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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Experiments With ( kitchen ) Truth .

I have always been a foodie ,which means I love food ,not that I was a gourmet food specialist of the wine taster kind.
I enjoyed tasty food but was a bit of a stickler to one type and that was preferably south Indian food .
Having had a childhood in the streets of Madras ( I know it is Chennai now ) and that too in Mylapore which was a stronghold of tamil iyers and iyengars and thier heavenly delicacies my tongue was spoilt early in life .

What could one do if along with this fortune one had a mother who could in a jiffy turn out both tamil and malayalee cuisine fit for the Gods ?

The annual visits to parappanangadi my native village in Kerala was one more step to my early food addiction ,my grandma showered her love during these visits by feeding me in style ,with cashewnuts ,jackfruits ,bananas and ripe mangoes not to omit the tons of banana chips consumed with glee .

I still remember the foray into town with my cousins once in parappanangadi and the malappuram biriyani we stuffed ourselves with in hotel Malaya all with the money we made selling raw cashew nuts plucked from our trees ,this was just enough for the biriyani and we sacrificied the tea to follow this

shaven headed moplas watching us commented ..

" Entha kollothe kuttiyalku chaya vendde ?
khayyi nammalukodukkam "

which meant drink tea and we will pay for it !
strangely with all these gastronomic gymnastics I was as thin as a reed .

It took me 23 years after birth to put on girth and then I did that with a vengeance and have never looked back.
blessed with a wife who was as excellent a cook as the mother I was lucky in the department ,
she too knew the way to my heart ran through my stomach and saw to it this heart was hers .

As time grew so did I and so did my paraumblical tissues of lard ,
exercise and aerobics were not in my destiny
yoga and judo made a wide berth whenever they came near me .
with the bike and later the car ,and the busy schedules i added to my bit .
I waxed and waned but never became slim
All along I continued to enjoy food

The umpteen dinnered medical meetings( eatings really ) ,sumptous marriage lunches ,contributed to my kilos .

When I had been so good at eating I was hardly good in cooking ,for I rarely needed to ,in the early days even heating food was a great event for me .
But strangely I always felt I could cook if I had to and maybe even enjoy it !

It did happen finally now in the fag end of my forties when I forayed into the Gulf and to literal starvation .

When I landed in Al Ain in mid july the sun gave me a torrid welcome and I managed to hide in the conditioned comforts of hotel Hilton where I was parked by my hospital till I got the qaurters.
One month in a five star hotel is great ,but with food not included in the bargain ,all I could get was the infinite coffee, tea and fruit bowls provided so much so I hated these on sight the very expensive food of hilton was a torture for me as it was tepid and sat on my tongue like a buffalo would in muddy water .
so the friendly neighbourhood mallu ,parotta corner was the only option ,I did try other types of local food which of course I disliked immensely and immediately .
Finally exasperated I sneaked in a huge microwave oven into my smoke free room and started heating ready to eat parottas and ate them with a salad made of tomattoes , onion and curd ,
One good thing was my lard disappeared into thin air and my wife felt sad to see a gaunt me staring at her during chatting .
Finally because of my desperate pleas I was released from the hilton and given the quarters which was a huge villa but with a big kitchen and 2 fridges ,

so began my foray into cooking ,

I gleaned the net for recipe sites and printed them in reams ,trying out everything ,most of the time they were abysmal failures but since i was my own guinea pig I never conplained .
I still remember the biriyani I dared to make ,this looked very nice but tasted something in between a porridge and a masala kurma

with time and effort I improved
I discovered the charms of garnished onions,tangier tomatoes ,sauted potatoes and rolling chicken deeply fried ,

dosas became rounder ,iddlies softer ,and rice tasted like rice ,
the local lulu supermarkets would be always blessed by gulp mallayaleees as they provided us with real parottas and idiyappams frozen but fluffy and white and all in a jiffy .

These days my repertoire has become longer ,I have become faster and my creations tastier ,I even had the guts to give recipes to others ,even to other ladies !

and above all I am as trim as a fiddle ..............( probably the time has come to add weight on my cooking now )

Addendum in Brunei after many years of trial and error

I have been always a foodie ,specially have a soft corner for Indian food !!
I feel Indian cooking has so much variety and is more complex and has subtler tastes ,this is not to demean other genres each have their own strengths and but just like Indian music ,art philosophy and science it has come down the ages maturing over time just like the slow cooking blending its fine spices to a delicate morsel
I have blogged on my experiments in the kitchen in UAE ,survival brings out your best and those years in Al ain all alone without much good choice of restaurants made my foray into the kitchen a practical proposition
online sources ,my own niece in America umitha who has an excellent cooking blog helped me a lot I also had a chef in a five star hotel for a nephew and an executive chef as a close friend
Varevaah cooking in you tube has given me finite directions
my wife says you keeping taking those photographs of your finished products to exhibit in FB no one knows whether it tastes so good point correct at times it never tasted as good as it looked salt was less it was dry and sometimes it just didn't taste what it was meant to but practice makes perfection
to me making a delicate biryani with fluffy basmati rice grains blended with the spices vegetables well cooked and exuding an aroma was a gaol to be reached it was a challenge ,
this time it was a success partly though not perfect


Nanditha Prabhu said...

hey that was quite a spread!i seem to have mastered the art of cooking! way to go!
enjoyed your post too.. all the best for all the future experiments...when time permits drop in at my food blog which i recently started... they r also experiments with truth!

harimohan said...

tks ms nanditha ,
in fact it was through your blog and its links i landed in the world of recipe blogs ,so you are an instrument in my culinary schools through your excelent blog .

