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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Breadomlate

So, obviously this one’s not about Turkey.
Happily,  I’m the one food blogger not blogging about Turkey at the end of December. Actually, I’m going to hold off on all Holiday Cooking for a bit. See, I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks eating Christmas food. Not that I have anything against eating Christmas Food. Or anything else, for that matter. I, as you well know, adore eating. But after two weeks of eating the same stuff(ing) in different shapes, sizes and forms, good as it no doubt was, I’m well and truly done for a while. 


Instead I’m going off on a tangent.

So, goodbye  Stuffing and Turkey and Cranberry Sauce and Sweet Potatoes.
And hello: Bread Omelette.

(I wasn’t kidding about that tangent)

But hold on to your knickers, my lovelies, because it is totally connected.

Because, Bread Omelette, you see, is how I celebrated Christmas a long time ago.
When I was young.
Ahhh.
It wasn’t that long ago, believe it or not. (Just give or take circa 18 years.) (ouch)
India in the early 90's and boy, were those great times!
No job, no money, no stress.
(What’s changed, you ask?)
(very funny) (not)

No seriously, Bread Omelette brings back old memories of younger days.
And is there, ever, a better thought than that?

I was a teenager. And like all teenagers, we’d celebrate Christmas (and every other occasion) at someone’s house - we took turns depending on when, whose parents felt brave enough. And there’d always be food and music. And disgustingly sweet cocktails mixed by someone who thought they knew what they were doing (oh no, you didn’t!). And dim lighting. So dim that you’d need to squint real hard to see who you were talking to. Which is ironic because my friends and I would discuss our attire options for so-and-so's Christmas party for for weeks on end. When actually it was so dark that one could have showed up in yesterday’s pyjamas and no one would have known the difference. Anyhow, so we’d eat and dance. And talk and dance.  And drink (many) disgustingly sweet cocktails (my head still hurts at the thought). And giggle. And admire each others' dresses that couldn't be seen. While the boys would stand awkwardly around, with a glass in their hands, gawking mostly. The “cool” ones would ask a girl for a dance. The rest would continue to stand awkwardly around, with a glass in their hands, gawking mostly.

And then at some point, someone smart enough to have resisted all those cocktails, would suggest “a drive.”

So, we'd take off, 5 or 6 of us, squeezed into someone’s red Maruti Suzuki, on empty roads, through the city, under dark skies full of stars, fast, with the windows down and the cool wind whipping through our hair.

You are fearless at 16.

How different the city would look in the darkness. Quiet. Serene. Free. Most of the time, we’d drive up to the airport, park and watch the planes take off – the International flights leaving in the middle of the night, for faraway exotic lands. We’d sit there, for hours, talking, watching the  lights flash with rythmic precision along the gigantic underbelly of the aircraft, as it lifted off above us. Above, and away.

We’d crane our necks and follow the plane with our eyes as it got smaller and smaller and smaller, until it was swallowed up completely by clouds. The lights, just moments ago so bright that we'd had to shield our eyes, would seem like a twinkle in the sky. Like a star in motion. The deafening whirr of the motors would slowly fade away. And in those few moments until the next aircraft was ready to take off, we’d be blanketed in a silence so thick, we could lose ourselves in it.

In a few hours, the sun would rise over the horizon, and the sky would turn pink. In a few hours, alarm clocks all over the city would go off, people would stumble out of bed and stare at themselves in disbelief into bathroom mirrors. In a few hours, the city would wake, the roads would get frenetic in the early morning office rush, the blaring sound of impatient horns would obliterate the silence.

In a few hours, before all of this – in that short, precious window of time between dawn and daylight, between quiet and chaos, between solitude and commotion – we would safely return home. Gingerly unlock the front door, tip toe silently up the stairs, carefully walk past the closed doors of fast-asleep parents, and into to the safe haven of our bedrooms.

In a few hours. But not before we made a (very important) stop first.

For Bread Omelette. (Of course!)

We’d stop at one of those many roadside establishments – the only ones open at 3 or 4 in the morning, the ones you drive past without so much as a second glance at other, more normal, hours  – called “Hotel” something or the other. On the placard, below its name, it would claim “Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.” And if it was the ambitious kind, it would add “Indian, Chinese and Continental.”

Of course, none of these establishments were “Hotels” in any sense of the word.  The one we went to on the night in question, for example, was a tin shack, (sportingly adorned with Christmas fairy lights), a one room shed-like building with charpoys up front and a make-shift kitchen at the back, serving up piping hot, finger-lickingly-tasty food at any time of day or night. A jovial, moustached chap played the all-important role of owner/proprietor/cook/manager/order-taker and a skinny, smiley boy with surprisingly white teeth served as waiter/server/helper/dishwasher.

And the Bread Omelette they served?
A Class Act.

It’s gone 18 years now and still, I can think of absolutely nothing better at that time of the morning (or night, whichever you prefer!) than the Bread Omelette this place managed to dish up. Seriously.

Now bread omelette, for the uninitiated, is not, as one might assume, an omelette made out of bread. It’s just a regular, masala omelette (chillies and all) served between two slices of liberally buttered and toasted bread, eaten with chilli sauce or ketchup. Like a jazzed-up omelette sandwich. See?

At Rs. 10 a piece, (and perhaps only slightly more now) this simple meal was an Everyman’s favourite. For us, it was salve with magical cure-all properties. It satisfied our ravenous teenage hunger, warmed us up from the nippy bite in the 4am air, and ensured we would wake in the morning, hangover-free from those terrible cocktails. Three jobs in one; the perfect antidote.

Samosapedia, by the way, do a great job with their description of bread omelette (see http://samosapedia.com/e/bread+omelette). It is the best egg you’ve ever eaten, and it is the best bread you’ve ever eaten and it wouldn’t really be either, without, as they put it, that touch of roadside pollution! Anyhow, suffice it to say, when it comes to street food, this is undeniably an Indian Classic.

Mention “bread omelette” to anyone with any ties to the Subcontinent, and I bet it will conjure up visions of train travel. Because bread omelette is the food of the Indian Railway. Travel on a sleeper service and sure enough you’ll be woken up by the cries of hawkers (ahem – “pantry car attendants”) walking through the train compartment, calling “breadomlate, breadomlate” (one-word, repeated twice, and pronounced exactly the way it's spelt.)

