Cooking up a New Year... The Finely Chopped New Year's Eve Menu 2010 - 11

Note: I have interspersed the  post with  photos after a long time. Do you prefer it this way or with photos at the end? And any idea how I can stop the cursor from darting all over? I use a Vaio and a Windows 7

The Finely Chopped New Year's Eve Menu 2010-11
Banu's shammi kebabs - beef & chicken
               Couscous and Feta Mediterranean salad 
Microwaved Oriental spare ribs finished in a pan
Thai Chicken green curry from the cooking schools of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Inspired Thai Sprouts salad
Yazdani Foccacia bread
Steamed rice
Baskin Robins vanilla ice cream
MOD Donuts (which remained in the fridge)
Guest appearance- 2 tons of steamed chicken momos. Freshly baked chocolate cake
Banu's kebabs

This is in case you were wondering about how I rung in the New Year. Where was I when the clock eased out 2010 and brought in 2011?

I was in my kitchen.
Tossing a couscous salad. An eye on a bubbling Thai curry on one burner and spare ribs on the pan on another. I was cooking for friends. Or, given the fun I had, possibly for myself. I cooked. I photographed. Tripping on the super macro function of the camera. Basking in the light of the hundred watt bulb I fixed above the stove earlier in the evening. And then clicking on my Blackberry to as I cooked.

I grew up on years of watching Doordarshan with my mother on New Year's Eve at Calcutta. Mumbai meant freedom. Celebrating NYE outside of home was a big part of this. 'Media party' at Juhu hotel, a poignant time at Madness with friends, Navy Ball in a blazer. Stolen moments at a seedy hotel at Mandwa, ten years back and marriage the next year. Domesticated, penniless I still insisted on celebrating NYE outside even as she tried to show me the virtues of being home, avoiding traffic and crowds and bankruptcy.

Starters & More, Marine Plaza, Asia Wok, Golden Pavilion, Zenzi ... year after year I would have the ads on the local tabloids on my finger tips as I planned our NYE with military determination. Till one year, when we didn't get a place at Zenzi. We headed back. Picked up a pizza at Pizzeria at Bandra and spent NYE with Harry and Sally.

The spell broke. We stopped going out on NYE. It was never just by the two of us any more.  We had grown up.

Coming back to last night, at the risk of sounding like Nigella in Express, the dinner didn't take too much of effort to put together. The food was 'restaurant -like' to the extent that it was under-salted as I realised today. Thankfully the NYE cheer ensured that no one noticed that. We have enough left overs left to see us through 2011. I always end up cooking in excess when we have people over. The inclement weather did one couple in. Couple of people didn't eat. K due to nausea, that too without alcohol. Or tasting the food! A logistic mishap left us with a dozen donuts in the fridge.

What I put together yesterday, as always, hinged on instincts and memories, experiments. Planning and shopping took two days. I love Pali Market, Bandra. You get every single ingredient that you can dream of. Feta, spare ribs, galangal, kaffir limes, Thai brinjals, lemon grass, bird's eye chillies, lemon grass, beef mince, parsley, corn, shitake mushrooms, button mushrooms, couscous, fresh turmeric, fish sauce, sprouts, basil ... you name it and is is their within your arm's reach.

On the cards was a dish I had made before with a twist that I wanted to try this time. Microwave spare ribs finished in a pan this time. A seasoned cook who tried what I made last time kept telling me about how 'microwaves' aren't for cooking. Something I heard from her even the morning after. Then I saw Nigella one day on the treadmill's TV. Oven baked spare ribs, finished on a pan. I was inspired.

 The spare ribs seemed as sensuous to touch, as seductive to look at. They cooked much better this time. So Nigella, Gia and Kirti, who later told me about the post micro part of his recipe, were all right. Well, who said we are not open to suggestions?

There was Thai green curry as learnt at the cooking class at Chiang Mai. I made a red curry in the class but K prefers green. But then, as they told  us, the curry mixes are the same for red and green. The difference lies in the colour of the chillies used. Figure that out.

A last minute idea to make a Thai sprouts side. Goaded by memories of Chiang Mai where I had my first magical bites of sprouts with curries. I pounded the peanuts, added them to sprouts, chopped galangal, kaffir lime leaves, honey, basil, fish sauce, bird's eye chillies. Even K, who managed to eat today, liked it which is quite something given she doesn't like salads or peanuts in food. Anirban, a food aficionado and soulful singer, approved of the pairing of sprouts with curry and rice.

A vegetarian cous cous with feta, corns, mushrooms and parsley. For a guest who was not much of a meat lover. And had treated to us to an amazing lunch at Olive. This was healthy stuff. Tossed in the salad bowl I stepped out of office and picked up at The Bombay Store. The shop we bought our first set of crockery from. More than a decade back. I should have had made less off the salad though.

Making a 'guest' appearance were a ton of chicken momos and a freshly baked cake. The cake pushed the donuts deep into the fridge. Hopefully Banu's grandson will enjoy the donuts if his granny comes to work.

The actual cooking didn't take too much time thanks to some pretty good planning. I prefer to stick to Oriental and Continental when I entertain on working days. Less complicated than the Indian dishes that I cook. The back breaking part was making the Thai curry mix. I took the mortar and pestle that I bought from Chiang Mai and pounded away. Coriander seeds. Then galangal. Raw turmeric, which as a turmeric powder user, I had never seen before. Lemon grass. Kaffir lime leaves. Garlic. Chopped onion. Green chillies. De-seeded. I pounded away. Ignoring aching bones and a weary back as I watched the curry paste turn to the desired colour. Eyes lighting up as I saw the galangal, so difficult to cut, blend in. The yellow turmeric too. The lemon grass stem caused concern. But the coriander seeds gave in each time stone hit stone.  This was quite an adventure.
The heady aroma of freshly grounded spices wafted through our kitchen. A new experience in our colourless, antiseptic, ready made spice powder world. I was alone and yet could hear the murmurs and cries of the spice markets of yore around me.

