Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Taste of Home

Since the whole point of this blog is to try the home cooking of cultures around the world, I figured I’d start somewhere close to home…or, er…my parent’s house. Since I’ve never actually cooked Indian food, and, coincidentally, my G-ma lives there, I figured I could treat you guys to something awesome right off the bat. (By the by, my 100% Indian friend, Shabad, recently informed me that she should technically be called my naani, not G-Ma. Since I’m only 50% I figure he’s an authority on the subject. Then again, since I’m only 50% I don’t care as much and use both to make everyone happy, but “G-Ma” is how she signs my birthday cards because she is cool like that.)

G and I had planned our meal out ahead of time, and we both agreed that my first dish should be one of my favorites: Vegetable Pulau (a savory rice dish), Apple Chutney, and a Cucumber Raita which is a yogurt mixture. Unfortunately, the rest of my family was out of town being do-gooders building homes in Mexico, so it was just me, G, test-subject Dad, and my friend Terra who has never had Indian food but has a thing for rice. On to the food! Because it was good. And really? Not hard at all.

First things first, G said I had to get the chutney going. After peeling, coring, and dicing 4 granny smith apples, I put them into a pot and added golden raisins, chili powder, vinegar, salt, and sugar and put them to boil. Isn’t it pretty?

You just boil, stir, boil, stir, and boil till it caramelizes, reduces, and looks golden brown and, when tasted, is sweet, a little sour, and spicy all at once. Hello, beautiful:

While the chutney was boiling away, I got to work chopping the veggies for the Pulau. Playing sous chef to my grandmother’s verbal directions wasn’t exactly easy. Like I said in the first entry, she has nothing written down so I was acting like a crazy person trying to guesstimate how much a “palmful” was or how much a “tin” equates to in regular measurements. Yeah…I’m still guessing, but with this kind of cooking, I figure the more the merrier. Also, when I’d finally write something down, G would taste whatever was on the stove at the time, shake her head and say, “Nay, this isn’t right. Add more till I say stop.” Which I did, but it just made my notes look all wonky and I might have to hire a detective to help me figure out what we actually did in the kitchen. But I digress.

First, you thinly slice and brown some onions. Then you add Ginger-Garlic (as that is, apparently, one item and actually just ginger and garlic mashed up together), Salt, Haldi powder (Turmeric), Garam Masala ( I have no idea what this is, but G said it has cinnamon and cloves in it. You can buy a jar at an Indian food store or any good grocery) and added very finely diced tomatoes. I let it get “melty” as G commanded. So we let it melt and kept stirring, then added rice, water, and the veggies which included sliced cabbage, cut green beans, peas, and a potato cut in big chunks. We brought it to a boil then we took it off the stove and let it bake about 15 minutes. I took it out and learned that you have to stir it from the edges IN, not the middle OUT because that is a cardinal sin in Pulau-ology and tends to break all the potato chunks and mush it up, which is not a good thing. Then, unlike moi, you will hopefully use a hot pad to put the lid of the pan back on the vessel, or you will BURN YOUR FINGERS!

Do you know when was the last time I burned my fingers on something hot out of the oven? NEVER. Way to go me and my first food entry, I’m so hardcore.

So we put the Pulau back in the oven to let the liquid cook off and soften the rice. By now my t-shirt smelled like Indian food. This is when Terra arrived and said the whole house smelled good, not just me and my t-shirt, which is always a good sign.

I then peeled and grated half a cucumber, whipped some yogurt with a fork in its own container (makes it creamier), added enough yogurt as a side for 4 people to the cucumber with some sugar, salt, and ground pepper, and mixed. Super simple, that Raita. Plus, it's awesome as it cools down curries and Pulau and makes things extra delicious.

See? MMMMMM. I wish you could taste this, and if you have the spices on hand, it’s easy. Thinking back to my own kitchen, the only thing I didn’t have was the Garam Masala or the Ginger-Garlic, but both are easy to obtain.

The Pulau was salty, slightly sweet from the browned onions and veggies, but also spicy. The Apple Chutney was sweet and had a nice kick from the chili powder, and the Raita was cool and tangy. When all mixed together, the different flavors work ridiculously well together. Dad and I were the hungry ones and had seconds, G said I had “caught on quickly” (I think she was surprised about that), Terra loved her first Indian meal, and we all ate happily ever after.

And THAT, food adventurers, is my first attempt to bring my family’s recipes to you. As a side note, I’m not twitchy around spices anymore. Hear me SPICES? Bring it on.

Next up: Cuban Cuisine. Yay.


Liene at Blue Orchid Designs said...

YAY!! So glad you got this off the ground! Excited to see where you take it. :)

JMagaro said...

hey, i know for a fact that this exact recipe makes my soul tingle!