And so, on that Christmas night, almost two decades ago, we sit there, a whole bunch of us – friends forever – under the starry skies, on straw charpoys, feeling nothing but quiet happiness, a sense of freedom, of infinite space, breathing freely, feeling powerful and content....and happy. And while we sit there waiting for our food, we sip steaming hot cups of freshly brewed filter coffee (which despite my attempts on my Coffee post, I will never be able to replicate).

And soon enough, out comes the little waiter/server/helper/dishwasher boy, with his 22 carat smile, effortlessly juggling 10 steel plates plus a bottle of Maggie Hot and Sweet. Which is indispensible, of course. On each plate, are two slices of toasted bread, filled with a generous portion of omelette, just off the tava, so piping hot that you can still see the rings of smoke wafting from it. So you simply lift off the top slice of bread, liberally pour the Maggie Hot and Sweet over the omelette, replace the slice of bread, and dig in. And there you have it: hot, crunchy, buttered toast, spicy, flavourful omelette cooked to the perfect consistency – creamy and fluffy and rich and light, all at once.

Here’s what you need:

- 4 slices of white bread
- 2 eggs
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- Handful, coriander leaves
- Pinch, garam masala
- Salt, to taste
- Butter (I'll leave the quantity up to you!)

Here’s how you do it:

Break the eggs in a bowl and add garam masala, salt, onion, green chillies and coriander leaves. Whisk well until frothy and light. Heat up some oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture. The version we had was super duper basic, by the way, so feel free to add other ingredients – red peppers, spinach, diced tomatoes – all of these can be happy additions, if you so desire. Anyhow, back to the omelette – when the bottom is browned, flip it over until it is golden brown on both sides. Now set it aside for a moment while you butter the bread slices (both sides. Go on, go for it!) and lay them on the same frying pan until browned – they will beautifully absorb the flavour of your just-cooked omelette. Now, place the omelette in between the bread pieces to complete your Bread Omellete. And don't foget the Maggie Hot and Sweet (it really is indespensible and I think you can buy it off the web anywhere in the world now!)

Post Script: I’d written the word “omelette” about 50 times in this post  and according to spellcheck, apparently I had misspelt it every single time. It’s not really a very intuitive spelling, is it? So, after putting considerable thought into the matter, and as a tribute to this undeniabe Indian Classic, I vote for re-christening this dish “breadomlate.”

Whatsay?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Back to basics: Inspired by Ranbir

So here’s the thing. As 2011 draws to a close (already?), and I reflect back on the year that’s been, I realise that I have just wasted a whole bunch of time. And you know what they say about Time (and Tide) not waiting etc. Apparently Time (and Tide) aren’t very patient gentlemen.

So the lost time? I ain’t never getting it back.

And the culprit? Myself.

Know why?

(Confession time folks) It’s because I have spent way too much time moaning about things I can't always control. Like the rain. And delays on the subway. And noisy neighbours (I hear them right now – bang, bang, bang, bang – what on earth do you do all day long?) And lukewarm coffee. And bad food. Yes, I moan constantly about bad food. Especially if it's at an expensive restaurant. 

But, honestly, does it matter? Really matter?

Not really...
(Except the banging, that is. Now that might just kill me one day. If the bad food doesn't.)

But really. Think about it, if you will: every minute that I have spent moaning could have been put to far more productive purposes. Like hanging with my amazing husband or cooking a completely satisfying meal (and then eating it) or playing with my cutie-cute-cute son, or writing writing writing or never going back to an expensive restaurant that serves bad food, or going for a run in the park with Romy, or reading a book, or playing the piano, or watching an old classic with my girlfriends. Or (very important) drinking.

I’ve done so much less of all this glorious stuff that I would have liked, this past year.

Shame on me.

(I'm going somewhere with this folks, I promise, I promise)

“Simplify!” I often preach to myself – “Less is more!”
True. True, all that. But I’m somewhat ashamed to say, I’ve been preaching to the unconverted.
Because I allow these usual silly little things to niggle away at me. It is so silly. Imbecile really.

Now take Ranbir for example, if you want to know how not to waste time. And really live.

He has no memory of what happened 5 minutes ago.

Zero Recall.  Nought. Nada. Zip.

Like when he’s naughty, I scold him. And he cries. Or if he tries to touch “forbidden” objects, I give him a stern look. He obeys me, but he looks hurt. If I raise my voice at him, he whimpers. But then seconds later, he’s forgotten. He’s gone back to talking animatedly to Eddie the Elephant or singing to his Formula 1 car, or holding the TV remote to his ear and trying to say "Hello", cheerful as ever, his mind – once again – a blank slate. When he sees me look at him – literally seconds after I’ve yelled at him – he lifts his arms up and stares at me with his big brown doe-eyes. “Fancy a Cuddle?” he enquires, in his little body-language-speak.

And when I do, he smiles at me with a smile so sweet that it melts me from the inside.

He holds no grudges, feels no slight, bears no malice.

He forgives and forgets.

He eats what I give him. Even if it's steamed cauliflower.
That's a joke. I would never do that to my only begotten child.

He has no worries about the future, no recollection of the past. He lives for the moment.

And when you stop just to think about this - his belief and his faith and his love, it brings facets of yourself under the microscope. And makes you realise, really, how little one needs in life to be happy.

And it’s the same with food.
See, you can spend hours and hours in the kitchen and buy the most exotic ingredients in the world and go all out and dish up something totally gourmet, or (if you're lucky) get yourself into one of the The World's 100 Best Restaurants and break the bank for a meal to remember for-now-and-ever-more and that’s just great, and I'm sure it's worth it, but sometimes – astonishingly – it’s the simplest, easiest, most basic stuff that truly hits the spot.

I mean, lookie here for instance:

Last night, we found ourselves at one of those spendy-trendy places with the beautiful people and the portion-controlled plates with the zigzag sauces. I usually try and avoid places like this, mostly because after emptying out most of the moolahs in my wallet, I leave thinking that a pizza right about now would be great...
...And you know what bad food at expensive places does to me...
But this one bucked the trend. Generous portions and utterly perfect food. Almost of the kind that wakes you up at night and makes you want to lick your fingers again. Not you, I mean – me. I wouldn’t expect you to do anything quite so bizarre. I know, I know.

