If Yan can cook. And if I clean. Kitchen tips for newbie cooks. 4 recipes from the Finely Chopped Kitchen. Finely Chopped Covid-19 Journal 9
|Freshly made badhakopir ghonto yesterday with leftover rice and jharna ghee|
K tells me that she and my mom in law used to watch a show called Yan Can Cook on TV during her school days. The catchline of chef Martin Yan who anchored the show was, 'if Yan can cook, so can you.' Which sums up my message to newbie cooks too.
I did not learn how to cook when I was growing up. Before you jump in and say that's true for all Indian men, I must point out that my mother was not allowed to spend time in the kitchen either as a kid. My grandparents wanted her to focus on her studies instead so that she could be independent in life. Lessons which came of good use as she had to raise my brother and me as a single mother and a college professor after my father passed away when we were young.
I did experiment with a couple of dishes at home during my postgrad days in Kolkata but it is only after I got married and we set up home in Mumbai that I really learnt to cook. We were broke after a year of dating before marriage. We had no money left after paying rent for our tiny apartment in Khar to either go out and eat or to hire a cook. K and I used to share the cooking duties. She would cook from cookbooks. Following instructions till the last pinch of salt. I used recipes in the beginning, asked my grandmother for a few too and then slowly started following my own gut in the kitchen. I stopped looking up recipes and would create dishes based on memories and experiences. Simple and non effort dishes to be honest. Largely self taught. I still do the same.
|Badhakopir ghonto. I remember cooking it once in our first kitchen after marriage when the gas got over mid way and I had to take out the electronic stove my mom in law had given us at the start to finish it. Thankfully we have piped gas now!|
Then our house help Banu was commissioned to be our cook. I taught her dishes to cook and with time she developed a knack for some of these. I still have to instruct her at the start everyday as she does not remember a lot of what I say. I use simple terms and approximations. At times I dish out the spices to be used. She does the Bengali dishes that I have taught her reasonably well with guidance. Cannot manage anything non-Indian. She is not an intuitive cook and at times things are over or under cooked by a hair's breadth. Leading to food that is adequate. Not necessarily inspiring. Invaluable in taking the load off our shoulders. When she does not bunk!
|'Add in the machhed mudo (fish head) and then we can talk,' Baby Loaf|
It seem as if the clock has turned 18 years back thanks to the Covid-19 Quarantine Lockdown. It is just K and me at home with no Banu or house help/ cook. And Baby Loaf.
I have been cooking a storm again. I cook 93 per cent of our meals. K does 120 per cent of the other housework. The math baffles you? We are writers, not rocket scientists.
|While breakfast duties remain mine. I had relinquished a number of cooking duties to Banu over the years.|
It is not that I had stopped cooking earlier, however I would largely do grills or eggs or the odd pasta and noodles. I had handed over most of the Indian stuff to Banu to do. With or without spices measured out. Rotis are her department as I cannot make them and those were the kitchen duties that she had originally been given.
While I have shared many of my recipes in the blog before, I now do Instagram stories when I cook if I feel that I have some useful tip or hack to share. I then record these in my highlights. There is nothing too exotic or elaborate about them to be honest, but could give ideas to fellow amateur/ hobby cooks on what to do during the lockdown. Newebie cooks too and there are suddenly many now.
|French toast. The Bengali way. AKA Deem pauruti.|
I did three Insta recipes yesterday. French toasts which I often make for breakfast the savoury Bengali inspired wasy, bandhakopir ghonto or slow cooked cabbage the Bengali way again, and at night, boiled moong dal. I did one more today. Veg Hakka noodles. With red and green capsicum.
I feel excited when people on Instagram DM me with pictures of having made dishes based on what they saw in the highlights. Reminded me of the early days of blogging when people would leave comments on the blog and discuss stuff.
The moral of the story is don't get intimidated by the kitchen. If I can cook ....
1. French toast/ deem pauruti
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2. Cabbage/ badhakopir ghonto
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3. Pressure cooker boiled moong dal/ lentil soup
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4. Capsicum/ veg noodles
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Clean up Mumbai! Start with your kitchen.
|Today's lunch of veg Hakka noodles with red and green bell pepper and onions. I cleaned up the cooking and serving stations once I was done. The dishes will go into the dishwasher.|
I am someone who hates clutter.
I cannot cook in a cluttered kitchen. I have try keep the kitchen clean after I cook. Or so I thought. As I used to tell my clients in my market research days, you might think you are doing something but it is pointless if the consumer does not. In this case, K did not feel that I kept the kitchen clean after cooking and laughs when I say I thought I did so.
I guess the lockdown and our having to clean up the house, kitchen and dishes has made me more conscious of this.
Keep the kitchen clean is one of my first tips to the many newbie cooks who have been spawned by the lockdown.
Clean as you cook and try to finish cooking with a clean kitchen. Makes life a lot more beautiful. I have taken photographic evidence of late to convince K of my efforts and she agrees that things are different now.
If I can clean, so can you.
Do watch this video for some more gyan:
Here is the story of our first kitchen as a couple
The story of French toast and deem pauruti
Be prepared to get fried eggs when you order poached eggs in Bengal
The story of how Banu the cook was born
Link to the Yan Can Cook website