Yesterday’s post provoked a comment from my cousin Devika about the horrendous concoctions that we kids came up with as we learnt to “cook”, if you can dignify what we did in the kitchen by the term! Thanks, Devi, your comment triggered a flood of memories of our concoctions! Here is a list – by no means exhaustive.
- “Deep-fried egg” – we had read about fried eggs but our staple fare was omelettes – the Indian way with chopped everything-under-the-sun. Curiosity was obviously aroused by Enid Blyton’s many foods and “fried eggs” appeared on the horizon. We only knew fried pooris, samosas, appadams and suchlike. So a full measure – half a litre of oil was poured into a large kadhai, heated to smoking point and then an egg dropped ceremoniously into it – i got away with first degree burns as the egg protested this ungodly treatment! Half a litre of oil also had to be explained and no explanation came to mind. So I decide to strain it – through a thin plastic sieve. Now I had a sieve and oil to account for, not to mention missing eyebrows!! Prayer was the last resort and prayer was answered – my mom came home after a particularly gruelling day at work to be greeted with a smile and a cup of tea – she never even noticed the missing stuff!
- We take enormous interest in the new acquisition – a refrigerator. A really tiny one, it would qualify for only a bar frig today but we were awestruck! And then comes the ice-cream idea. In a country as hot as India in the summer, cold anything was manna. And so everyday, as soon as the parents left for work, we got to work – whisking up ice-creams – or at least, our idea of how ice-creams were made – milk and sugar and something… that something varied from mango pulp to sapotas to vanilla essence to… one historic day… lime! Boiling hot milk and sugar were mixed and lots of lime juice added and the whole concoction poured into those aluminium ice trays (with plastic dividers that were hell to get cubes out of!) and duly put in the freezer for several hours as we occupied ourselves with pillow fights and pirate games, which basically involved blacking ourselves with kohl from my mother’s little kohl jar and draping ourselves in bedsheets. (Why? Who knows?! Any dressing up had to involve bedsheets, that was for sure!) and jumping from pirate ship to gangplank (we only had a vague idea of what that was!) – in other words, from a disused iron cot in the backyard to the window grill to the grilled door without touching the sea (ground!). The pirates won, gloriously of course, and off they went to celebrate their spoils – with lime ice-cream! The trays are intact but what’s this? Weird lime-green watery stuff with white flecks in it – very like baby’s puke! Being ‘correct’ south Indian kids, paneer aka cottage cheese had not entered our lives… till then and we recognised it as such only years later! Ah well, trust a doctor’s kids not to be repulsed by anything – least of all, baby puke-y looking stuff which had to be ice-cream! We ate it, of course!
- Sweet egg rolls – another inadvertent fallout of following a recipe in our book too closely and adding five green chilies to an omelette with two eggs in it! Tongues on fire, the dish was salvaged – by the simple expedient of spreading jam (Kissan mixed fruit, in case you’re wondering!) all over it, rolling it up into a carpet and slicing it into little spring rolls (not that we knew what those were!), pouring homemade ketchup all over these and patting ourselves on the backs for inventiveness!
- We were quite little – literally and once, trying to light the stove (matchstick days), I set fire to the hair hanging over my forehead. I thought I had inadvertantly set fire to some spiders – the stink was gross!
- An adult disaster – making tea with garlic milk (used as a medicine for sore throats!) in my mom-in-law’s home!
- Fried rice, anyone? Deep-fried, that is!
- Ummmm… one clove of garlic has many heads of garlic, right? Nuh… no! Ever find out the hard way that it’s the other way round? And brought up garlic-ky burps for weeks?! Not to mention that no one wanted to sit next to me in school??! Used six heads of garlic to make a small dish of some tomato-ey curry!
- How about burnt 2-minute noodles??Not possible? Oh yes, very possible if you’re an absent-minded student in a hostel who decides there’s just too much to study and a nap (immediately after putting noodles on a small electric burner with no controls!) is a good idea… stove, pan, spoon, noodles… all went into the trash!
Note to ten-year old self: Sugar and butter are important things to add to cake batter. Flour and eggs won’t do – even if you add enough water!
And so today, I present…
CHILD-PROOF CORN MEAL PIZZA
FOR PIZZA BASE
Cornmeal – 1.5 cups
Salt – 1.5 tsp
Rosemary – 1/2 tsp
Oil – any vegetable oil will do – 2.5 tbsp
Mix together everything except the oil. Add 5 cups water and mix into a slush.
Microwave on high for 15-17 minutes, stirring every four minutes. It should be a thick sludge by now. Mix in oil.
Grease a pan and dust some cornmeal over it. Do not line with paper – the meal sticks when done.
Pour the mush into the centre and spread into a circle. The edges should be slightly raised to hold the filling.
Bake at 190C for about 20 minutes till brown spots appear on the surface.
Spread pizza sauce over it.
Whatever you please – mozarella, fresh herbs, tomato slices, capsicum slices, onion rings, olives, pineapple chunks.
Bake again till cheese melts and serve hot.