So, yup...
Here we are. And as a reward for good behaviour, we decide to take Ranbir along with us. And in return for our kindness and generosity, by some heavenly miracle (that I will not question for fear of jinxing it forever), the little fellow is being a cherubic little angel. Halleluiah.

He’s thoroughly delighted to sit in his high-chair and look around, (can't fault him, the place is teeming with beautiful people) not a care in the world, smiling good-naturedly at the pretty waitress taking our order for egg fried rice (for him) and red wine (for us).

Luckily for everyone involved, both are promptly delivered, and received with much hand clapping and glee (by all).

(Now I'm not an alcoholic or anything (yet), but there are some nights when a girl needs her Chianti. I am that girl and tonight is that night. Ahhhhh....)

Anyhoo, between sips of my truly marvellous wine - all dark-cherry-and-leather in a glass - I sneak a sly look in the vague direction of the high chair. And there he is, my little man, clad in cuffed navy blue shirt and beige khakis, looking very preppie, chomping away at mouthfuls of his rice, keeping himself amused and happy and thoroughly content.

Really, sometimes he is an absolute delight to take out. “Sometimes” being the operative word.

So Sid and I get to talk. Grown-up talk. What a rare treat.

And really, it turns out to be a lovely evening. Candlelight, soft music, good wine, great conversation.

And all this is even before our food arrives.
And the food?

The food is sooooo good that the conversation (which I've just been ranting about) comes - if only for a brief few - to a complete halt.

But here’s the rub. (I told you I’m going somewhere with this...)

Somewhere between mouthfuls of pan fried Ostrich with 3 chillies and Soft-Shelled Crab with Julienne Green Mango, I decide to taste a big spoonful of Ranbir’s rice.

And almost swoon.

It is utterly, utterly delicious.

Delicious in a simple, subtle, delicate way - scented with only the slightest hint of coriander, chilli, ginger and sesame oil.

It is simply: Perfection.

And when I’m sort of totally lost in fried-rice heaven, a voice rudely interrupts my reverie.

“Stop eating his rice!” it commands me.

“But...I can’t!!!” I reply helplessly. “It’s just too good.”

“Ams, look at his face and please stop eating his rice,” the cruel voice says again.

I obey. I look at my son’s face. His eyebrows have come together in one massive unibrow and he is giving me the mother of all frowns. I put down my fork instantly.

“Ooops, sorry munchoo,” I coo lovingly. “Here you go.” And I offer him a spoonful of rice.

He doesn’t take it.

I think he’s upset with me. Quite justifiably so. I’d be upset too if there was a plateful of food in front of someone and they decided, instead, to finish mine.

I try again with my peace offering.

He still doesn’t take it.

Instead, to my utter amazement, he calls out to me, “mama,” and when I’m near enough, he holds up a spoonful of rice and shoves it into my mouth.

I am gobsmacked. And ridiculously moved.

Wanna learn how to live?
Learn from a 14 month old.

So, it’s back to basics for me. I can’t do Ostrich pan fried in 3 chillies at home. And nor will I attempt to, but I can do egg fried rice.

And here’s what you need:

- 2 tbsp groundnut oil
- 3 free-range eggs, beaten
- 400g/14oz cooked brown rice
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander
- pinch ground white pepper
- 1 large spring onion, finely sliced
- 1 tsp minced fresh ginger

Here’s how you do it:

Heat a wok until smoking and then add half the groundnut oil. Add the eggs and scramble for 1-2 minutes. Keep aside the scrambled eggs and reheat the remaining groundnut oil in the wok. Add the ginger and the cooked rice and stir well to break up the grains. By the way, it’s supremely important that the rice you use is cooked and stone cold by the time you are ready to use it here. With just-made rice, you’ll find the result is mushy and soggy. This way, you’ll taste every grain, which is what you’re after.

(And – if you want to be really good and squeeze in your “5 A Day” into this dish, you easily can – just add in any or all of 1/2 cup peas, 2 finely diced carrots, ½ cup corn, 2 sliced red bell peppers, and a handful of chopped green beans – at this point and stir fry for a few minutes until the vegetables start to soften)

Return the egg to the wok with the rice (and vegetables, if you wish) and season, to taste, with the soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper. Stir in the sliced spring onion and the coriander and mix well.

Inspired by Ranbir. In more ways than one.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A Pumpkin that Smiles

So I experimented on Ranbir today.

No, I didn’t turn him into a Rabbit, in case you were wondering (which, by the way, is precisely what 'spellcheck' does to his name...)

What I mean by “experimented on" him is that I carved him a jack-o-lantern to see if he is old enough (or smart enough) to “get” it.

Ya, ya, I know it's way past Halloween and jack-o-lantern season, but we missed all of that, what with being in India and all, see. And better late than never, as they say. And anyhow, Waitrose still seem to have a large supply of pumpkin on their shelves, Halloween or not. So, I bought a monstrously large pumpkin, placed it at the bottom of Ranbir’s pram (see, I knew I kept my baby around for a reason), and effortlessly wheeled it home. It took all my strength, however, once I got home, to carry it down the stairs and into the kitchen, where I lugged it on the countertop, caught my breath, cut the top off, scooped the inside flesh out, carved a face, placed a candle inside and finally replaced the lid. 

And ta-da! We had a jack-o-lantern in December. Hurrah.

Sadly, it was a bit too early (circa, a year or two too early...) to be cheering because I got absolutely no reaction from Ranbir.
Who seemed far more engrossed in Sid’s Blackberry.
So, to be more precise, my experiment was a big fat failure. Big and fat. Like pumpkin big and fat. Cause clearly, my pumpkin’s (highly expressive) triangular eyes and (cute button) nose and (funny crooked smiley) mouth evoked no emotion in my little boy whatsoever. So: No. I conclude, sadly, that Ranbir is not old enough (or smart enough) to “get” it.
Sigh.

(Though some might argue that sending emails from his father’s work Blackberry demonstrates a level of intelligence far greater than reacting to his mother’s attempt at a funny-faced Pumpkin).

However – to quote Shakespeare (erudite chick that I am), “All’s well that ends well” and I’m still quite pleased,  because now you see, I have a whole bunch of pumpkin deliciousness to cook with!

And I LOVE pumpkin. Absolutely LOVE it. In any form.  I love pumpkin soup, I love pumpkin salad, I love pumpkin risotto and I love pumpkin subzi, cooked the Indian way with mustard seeds and amchoor and dried red chilies.

