I think I’ve “arrived”! Am now getting requests – 5 so far – to ensure that this species gets fed and doesn’t get tooooo… homesick!
So, America-bound students, we’ll start with a recipe so it doesn’t get too boring and then do a NRI student cooking in America # 101.
Thought back to my own early days of learning how to cook- I must have been about 7 years old. We were “between-cooks” at the moment and my Mom was squeezing in some time for sambar-rice in between intensely grueling bouts of work at the hospital – those days everyone seemed to be multiplying soooo fast – an ob-gyn’s life was spent in trying to catch a breath between the breech in bed 7 and the C-section in bed 9, taking time to peek at the gory innards of bed 8!!! All this proliferation of our species must have been boy, they sure did miss TVs and video games 😉
To come back to our story, mom was stuck at the hospital and my dad was away on “tour”. I was 7, Arvind a year older and Anand 2 years over him – obviously without the faintest idea of cooking! 7 pm, rumbles in three tummies reaching a crescendo of cacophony…along comes saviour – in the form of 14-year old Anil next door – who grandly announces that he knows how to make rice!! Remember the setting is not AD but the dark ages before the advent of gas stoves and pressure cookers! Being too short in general to reach over the stovetop, the stove ( a kerosene-guzzling short, squat little monster) was brought down to the floor. Rice was washed and placed in a round brass ‘gundu’, water measured with almost ritualistic attention and poured over the rice, finger stuck in- nobody told us the measure was up to an adult hand’s forefinger so we must have fallen short! Then, with bated breath (I don’t think I’ve watched even a James Bond movie with so much suspense), we sat around and watched the rice cook! To cut a long story short, we had rice and curd and bananas and Anil went home covered in glory! Cooking lessons with mom started the next day 😉
From there to an easy – meal in a bowl tofu rice – truly anyone can make it!
Basmati rice – 1 cup – washed and soaked in 2 cups water for about 15 minutes. Cook the rice so that the grains stay separate – by occasionally fluffing up with a fork. Let cool. abt 7-8 minutes.
1 cup of tofu (cotton tofu if possible) – cut into large pieces – tip: tofu does have much taste on it’s own but what it does contribute is a lovely chewy texture. Keeping the pieces large – about a cm square, ensures they retain the texture. Rinse cubes and if cold (not you, the tofu), soak in warm salt water for 10 mins. If you’re cold, you obviously don’t live in Chennai!
½ cup peas
½ cup mixed carrots, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, capsicum – whatever is available
1 tsp schezwan paste
1 or 2 flakes garlic – chopped
½ tsp ginger – juliennes (thin strips)
¼ cup chopped spring onions
Chopped coriander and/ or mint to garnish
Salt – 1/3 tsp and sugar a large pinch.
½ green chilli – chopped
Sesame seeds – roasted – 1 tsp – optional topping
Method: Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok, add green chillies and chopped spring onions. Add garlic and ginger and stir fry on high for a few seconds. Add the veg and peas. Continue to stir fry on high, sprinkling water as it begins to stick. Add the Schezwan paste, salt, sugar and tofu. Mix till everything is coated with the sauce. Add 2 tbsp water, spread the cooked rice on top, cover and cook on sim for about 3-4 mins. Switch off, mix everything, add mint/ coriander, sesame seeds and serve. If you’re a normal appetite type of person, this should last you for two hungry lunches. If you’re hungrier, add a couple of eggs and scramble. Or mushrooms.