on a braai

The Order of Things

When the medium is hot enough you start to add things. In the order, sometimes you change the ordery you get good result, or it is a fiasco. I think new dishes were discovered in this way. When you go outside the cookbook and try something new, many times it might be a failure, but at times you will be rewarded with great new dishes.

For example, you would want to make the flour ready for making roties or bread before you want to make them,

flour for making breads
flour for making breads
do we add herbs and spices first or later?
vegetable roast in the oven – do we add herbs and spices first or later?
do we add herbs and spices first or later?
vegetable roast in the over – do we add herbs and spices first or later?

The Aromas

You know you have a great dish incoming when the dish starts to release its aroma. You might now smell it if you are too close to a dish while cooking, go to a different room and come abck you will know its a good dish cooking. A good aroma also creates a sense of mystery and longing for the dish, it stirs up appetites.

aroma from a chicken curry

Unfortunately our science of smell is not that well developed so I cannot make you experience the aromas – but use your imagination..

The Colours and texture

The colours in the food make it attractive. A dull coloured food will be not that attractive. That is reason we find salads so much attractive!

colourful salad – with texture and taste
colourful salad – with texture and taste
colourful salad – with texture and taste and hummus
tomato onion uttappa
tomato onion uttappa looks refreshing
so does two egg omelette!

The Presentation

As we approach the final stages of cooking the presentation of the food is the final frontier. No matter how well you have cooked it, if the food is not presented well, well it loses it’s charm, though it might be still edible..

biryani with raita and salad
biryani with raita and salad
assorted sauteed vegetables
assorted sauteed vegetables
hummus, pita bread, couscous salad, pickles
couscous vegetable salad
ghee rice with dry fruits and caramelized onions
pork pandi curry aka coorg pork with naan and curd salad (raita)
pork pandi curry aka coorg pork with naan and curd salad (raita)
boiled eggs with paprika and fresh coriander

The Taste

The real satisfaction to a cook comes from the pleasure that other find in eating the food that has been cooked. It pays of all the effort that was put in process, while the product is something akin to the metaphorical tip of the iceberg..

mutton curry!

It is always joyful to cook for others than cooking alone for yourself. It helps you relax as you order the seemingly raw ingredients into a masterful recipe full of flavour, aroma and texture. Rightfully done cooking is the most therapeutic exercise for your troubled soul.  It is perhaps this reason that mothers while cooking the food want you to eat more and more…

 

 

What is in thy name?

They say “What is in the name?”, I ask “What is in thy name?”

I use the alias damitr in many places. It is actually an acronym for my full name. My name among its various meanings also means something which is ‘the immeasurable.’ But recently while solving an anagram problem it had an idea: what all meanings can be derived from this acronym?

So I used a Free Software named an,  apparently one of the original writers of the program is Julian Assange. But the usage is very simple, and it is available on Debian repositories,

So I typed

$an damitr

And I got all the possible combinations of these 6 words. It turned out some of them are quite meaningful and do actually make sense why I am ‘the immeasurable’!

Some of the interesting  anagrams are:

triad m
admit r

dirt am

am  dirt !

dirt ma

ma dirt

dart i’m

i’m dart

dart mi

dram it

Mt. Arid

Mt. Raid

rid mat

rid tam
dim tar

dim art

dim rat
mid art

mad it r

Dr Mita

Dr. Amit!

Dr Tima

Dr. Tami

Dr. Itam !

di mart
i’d mart
id mart
id tram
i’d tram
di tram

ad trim

d tarim

Among others…

Caffeine…

Caffeine is the source of new ideas. - Anon (in Fortune)

My day starts with a cup of coffee, and this cup mostly fulfils my daily requirement for caffeine.
Long gone are the days of instant coffee and now I do brew my own.F or this purpose I mostly rely on two of Bombay’s best coffee shops that I know of; namely Philips Coffee and Tea and Mysore Concerns (The Coffee People since 1939).