Pumpkin is really the ultimate Fall/Winter food – it’s a great accompaniment to a heartier, perhaps meatier meal, or it’s a perfectly delicious one-pot meal in itself. Apart from the undeniable fact that it is BRIGHT orange in colour, and by virtue of that alone, will light up the darkest, most dreary evening, it lends a sweetness and wholesomeness and comfort and warmth to the palette that is just fantastic.  Say "Pumpkin" in my ear, and I think of fall colours and log cabins and bonfires and marshmallows and the smell of wood smoke in the air…

I’m making a simple Roast Pumpkin for dinner tonight that is so good that I guarantee there will be no leftovers. And even though Ranbir isn't smiling at my smiling jack-o-lantern, I'm fairly sure he's going to be smiling after his dinner.

Here’s what you need:

- 1 large pumpkin
- 3 tbsn olive oil
- 6 stalks fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 100g walnuts
- 2 tbsp dried cranberries
- 125g goats cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste

Here’s how you do it:

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Quarter the pumpkin so it is of a manageable working size and then skin each bit. Scoop out the seeds, then cut into cubes, trying to keep the pieces uniformly small.  Add the olive oil to a roasting tin and then scatter the pumpkin cubes on it. Strip the leaves from 4 stalks of thyme, and sprinkle liberally over the pieces. Roast in the oven for about 30-45 minutes or until tender. Once out of the oven,  ladle the pumpkin into a large serving bowl and scatter the walnuts and cranberries over it. Crumble the goats cheese on top, then toss everything together gently.

I love this dish because it’s simple and aromatic and comforting all at once. You have meltingly sweet cubes of pumpkin offset with the fragrance of thyme, the warm crunch of walnuts, the tartness of cranberries and the rich, decadent saltiness of crumbly goats cheese.

Yum.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Hello Kitchen. Hello London. Hello Home.

Hello Blog, Hello Computer, Hello High Speed Internet, Hello Facebook, Hello time-alone-to-write, Hello time-alone-to-think, Hello cooking-for-myself, Hello Cooking-for-my-husband, Hello cooking-for-my-kid, Hello grocery shopping, Hello dishwashing. Hello laundry. Hello making-my-own-tea/coffee/bed/breakfast.

Hello Kitchen, Hello London. Hello Home.

Yeah. That’s right. Hello. Again.

I’ve been in India, you see. Attending my sister-in-law’s wedding (Su, you’re maaaaaarrrrriiiieeeed!!! Yay!!!) And what a FUN wedding it was! In true Punju style, a veritable feast for the senses – music and dancing and people and booze and flowers and colours and lights and FOOD. Food of virtually every kind imaginable – Lebanese and Japanese and Chinese and Continental and Italian. And Indian. Of course.  Dum Biryani and Raan and Chicken Kali Mirch and Malai Kofta and Kabuli Channa and  Kababs and Tar Meat and Mirchi Roti and Tandoori Prawns…mmmmm.

So, eat your heart out people, cause I certainly did. Oh yeah.

I did other things too, you know. Lest you think all I do in life is eat. (And how right you are). But yes, I did do other things. Most definitely so. After all, folks, it was my sister-in-law’s wedding. And so, I successfully fulfilled all my required duties as the dutiful and compliant Bahu-of-Khanna-family. (It’s ok, you can laugh. I’m laughing too). No, but, seriously – among several other dutiful and compliant tasks worthy of Bahu-of-Khanna-family – I was handed sole responsibility of the auspicious and highly eminent task of tying the Gatbandhan for this delightful couple. It is hard work that, I tell you, tying that knot so tightly that there is no chance in hell it ever comes undone. Thank god for all the bicep training I’ve been getting at the gym.

Now Su and Gareth: you were probably blissfully unaware of this little fact, being lost in excited anticipation of the various activities that were to fill the happy hours of your wedding night.

BUT....

(Oh and I don’t blame you, one bit. One should always be lost in excited anticipation of the various activities that are to fill the happy hours of one’s wedding night.)

I’m referring to the amorous devouring of Godiva and Dom Perignon of course. What else could I possibly mean? <flutter of eyelashes>

BUT....

Pull yourselves together and attempt, please, just for one second, to get back to the moment in question.  And remember that it is your duty and your obligation to keep that knot tied strong. I speak metaphorically of course. Hopeless romantic that I am, even I’m not so foolish as to expect you to walk around your whole lives tied together by a piece of cloth. Even one tied by Yours Truly. But you know what I mean. So, since my wish is also my command (and everything is always all about me) – here you go: May you both be happily married always and forever. Partly because that’s the way it should be. But mostly because some part of the responsibility for your everlasting conjugal happiness rests on my little muscles. Kapeesh??

Anyhow. All that is well and good, and here’s to many, many, many years of happiness to Su and Gareth.

But, The Big Wedding – sadly – is over.

As I said to my mother-in-law, casually, on the day after the wedding – “I think, quite honestly, that you and Dad have committed a grave injustice to the world in not having produced an additional 5-6 children that you could marry off in such pomp and ceremony.”
She threw back her head and laughed.
Clearly she missed the point. Duh.
This is no laughing matter, you see. I mean I could certainly do with a whole week of uninterrupted fun, frolic and debauchery, every year for the next 5-6.  I think.
But it is not to be.
They had two children. Losers!!!! A measly two.
Both of whom are now married.
No more uninterrupted fun, frolic and debauchery for me.
Boo.

But on that unhappy note, I’m sooooooooooooo sorry I haven’t Yummyami’d for ages and ages. I hope you’ve missed me, cause I’ve certainly missed you! Awwwwww!!!!

Not to make excuses, but I haven’t blogged because I haven’t cooked. And if I don’t cook, there’s nothing to blog about. No? Also of course, I find it trés impossible to write in India. For starters, you are NEVER alone. EVER. There’s always someone somewhere. Here and there. Around and about. It’s a country of 1.1 billion people, so that’s to be expected, I suppose. The problem is I can’t write unless I’m alone. Weird peculiarity, I know, but there you have it. And then of course the speed of the internet in my parents’ home would give the Tortoise (of the legendary “The Hare and The Tortoise” fame,) a serious run for his money. And finally, you’ve got to concede, this time was a most-special occasion and, I was way too busy practicing dancing to “Will you be my Chhamak Chhalo” and making myself look pretty (now, that’s hard work) and tying never-to-be-undone Gatbandhans. And eating. (Mostly eating. But don’t tell anyone. Please?)