Ren Charles said...

Hi Doctor,

That was a great cooking story and those dishes on the table look wonderful. Truly enjoyed reading it. Especially because I am on the same side and can identify with you, experimenting with new dishes, creating and customizing recipes. My friends have been encouraging me so much that I fear this could be a result of providing an oasis of home made Indian food in a desert of burger and French fries.

Have you watched the film Ratatouille.
It certainly is an inspiration to all would be and amateur chefs.


Ren Charles

harimohan said...

hi ren
tks for the comments ,will see the movie and send u some recipe links too

raj said...

nala-paachakam or hari-paachakam, once the hapless me and my wife were forced to be the guinea pigs when we first visited doctor in august; the time when he was just landed in uae and naturally very na├»ve and novice in cutlery and culinary skills; still he prepared rice, chicken in tomato ketchup, cabbage thoran and rasam though I never had the courage to taste the last dish!! It is rather easy to spot dr.hari in crowded shopping malls and airports as he will be seen busy satisfying his taste buds at the food court coffee-shops or fast-food outlets; as dr.hari said, his wife premila is one of the best in the business…..her speed,perfection and delicacy, not at all an acquired skill!!

raj said...

Hi Hari,

Nice to go thru ur cooking expertise. U can now start off a new job of writing ur culinary expertise. Somehow though I feel u have trimmed a bit.
Hope that has solved ur knee probs too
Take care

rajesh simon.

harimohan said...

tks for your comments ,ungrateful people who relish dishes and then comment badly get stomach aches beware .
again but for amoos where are u ?
( in cooking )

harimohan said...

dear rajesh
nice to see your comments here ,i did think of that knee pain when i forwarded you this ,will meet you when i come over in march

Anonymous said...

Iam sure your forays into the sumptuous gastronomic delights must definitely have been punctuated with episodes of gastric entertainments-sure in the travel you must have picked up some remedies.The photos were tempting and watering.

harimohan said...

dear anonymous ,
i loved your choice of words ,realy i did scrape through with only minor exclamations !!

Maddy said...

hari - try out umi abdullah's recipes, u can get her book of malabar recipes from calicut next.

otherwise plenty of fascinating blogger cooks including the stalwart indiandoc

Nebu said...

Hari, Count me too on your side as far as culinary expertise is considered. I still have to measure the quantity of water to boil for a cup of coffee which eventually is made with the Bru instant Cappuchino sachet!!
I really enjoyed reading the post; it’s an excellent piece for “Time Out” if it is edited down to 350 words and 5 paras.
Know what, Dr.Titus, shangaramangalam, made his debut today (30.Jan) in NIE “Time Out” with a story on Medicos. You should be able to read it on line.

harimohan said...

tks maddy and nebu

going to read titus article in time out ,bye .

Dr.Thomas Antony said...

Dear Harimohan,

Reminds me about my "upma" and sandwich days in Libya. Then I
learned cooking. I could cook rice, fish and chicken and then came to realize it is nothing much, but the time taken is long. Cutting onions with tearing and then the washing up were the pains.
Have you tried with the various masala mixes from Kerala? They are good. Now myy wife has gone home, but I have food from the nearby guest house. No botheration of cooking. (But have my breakfast of bread with jam or butter at home :-)

Fantastic writing. And if the photo shown is your "making", I envy you. I never could make anything that round ;-) Good craft there, and looks appetising too!


Thomas Antony

harimohan said...

thomas antony
i want to make a confession
the parottas are frozen ones heated care of lulu supermarket ,my creation are the rest ,i aded it for decoration pssst dont tell all

kamalakannan(nandhini's habi) said...

Hi hari,very interesting to read and enjoyed all your e-mail.It reminded me of my goodolden days which i spent in lIBYA where we have to buy live chicken and kill it dress it and presevere it in deep freezer for few months since we used to get the stocks only for few months.It was in Berketh one of the rural areas of libya far away from Tripoli.Then recently my self and nandhini had been to Australia to attend our son's Graduation ceremony.Write to you later

harimohan said...

dear kamalakannan
so nice to hear from you ,advantage of a blog indeed

mathew said...

nice to read your reminds of my own struggling days..hehehe..and i must say the spread is really appealing..
--another rookie cook..

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