Both shops I discovered quite accidentally. Philips Tea and Coffee has registered office near Khadi Bhavan on D. N. Road in Fort. Naturally curious I enquired, but there was no sale there, and they guided me to a Sale store down the lane towards Strand Book Shop. There are two varieties of coffee beans available with them the Highlander and Peaberry. Peaberry which I prefer is priced at Rs. 420 a kilo and Highlander is a little low, maybe Rs. 380. The best part is that they grind the beans just in front of you and the aroma that is generated is too good to be described in words. Since I have a “fussy coffee machine” it is not very happy to brew when the powder is too fine, so they grind it as per my requirement, a bit coarse. They have chain of shops throughout Bombay, I mostly take my stock from the Chembur which is close to where I live, but sometimes also from the Fort shop, which is where I visit to hunt for books. They also sell a variety of teas and stock a few magazines many of them Mallu.

The Mysore Concerns shop I discovered quite weirdly. I was on my BEST-bus tours of Bombay some years back, and suddenly near Maheshwari Udyan or King’s Circle I smelt coffee. It was a strong one. And just as the bus passed over it went away. Anyways I was supposed to get down at the stop, as I was on a book hunting mission. I just could not resist myself from finding source of the smell. And the source turned out to be the Mysore Concerns shop, which keeps on grinding coffee beans throughout the day which produces aroma which wanders along the streets. They also sell Coimbatore butter which I have never tried. But this was too good to resist. The price is lower as compared to Philips Rs. 340 per kilo and AFAIK they do not have any variants in the coffee they sell. But going to Matunga all the way to get coffee was not practical many times, but then someone told me that you get it in Chembur too. Although the pack says there is NO BRANCH as opposed to Philips people.

I have collected quite a number of different cups ~ 20 for the morning coffee ritual, and the milk is mostly got from the canteen, I do not as yet like black coffee, I want it with lots of milk (preferably buffalo) and no sugar. Some of the more costly ones are from Chimp and the logo of the brand a Chimp printed on the inside of the cup seems to enjoy surfing the sea of coffee as much as I do.

I had a fortunate visit to a spice garden which belonged to a friend near Bangalore, and I saw there coffee plants ,the green beans and the fragrant white flowers for the first time. They tell me that till you roast the coffee beans you don’t get the aroma of coffee from any other part of the plant.

 

And remember always: a bad coffee is worse than no coffee…

And interestingly the science behind the coffee rings, though not the above one, is explanied.

Truth about life…

What is the reality in life? You don’t know, I wonder who does. But the fact remains that nobody dies virgin, everyone gets fucked up in their lives. Be it a saint or a sinner everyone is fucked up. But most of the people who are content with their lives do not even realize this, they think they are above this rule, in reality they are ones who are the most screwed.

So be it, what I find problematic and recently I have found the sort of perfect word for this is pseudogiri, people are living a pseudo life, they are sticking to ideals which are in no way real or have anything close to reality. When we want to discuss things about a particular practice the fundamentals are never questioned, they remain the untouchables. They cannot be thought of questioned about, they cannot be argued against. They are there, so they are and yo have to live with them…

Bonding with Things?

What do mean when somebody says they don’t understand? Everybody understands. What people fail to understand is the `other’. By the `other’ I mean thinking about thinking i.e. meta thinking. We fail to understand what the other people are trying to tell from `their’ perspective. Whatever we see or hear the perspective is always ours. This is a sort of filter that is very difficult to let go. Most of us don’t even realize this, because we are not able to think beyond this, without this. For most of us there is no other way in which we can know about things, think about people and objects…

Many people are not happy with me being bonded to the tools of technology. They ask how can you have feelings for a dead and inanimate object like your bike or computer or books? Instead of loving living things how can you love things which cannot return your feelings or appreciation?

But my experience has been different, maybe this is my bias for things which I like. But then everybody of us has some or the other bias, only difference is mine is not what the majority has…

I am like that…

I cannot do without loving things which I use, unlike people who just `use’ them but don’t `love’ them. Maybe these people do this for humans also they just `use’ them but not `love’ them….

And it is these people who call me techo-freak…

What I think is these people are inherently incapable of loving anybody let alone anything…

So when they see me caring about `inanimate’ things they become uncomfortable at this thought or loving things of caring about them because it is totally alien to them, to their thought process… And this is what they even don’t realize, they are judging their inability to care or love about people with my bonding with things…