And now? Now, I am home. In quiet, silent, polite England. Where you can hear a pin drop. Just me and Ranbir. And Sid at work.
But, I’m happy to be back actually. Cause true to the cliché, there really is no place like home. It’s nice to get back to my bed and my bathroom and my high speed internet and my laptop and the taste of my own cooking...

Or not.

Cause. (Brace yourself.) I. Think. That. I’ve. Forgotten. How. To. Cook.
Now you may scoff at me and tell me that’s not possible.
But I have.
Sob.
I know it and my kitchen knows it. Deep in our hearts.
Really.
Because, you see I step into my kitchen and the gleaming white tiles stare me sadly in the face. As does my empty sink, glinting in the sunlight. And my strangely spotless pots and pans. And the unnaturally clear surface of my wooden counter top. All I can smell - everywhere - is Mr. Muscle.

All thanks to Sid who returned a few days before me. But of course. Sid, you bloody clean-freak. How do you stay married to me?

So, (sigh) I need to make friends with my kitchen again. Get reacquainted. Win back it’s heart. Show some love. Warm and fuzzy. And all. But... where do I begin??

I mean, the most poignant labour of love (To Kitchen, With Love) would be to cook Indian food. Maximum ingredients, maximum time, maximum mess, maximum taste. But I just can’t do Indian food right now. I’m Indian Fooded out. Totally. I mean, after the Dum Biryani and Raan and Chicken Kali Mirch and Malai Kofta and Kabuli Channa and  Kababs and Tar Meat and Mirchi Roti and Tandoori Prawns, could you do Indian food?

I think not.

So I fall back on the Old Faithful. Chinese Stir Fry. "Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai", after all.
So, it’s Honey Prawns and Garlic Broccoli. Fresh, Simple, Healthy, Delicious.

Here’s what you need:

Honey Prawns

- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried crushed red chillies
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp grated root ginger
- 2 tsp honey
- 500g (1 1/4 lb) jumbo prawns - peeled and deveined
- Salt to taste

Stir-fried Broccoli

- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 broccoli, cut into florets
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- 2 tbsp soy sauce

Here’s how you do the Prawns...

Heat the olive oil and crushed chillies in a wok over medium heat. Add the prawns, ginger and garlic and stir fry for 5-10 minutes until the prawns are cooked. Add honey as your final step stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick. Serve immediately.

...and then the Brocolli

Once you’ve emptied out the prawns from the wok, heat some more the olive oil over high heat. Add the garlic, broccoli and chilli flakes and stir fry for 5-6 minutes. Add the soy sauce, and season to taste.

And so, while I dig into a large serving of prawns and broccoli, I realize that my kitchen is alive with the aroma of chillies and burnt garlic. On the wooden counter top, are my cutting board and knife waiting to be cleaned; garlic skins waiting to be discarded; bottles of honey and olive oil waiting to be put back where they belong. The sink is full of dishes waiting to be washed.  Before me is a plate full of deliciousness waiting to be savoured.

It is a strangely comforting sight.
My now-familiar kitchen seems to smile at me in gratitude.
I smile back.

Hello Kitchen. Hello London. Hello Home.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Winging it, Ammi Style!

Last evening, we had some friends drop in to give Ranbir his birthday present (which I now need to find a home for. Have I mentioned before that I need a bigger house?)

Anyway, it was lovely to see them and Ranbir LOVED unwrapping his gift (thank you guys!) but it all made me think how long it’s been since anyone has last “dropped in” to my house!

I suppose this is the fundamental difference between the East and the West. Back home in India, it is perfectly normal for people to “drop in” all the time, for no reason other than the fact that they just feel like “dropping in.” Here, on the other hand, we live and die by our diaries and our calendars and appointments and play dates.  It’s a totally different context, I admit; culturally and practically. Neither is better or worse. Just different. But while in India, everyone seems awfully well-prepared to welcome visitors at any given point in time, I have to admit, last night, I had to think laterally! Big time! Not that I mind at all. In fact, quite honestly it was SUCH a welcome respite to see friends unexpectedly. It made me realise just how much, a little bit less of this draconian diary-keeping, would enrich our quality of life. If only we all eased up a little, and just winged it, sometimes. Because there is nothing quite as pleasurable as the company of people you like. And somehow according to the diary, there is just never enough time to spend in the company of people you like. Hugely weird irony if you stop to think about it.

So anyway – last evening. Speaking of preparedness. Or lack of. Here’s what happens:

Sid is reading the newspaper. Ranbir is “playing” his piano (yes, this is yet another new toy). I am doing what I have been doing, non-stop it seems, since the 2nd of October. Which is putting away toys. (Have I mentioned before that I need a bigger house?)
The doorbell rings. Sid looks at me. I look at him. We look bemused. Ranbir looks amused. “Who could that be?” Sid remarks aloud.
I raise my newly threaded eyebrows (thank you, Indian lady on Bond Street) and make a classic I-don't-know face.  
“Package, maybe?” I suggest.
“I didn’t order anything,” says Sid
“Well, I didn’t order anything either,” says me, somewhat defensively.
The bell rings again. Persistent Package Man. Apparently.
“Well,” says Sid. “Are you going to get it?”
“Noooo,” says me. “You’re going to get it. I’m putting away toys.”
Sid looks at me. I am putting away toys. Undeniably so.
"Alright then. Fine," says Sid folding up the newspaper with a resigned sigh. As if the newspaper these days has any news worth reading anyway.
"Alright then, Fine." says me too, as I continue putting away toys. I'm always happy when we agree. It makes for a very successful marriage.

Seconds later I hear happy, raised voices. And I crane my neck in alarm.
“Welcome, welcome,” says Sid, sounding merry
“Holy sh$$,” says me.
(The $$ is not just for editorial etiquette, by the way. My “it’s” are silent these days.  Due, rather annoyingly, to a little person who follows me around, copying everything I say or do. It’s not halfway as satisfying I’ve got to admit, these sh$$’s with the silent $$'s. But sigh. One’s got to do what one’s got to do.)