I could sense my grandmothers standing beside me that night. One left us years back. The other fighting a painful battle against old age. I had drawn them in to my kitchen with the smell of fresh ground spices. I pounded away as I was transported to an innocent world where I was less than four feet tall, discovering the flavours of India in my grandmothers' kitchens at New Delhi and Calcutta. Though the two venerable ladies would have been baffled by my Oriental mortar and pestle. Worlds apart from their flat Bengali 'sheel noras'.

Sounds romantic? It was bloody hard work. A Thai grandmom would have possibly approved of the mix. Done it more easily than me I am sure. But I needed a back rub at the end of it. If not a drink. The reason for the popularity of massage parlours in Thailand became pretty obvious.

Everyone else arrived barely before 2011 did. I had to leave my drink aside as we had a Cinderella amongst us who would head of to shimmy the night away at twelve. I headed back to my cave.

I was crowded in as I tossed two salads, fired up a curry and seasoned the spare ribs in the kitchen. I have got used to cooking with an audience. The kitchen slowly emptied, I was putting the dishes to bed. The cracker burst. A New Year was upon us.

I was in a happy place. Literally,

And here's wishing you a 2011 which is, well, nicer.

Never believe what they tell you in advertising


Happy New Year! Lovely read ! Could smell the spice mix here...
Unknown said…
Ok thats it. I'm coming over. I like the interspersed look. (I personally use it myself sometimes). Also I think you need your photographer around as well. :)))))))
interspersed. for sure. and A kept raving about the curry wt the thai sprouts. and while you insist i didn't eat, let me tell you banu's kebab's also needed some attention. gosh. this is what happens if you leave a plate of beef kebabs next to me.
and as usual, thank you for being such a sweetheart. it was such a lovey new year. unpressured and chilled and fun.
Moonshine said…
A very very happy new year!!! A lot of cooking coming your way this year!!
Sharmila said…
Quite a feat Kalyan! And an awesome menu. Love the idea of the salad. A nicer new year ... amen to that. :-)
what a feast you whipped up, great way to ring in the new year.
wish you and your family a very happy new year.
Shubh said…
Hi, I see that you have started to use the character recognition ... use finely chopped instead ... good way to seal the brand name!
Love the turn of the phrase "bruised the peanuts" ... sounds wicked.
Would have loved to have been there and tasted the feast ... looked heavenly for the taste buds! Have a great 2011.
Anonymous said…
Lucky cake, at least it got photographed. Unlike it's maker :-(
Kalyan Karmakar said…
So interspersed works? Well the reason I shifted to photos at end is that it breaks the flow of the copy for those who want to read the text specially now that I have begun adding photos by the bucket

@Somoo Happy New year to you and happy second birthday to Home Cooked Oriya Food

@Curry Spice: you don't need an invite

@AGG, the best plans NYE plans ever :)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Moonshine HNY and I hope so :)

@Sharmila, It was no effort really but yes we all deserve a nicer new year :)

@Shubh thanks for dropping by and hope you make it to the kitchen someday.

Couldn't understand the bit about character recognition could you
write to me on that please

@Anon, I think the baker wasn't in the kitchen. I wasn't responsible for the people shots so you will have to ask the Missus and AGG who took the pics
Rhea said…
I don't get much time anymore and this is the blog that I miss reading the most. :-(

But, on the brighter side, I do check for updates on FB.

I HAD TO drop in for this one though. Firstly, Happy New Year to you and Mrs. K. The pics are gorgeous. The spare ribs is making my mouth water for real. :-)

Kalyan Karmakar said…
Hey Rhea,

Great to hear from you after ages on the blog. And great that Facebook is there :)

Hoep you guys had a great NYE at NY. How was it?
Shobita K said…
Wow, Kalyan thats quite the spread you have conjured up there. Yummmy! Lucky lucky friends and lucky K! I wish we were neighbors. :-)
I hope you had help with the prep and the dishes.
I am sure your grandmas' would have been proud. As would your mamma.
I can't imagine a better entry to the new year.
I don't mind the text and photos mixing. I think maybe its even better this way.

Hi, Wish you a very happy new year. Loved the pictures, would have been better if I could taste it too :) . Have a great year ahead !!
Scarlett said…
You made so many things by yourself! I can barely make one before I crash on the bed exhausted.

Happy New Year to you too! May 2011 bring you tons of opportunities to cook, many trips abroad to learn the culinary traditions of other cultures, and more celebritydom :D

PS: I like your posts interspersed with pictures :)
Kalyan Karmakar said… was good fun and yes all grannies would have been smiling. Yes, would definitely have been a good neighbour :)

Re help, well I coordinated with Banu on the phone to chop stuff and take out dishes and pans. Rest was by myself. Which works for me

@Soul Speaks thanks and wish you a great year ahead too :)

@Scarlett: It was no big deal really. Most of my cooking rarely involves complex procedures

Thanks for your wishes. Each of them are highly prized.

Feedback on pictures was interesting...I'll probably used the interspersed format more than I do nowadays
Scarlett said…
Well I did put some thought into the wishes :)