The thing about genes and somnolence….


Ever done that thing where a recipe you make becomes a big hit and you are asked to bring it to every party/pot luck/dinner to which you go? Till you are sick of it??!

It happened to me early in my marriage – with baghara baingan. It’s a rich dish, right, needing loads of oil? And the number of times you can eat it does not exceed a couple of times a month – but I remember a time when I made it six times in one month- on request, not choice – I had baingan oozing out of my ears! And so, in a fit of revulsion, I did not make it for a whole year – till nature in the form of insistent genes which need an occasional infusion of baghara baingan (as also many other Hyderabadi dishes, not to mention aavakai and mango pappu) to stay oiled and in tune, intervened and I started roasting the peanuts and sesame and copra again!

Right now, with the determined holidaying we are on, my genes are crying out for some serious R & R and saying “don’t walk, don’t catch a train, don’t look at a schedule, don’t even think of getting up before ten and so on….”! Also, said genes are not used to the kind of rival-Arnold-Schwarznegger calf muscles I built up with all the walking in New York and Washington (enough to circumnavigate the globe!) and so with all that whining (from the genes, I swear!), I gave in and relapsed into a more comfortable state of somnolence at Bernadette and Vasi’s lovely, welcoming home! Three days of R & R and the calves are back to their “comfortably fatty” state and the genes have gone back to sleep!

Moral of the story is to always listen to the genes – they know better than your mind!

I think there is truly something about genetic makeup which is also tied up with the city you are born and bred in. Cities have character and you cannot outrun the character of the city you were born in! Madras, for instance, is a busy, bustling place where everyone gets up before the crack of dawn – what is that, you ask? You Hyderabadi? You know, that thing that happens, like someone’s switched on the outdoor lights – just a few – as your party ends – that’s dawn! NO, no that is NOT god switching on your nightlight! (though I can quite understand your confusion!)

I met a friend, a co-Hyderabadi, who had just joined a new company a few months earlier. Couldn’t handle it and had just quit the new job. I asked him what had happened and he said it much more beautifully than I could have ever thought it! “This kind of company, Anu, is not for free-spirited Hyderabadis like us”!!

Clink – went the penny in my mind! But, of course! That explained so many things-  about how un-rule bound we are,  how difficult it is to fill up forms that start with the words “Appication in triplicate… zzzz”,  how we are so eager to make the other person happy that we will say yes to everything under the sun and so on – including if asked if you know the way to Asifnagar, naale ke andar, nal ke paas, the red house! When you haven’t the faintest inkling whether it is north, south or west!

In other words, don’t give us precision jobs 🙂

Rather give us jobs that exercise our creativity and ingenuity –  we will find a way, even if we have to chew gum and stick the broken fuel line in the car with it – we will make it run!

Cooking is much like that – at least as far as I’m concerned. Learn how the spices behave and then let them choreograph their own number in the pan!

Like these little numbers that I had a dream about!

CARAMELISED APPLE AND CHEDDAR PUFFS

FOR THE PUFF

  • Whole wheat flour or a combo of white and whole wheat – 2.5 cups
  • Yeast – 1 sachet
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • 2 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp oil
  • Egg wash – optional – with one egg

Knead the dough well till elastic adding warn water as needed to make a smooth dough. Cover and set aside to prove

FOR FILLING

  • Apples – 2 large – slightly tart ones are better – peel, core and chop
  • Sugar or honey – 1 tbsp
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Salted table butter – 1 tbsp
  • Cheddar cheese – grated – 1 cup

As the dough is proving, make this filling.

Heat the butter in a pan. Add the apples and sugar. Cook till caramelised – about 5-6 minutes. Add the cinnamon and mix. Cool. Reserve a little of the filling for the sauce.

TO ASSEMBLE

Knock back the dough and divide into lime sized balls. Flatten out into thick rotis or roll each out into a rectangle about 3-4 mm thick. Sprinkle a little cheddar one on half of the rectangle and place 1.5 tsp of the apple filling. Fold over the other half of the rectangle without the filling on top, covering the filling completely. Pinch edges together to seal well.

Rest the packets for about 5 minutes and then spoon gently into a  deep pan of boiling water – 4 or 5 at a time. Cook for about half a minute and remove.

Place on a greased tray and brush with egg wash if using. Bake at 200 C for 15-20 minutes till golden.

Remove and serve with a dip of hung curd,  cream and the reserved filling and a pinch of salt and red chili (yes!) – sweet, sour , salt, hot and utterly delicious!

I swear you will make it till your genes are fed up!