Anyhow, back to the current predicament of Sid sounding merry. He doesn’t usually sound merry on a Sunday night. Sunday nights, you see, are not about being merry. But then, he’s sounding merry. Very merry. Is the Package Man just an exceptionally nice sort?
But who – on God’s earth – is he welcoming so merrily?  
Is he inviting the Package Man for tea?
But (clever girl that I am), I rule out that possibility somewhat promptly.
Because Sid’s not the kind to generally invite Package Men for tea, no matter how exceptionally nice they might be.
“Holy sh$$,” says me. Once again. This time in proper falsetto. Has someone dropped in??

The first thought to enter my brain is myself (most important!). So, I check to see if I’m dressed decently. Or for that matter, if I’m dressed at all. (Now don’t be getting all excited, people. That was a joke). Thankfully (for everyone), it turns out that I am.

The second thought to enter my brain is food (of course!) I abandon the toy-stacking and make a mad dash for the kitchen before the happy raised voices come any closer. Is there anything in the house worthy of guests? And as I look around my kitchen – at tins of baked beans, a loaf of bread, frozen corn, milk, cheese and lots of green chillies – I conclude despondently: Yummyami has no food worthy of guests. Boo.

And in that split second – before the realisation sinks in and the waves of panic hit – the only thing I can think of is: What would Ammi do?

Cause Ammi is the one person who is always prepared for guests. She always looks fabulous. And she always has food. Come for breakfast, lunch, tea, coffee, dinner, drinks, or in-between, she’s always ready. Always. Don’t ask me how.

By the way, Ammi, (as you all know from Uday Park Chicken) is Sid’s grandmother, Ranbir’s great grandmother and my grandmother-in-law. I still think of her in the present tense because a part of me just can’t come to terms with the fact that she’s no longer in the present tense. In fact half the time when I’m visiting her (amazingly well-kept) home in Uday Park, I expect her to come billowing out of the kitchen, looking gorgeous as usual, laughing her big hearty laugh, and saying “haha, fooled you all!”

Silly, delusional me.
Still. I like to speak of her in the present tense. So, pardonne moi for the incorrect grammar.

Anyway, so Ammi, this lady of so many talents, would know exactly what to do. And so I transport myself into the brain of Ammi, and this is what I do:

1)      Beans on toast
2)      Devilled Eggs
3)      Creamed corn on salto biscuits
4)      Cheese balls

Here’s what you need (everything below serves 6 people):

Beans on toast

- 1 tin baked beans
- Bread slices, cut into quarters
- 2 tbsp grated cheese
- 1 tsp chopped coriander
- 2 copped green chillies

Lightly fry the bread slices until brown and keep aside. Heat beans, pile them generously on the bread, garnish with grated cheese and coriander!

Devilled Eggs

- 6 hard boiled eggs
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 tsp chopped coriander
- salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the eggs into halves lengthwise. Gently remove and mash yolk and combine with mayonnaise, mustard, coriander, salt and pepper. Fill them back into the egg white shells. Done!

Creamed corn on salto biscuits

- ½ packet corn, defrosted
- 2 chopped onions
- 1 inch chopped ginger
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander
- 1 chopped green chilly
- 2 tbsp grated cheese
- ½ cup milk
- salt and pepper, to taste

Cook corn with salt, pepper, onion, ginger, cheese and milk until thick and creamy. Pile onto salto biscuits (crackers), garnish with coriander and chillies. Serve hot!

Cheese Balls

- 3 tbsp grated cheese
- 1 tbsp butter
- 6 tbsp breadcrumbs
- 3 tbsp chopped ham (for a veggie version, just leave out the ham)
- 1 chopped green chilly
- 1 tbsp chopped coriander
- salt and pepper, to taste

For Batter, mix together
- ½ cup milk
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp flour

Mix together the cheese, butter, breadcrumbs, ham, chilly, coriander, salt and pepper. Form into small rounded balls, dip in batter and deep fry to a golden brown.

Success! Four quick dishes. With whatever I happened to have at home. Which was not very much!

Anyway, serve the above with wine. Bottles of it. So many that you lose count. For, wine, if you don’t already know, makes everything seem a bit fancier. Wine is the most remarkable illusionist. And illusion, my friends, is the secret to good hostessing. Unless you’re Ammi. In which case, of course, you need no illusions. But then, sadly, there’s only 1 Ammi. So, wine it is. And a bit of creativity.

Now, it so happens that the friends who dropped in are lovely, warm, relaxed people who couldn’t have cared less if I served them nothing at all. But, it never hurts to offer people food. Food, after all, is love. And based on the fact that I had absolutely no leftovers, I think our friends felt very loved! Which, for a welcome change, left me feeling quite pleased with myself. So much so that if I could, I would have picked up the phone to call Ammi and say, “Guess what I made today...” just to hear her say, “Wow, Amu, I’m so proud of you!”

So, after an unexpected, but rather delightful couple of hours, Sid is back to reading the newspaper, Ranbir is back to “playing” his piano, and I am backing to stacking toys (Did I ever mention....?)

So the moral of the story?
Good friends, good food and good wine – leaves everyone content, fed and quite drunk.
And that, my friends, is that.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Happy Birthday Ranbir!

Kheer - delicious and delicately flavoured – is synonymous, in my mind, with festivity!

I come from a completely un-ritualistic family – indeed I am hard pressed to think of many things we did, growing up, that can be granted the stature of ubiquity. The one thing that definitely qualifies, however – that we did ritualistically, without fail, and that they continue to do, even in my absence (sob!) is to eat Kheer on special occasions. So, be it Diwali, birthdays, engagements, anniversaries, promotions, even Christmas, there was always Kheer at lunch. For us, it was a symbol of congratulations and celebration. Of good luck and continuity.

And so, on this – my most special occasion yet - I am making Kheer.

October 2, 2010

The biggest countdown of my life has just ended.  9 months of anticipation and 22 hours of labour later, I am holding, in my arms - my son.

I don’t know what to do at this moment to be honest.  Or what to feel. The emotions overwhelm me. I am jubilant. But I don’t know why. Because the pain is over? Because I am no longer fat? Because I am holding this tiny squirming being in my arms – this being, that Sid and I have created. This being that is now mine?

I am tired, oh so tired. I am crying. From relief, from happiness, from sheer exhaustion? I don’t know. Dr. Teoh is congratulating me – “you did it, you did it,” he repeats over and over again. Ebi, my midwife (God Bless You, I will never forget your kindness in all my life) is laughing, her perfectly white teeth shining against her smooth, perfectly dark skin. Sid is hugging me, his face reflecting a pride so marked, that I remember it still.

He is a father.

And me? I am a mother.  A mother. The words don’t seem real somehow. 

And I don’t know what to do at this moment. But Ranbir does. He needs no help, no direction, no guidance. The first thing he does on this earth is feed.  He is my son.

October 2, 2011

Time has flown like a creature with wings.

A year has passed. And how far we have come!  How far we have come from the day we brought Ranbir home from the hospital.

Our First Year

Fear
It is 9am on Monday morning. The sky is steel grey, dark clouds looming above us, threatening rain. Ranbir is so tiny, his newborn sized sleepsuit (the one smaller than 0-3 months!) hanging loosely around his little body. He is smaller than the length of my forearm, light as a feather.  I am looking back woefully as we drive home. I know I am leaving behind the protective shelter of the hospital, my bright room in the maternity ward done up in cheerful hues of yellow, the midwives who know everything. This is the moment – the precise moment – that reality hits. Cold and Hard.  This is it folks. Moment of truth. It’s just us: Sid and myself, my mother (the only somewhat knowledgeable one of us all, albeit from 30 years ago) and my father (if-i-touch-the-baby-i-will-break-it.) With a 2-day old. Who shares our emotions exactly. We are all the same. Alone. Clueless. And terrified.

Despair
The first 12 weeks seem like 12 years. The days that end before they begin, the long, endless nights.

Time stops.

People tell me he is “cute.” Really?? “Mishti mukh” my mother coos to him all day long – sweet face. Whatever. To me, he barely looks human. He certainly doesn’t behave like one.  I mean, couldja just not pee in my face the next time I’m changing you? Please? Cause you may think it’s cool, but I certainly don’t.  

Sleep, precious sleep. Dark circles. Tears.  I dread the nights. And when the sun comes up – finally – I breathe a sigh of relief – I have survived one more day.  Sometimes I laugh. I call him King Khanna –“What can I do for you now your Majesty?” Sometimes nothing works. The baby cries all day and all night.  Is this how it is meant to be? Or am I a failure? Sid holds me. Tight. It gives me strength. He tells me I’m a great mom. I don’t believe him. I read the books – the expert books – over and over again.  “All they need is love,” the books say.  I look down at my wailing baby. “I love you so much,” I whisper in his ear, “but do you love me?”

Hope
We are learning, Ranbir and I. We are learning how to understand each other. Only now do I begin to appreciate the full power of language, how wonderfully enabling it is. But we don’t have this luxury, Ranbir and I, the luxury of spoken language. Of words. So we both learn. Slowly. Patiently. How to communicate in other ways.

I learn the subtle differences in the sound of his cries (I’m hungry, I’m bored, I’m sleepy, I need changing, I’m just throwing a tantrum because I can) and what I must do in response (feed, play, settle, change diaper, ignore).  I learn that when he kicks his legs furiously, he is happy and when he rubs the side of his face against the hollow in my neck he is sleepy and that when he yawns in the middle of his bath, he is blissfully content. I learn.

And he learns too. Many little things. But one big thing. He learns that he needn’t be scared. That he will be fed and cuddled. And loved unconditionally. He learns that with us, he is safe. And that it may not be such a bad thing after all to keep us around.

He is starting to look human now.  When people call him “beautiful” and then follow it up with “he looks JUST like you” I have to concede – I enjoy it.

There are still times that frustrate me. When communication fails. And I throw up my arms in resignation. But I learn how to deal with that too. I am a fast learner. In times like these, I put him in a safe place, shut the door, and eat chocolate.  It TOTALLY helps.

Love
There are many milestones in the life of a new mother, each one special in its own way. To me, the most memorable will always be Ranbir’s first smile.

It is astounding how much that first little glimmer of a smile means to me. At first, I can’t believe he’s done it. But then he does it again. And he looks at me as if waiting for me to smile back. To respond. It’s the first time he’s held my gaze. It touches  my very core, melts my heart to mush.

Because it is more than just a smile. It is a turning point of sorts.  It is, at long last, an acknowledgment of my existence. It is LOVE.

And as my friend Aimee says to me when I moan to her - about losing sleep and losing me-time and losing independence and losing sanity. “Well, you clearly know everything that you’re going to lose. But, trust me, you have NO idea how much you are going to gain.”

This I discover now.

I discover that the hardest and most selfless job I have ever done in my life is also the most fulfilling. Because I have turned my baby into the most delightful little person I know.  And I am privileged, so privileged, to be his mama.

And from this point on, time flies like a creature with wings.

Lots of things happen, at amazing pace. The squeals of laughter that crack me up every single time, the butterfly kisses, the baby babble (though in Ranbir’s limited vocab, everything and everyone is “da-da”). Suddenly life is a game.  He takes things out of drawers, dustbins, handbags. I put them all back patiently and he takes them out again. This time, I don’t take the bait despite the sorrowful look he’s giving me. He moves on to putting my shoes in his mouth. Or touching the wheels of the pram. Dirty things entertain him the most. My mobile phone is a close second. Now when I hold him, he holds me back. And I want to hold on to that moment forever. I kiss him on his neck and smell that milk smell of his and he laughs because he is tickled. It is the best feeling in the world. Indescribable. Incomparable.  Before I know it, he eats egg fried rice. And mud. He sits up, crawls, plays peek-a-boo by himself, “reads,” claps his hands, waves, does high-fives.

Sometimes I watch him watch me – his large brown eyes looking at me with – dare I say it? Adoration? And it fills my heart with so much love. So much that I didn’t think my heart was big enough to hold. I wonder – how can a person so small affect a love so great?

Sometimes, I watch him sleep – his smooth unlined face so peaceful, so calm, his hands managing to break out of the swaddle I have so painstakingly wrapped him in, his little escaped fists clutching his blanket or a toy, his mouth making little puckering sounds.  And I think to myself – I made that?

Today we have reached the 1 year mark.
Today the English sun is shining for me.  
And I am basking in its glory.

Please celebrate with me. With Kheer.

I am making my Kheer with rice, but every part of India – and every Indian family, for that matter – probably has its own version of Kheer. The essential ingredients are milk and sugar, but different variations can be made by replacing rice with vermicelli, semolina, and even oranges. My mother makes a fantastic and absolutely unrivalled mango Kheer. But I’m rubbish at dessert anyway, so I’m sticking to the basics.  This is homemade, wholesome goodness. This is Rice Kheer.

Here’s what you need:

- 1/4th cup long grain rice, washed and drained
- 4-5 cups milk
- 2-3 cardamom seeds, crushed
- 2 tbsp almonds, blanched & silvered
- A few of saffron threads, soaked in a little hot milk
- 1 tbsp skinned pistachio nuts, chopped
- 1 tbsp sultanas or raisins
- 2  tbsp sugar or as desired

Here’s how you do it:

Add rice, milk and cardamom to a pan, and slowly bring to a boil stirring constantly. Simmer gently until the rice grains start to break up and soften, but keep stirring to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Continue to simmer (and stir) until the milk is reduced by about half; this may take as long as 1 hour. (No pain, no gain, as they say :) When the milk has thickened, add as much sugar as you like (I don't like to add too much because as I explain in my coffee recipe, boiling milk releases enough sugar for my taste, but then I don't like my desserts too sweet) and stir until completely dissolved. Finally add almonds, pistachio, saffron and raisins and simmer for another 3-4 minutes. Remove the Kheer from heat and let cool. Keep it in the fridge for a few hours and serve chilled.

They say the day a baby is born a mother is born too.  To Ranbir then.  And to me.  On our 1st birthday.


Monday, 26 September 2011

Roast Chicken, à la Didima

Didima, my grandmother, is way too old to cook anymore. She’s almost too old even to eat.  But when I close my eyes, I don’t think of her like this. I think of her as she was when I was growing up – slim and elegant in her red and white saris, long black hair cascading down her back, large hazel-green eyes. And the best cook in the world.

Indeed, she had this tremendous knack for taking a bunch of disparate ingredients, bunging them together and creating the most remarkably tasty dishes you can imagine.  They say the best chefs are born out of the perfect balance between inherent creative talent and unequivocal commitment – and my grandmother certainly had both.  The best part of it all was the effortless ease with which she managed her culinary prowess; she would breeze in and out of the kitchen, cool as a cucumber, and before you knew it, there would appear – just like magic – a veritable feast laid out in front of you.

I have so many memories – such profoundly fond ones – of the numerous delicious meals that came out of Didima’s kitchen and onto the rectangular wooden dining table in that sun drenched room in Calcutta.

“Didima!!” the rest of us would remark in awe, “when did you make all that?”

“Just now dear”, she would reply modestly, her cheeks dimpling as she smiled, “it’s all so simple.”

Yeah right.

And we would gather around the table and eat and eat and eat. Till we could eat no more. While the afternoon sun came streaming in, casting shadows on the white-washed walls. And the ceiling fan whirred noisily above us, cooling the sticky Calcutta air. And the koel birds sang koo-oo on the branches of the Mulberry tree outside. And Didima smiled to herself as we all literally licked our plates clean. What higher praise can a chef ask for? Especially when it was "all so simple!" to make.

As I said before -Yeah right.

But perhaps it really is “all so simple.” Perhaps we just make it more difficult than it is. Or should be.

So, today I tried Roast Chicken, one of my Didima’s many specialties. And it was simple. And delicious. Which really is the best combination of all.

Now, I must warn you, the thing about Didima’s cooking is that there are no measurements at all. It’s all andaaz – a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

So, I telephone her this morning to ask her just how much of this and how much of that I would need.

“I’ll tell your mother to write it down, dear,” she tells me, “and she can send it to you in a letter. You know, through the computer.”

Ha!

And surely enough, when I checked my email an hour later, this is what I got:

Dear Nickname-that-shall-not-be-revealed,

Didima asked me to send you the following: Take a whole chicken, some potatoes and onion. And salt and pepper. And some garlic if you like. And put it in the oven.

Love,
Mama

Well. That’s just swell, isn’t it? Couldja be a bit more vague if you tried?

But, just because no one can cook as effortlessly as Didima doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t give it a go, now, should it?

So, in the spirit of aspiring to be even half as good as she is, I took her general instructions, attempted to guesstimate the correct quantities of everything, added my own twist, and immersed myself in the pursuit of making the perfect roast chicken, à la Didima.

And I’m happy to declare that it all worked out like a charm.

So, here’s what you need (demystified to the best of my ability):

- 1 whole chicken. The chicken is really your protagonist, so the fresher and better quality it is, the greater your chances of a perfect roast.  And if you can get your hands on free-range, please go for it! In any case, buy a smallish whole chicken – it cooks easier, faster and is actually much tastier when done.  
- 6 medium sized potatoes
- 4 large onions
- 1 garlic bulb
- 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- A sprinkling of rosemary and thyme (my little creative input)

Here’s how you do it:

First, foil over a large oven safe tray and preheat the oven to 200C/400F.  Use a knife to make small slits in the chicken so the insides cook evenly, and place bang in the centre of the tray (right where the protagonist should be!) Peel the onions and cut into eighths (cut into quarters first and then divide each quarter into two). Spread the onion pieces out evenly all around the sides of the chicken. Do the same with the potatoes, but leave the skin on. If the potatoes are too small to cut into eighths, quarters will work just as well (it’s all andaaz, remember?).  Try and crush the potatoes a little by pressing down on them with a spatula or spoon. Truth be told, the only purpose of the onions and the potatoes is to mingle with the juices that are released from the chicken as it cooks – this eventually becomes your gravy. Now, break the garlic bulb into cloves, and scatter around the tray as well – don’t bother peeling them, they’ll cook beautifully in their skins.  Next, prick the lemon liberally so the juices will release when hot and place, along with the rosemary and thyme, inside the cavity of the chicken.  Finally, season the whole thing with salt and pepper.

Leave to cook for about 1 hour. Halfway through cooking, you will start to hear this fantastic “sputter-crackle-sizzle” from your tray, as well as get wafts of the yummy aroma of roasting chicken infused with garlic, zesty lemon and fragrant herbs!  Baste the chicken at this point, and if the onions and garlic begin to look dried out, add a splash of water to the tray and let it continue cooking.

You know you are done, when visually, your chicken looks golden brown and crisp on the outside. If it has cooked correctly, the meat will be so tender and juicy on the inside that it will literally fall off the bone when you carve.  Ladle on some gravy from the sides of the tray and serve hot!

Simple + Delicious = Didima’s Home Cooking

A combination that can’t be beat.