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Thursday, 13 December 2012

A Fear of Fat


“I don't like mine skinny”
My husband says of his women.

Though you’d be forgiven for mistaking the rather heady declaration as an allusion to his preference for Lattes.

Our other male friends chime in, agreeing wholeheartedly, in a unanimous show of support in the manner, if you've noticed, members of that particular species often tend to do.

“Yes yes,” they proclaim magnanimously, “we like women with meat on their bones!"
"The curvy ones!"
“Voluptuous!”
“Full-figured”
“You know?”

“No” I say, “I don’t know.”

They then proceed to rattle off the same list of usual suspects that all men like to rattle off.
Namely: Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendez, Sofia Vergara, Beyonce, Rachel Bilson. Etc.
 
This list then, is supposed to serve as real-life testimony to the fact that these men "don't like their's skinny."

Well, I beg to differ.

Lookie here, for instance: While Scarlett J might have full, voluptuous lips, a 36 inch top and a matching bottom, I'd like to focus discussion, for just a second, on her waist. Which, incidentally, is 25 inches and tiiiiiiny!!

So what these men are actually saying is not that they “don't like them skinny,” but that they DO like them skinny and not only do they like them skinny, but they like them skinny with big boobs.

And that my friends, is the denouement of the male psyche.

And yes, while we live in an increasingly PC world, what our media thinks is less obscure. I mean when:

Adele losing the pounds is good news
Aishwarya Rai not losing the pounds is bad news

I ask you - what is one left to conclude?
And so, rightly or wrongly, it will continue to be.

Closer to home, I struggle to understand:

1) How the same guy-friends who "don't like them skinny" suddenly tell me I look "nice" at the exact same time that I've happened to lose a few pounds.

OR (just so that I am not seen as being overly harsh on men)

2) The facebook “likes” - from mostly women - that got directed my way in reference to a picture taken right after the loss of the said few pounds.

And to those of you who actually sent me inbox messages (I'm very, very flattered, by the way) asking for the "secret" behind that FB picture I'd like to tell you, rather disappointingly, that there is none! 

That is, save for a good lens-man :)

But yes - I will not deny the benefits of spending a few weeks in a hot place. This means, you see, that I am not tempted to OD on "comfort food" (aka junk food) - the kind that is fairly essential in negative-4 degree weather, in order to fool myself into believing that all is well with the world.

And there you have it.

The truth is folks, as I find myself approaching my mid 30s and realizing (with some shock) that my metabolism really isn't what it used to be, I have come to the conclusion that it all simply boils down to diet.

And with that I find myself confronted by an alarming fear of fat.

This is weird, I get that.
In fact the very fact that this is my chosen topic of discussion in a food blog is rather ironic in itself. But here's the rub - the reason I love food so much is the precisely the reason I fear it.

Because when it comes to food, I find it hard to restrain myself.
“1 square of chocolate” people say.
“A tiny piece of cake”
“2 crisps”
"Moderation is the key"

Really?
You can do that??

Wow.

Because if I can stop myself before finishing the entire box of chocolates, the whole cake, the full bag of crisps, that’s huge. I usually go halves and feel virtuous. But 1 square, 2 crisps, a sliver of cake? And then calmly put the rest away, pretending it doesn’t exist?

Hmm.
Not. That. Easy.
 
Maybe I’m weak. I suffer from a lack of self-control. A shortage of will power.
Maybe.
But that’s my relationship with food. For better or for worse.
I love food.
I adore it.
When it comes to food, I cannot, I simply cannot, deny myself.

And yet I know, I’ve started to.
Covertly at first.
A burger without the top bun, a baked samosa, pasta without the obligatory parmesan reggiano grated atop, no fried rice please.
And this is what I fear. 

My relationship with food has evolved.
I've become guarded. Restrained. Suspicious.
I no longer indulge in it, carelessly and with reckless abandon like I used to in the old days.

The game's changed.
And I hate it.

See, I have never been "thin"
Actually that’s a lie. I was a skinny baby, a normal child and a fat teenager.
And anyone who has ever been that (a fat teenager, that is) knows that it’s awful, awful, awful.

And so while the rest of my friends thwarted wanted and unwanted attention from an unending stream of boys, I spent my teenage years studying Chemistry.

Which isn’t as bad as it sounds.
It’s worse.

College was a miracle.

With the start of competitive swimming, I started shedding pounds with seemingly no sacrifice. I still ate whatever I wanted. But I swam. And somehow that worked. I wasn't thin but I was fit.

Life changed.

Now, this isn’t all superficial and appearance focused.
Where I was a rather indolent and lethargic 15-yr old, at 20 I was full of energy. Fitter, healthier. And ultimately happier.

I became a staunch believer in exercise.
Exercise and you are golden, I thought.
And it worked.

That is, all the way until the baby came.

Now pregnancy in itself isn’t the problem. In pregnancy, people expect you to get bigger. In fact the bump is an object of awe and wonder. “How much weight have you gained” is a normal question, and not a rude one. The whole thing is rather fun, actually when I think about it.

It’s the bit that comes after the pregnancy that’s the problem.

When the baby is out but when you still look six months pregnant. When the taut, tight stomach (thanks to baby) is now – umm – pure flab?
Gosh! That bit’s hard.
You know the bit where you are constantly hungry because you are constantly feeding the baby?
The bit where you spend an entire afternoon trying on every single pair of trousers in your closet and then throw them on the bed in an increasingly tall mountain of trousers-that-no-longer-fit.
Nobody tells you these things
Nobody talks about them

And so now – whether it’s almost being 35 or having been pregnant (and I don’t know the answer), my body’s changed. Exercise is no longer enough. What I eat matters.

And so suddenly, and for the first time ever, I am confronted by a fear of fat.

There. I’ve said it.

And it terrifies me.
Not the fat, but the fear of fat.
Because I feel like I'm being dragged – worse, voluntarily – into a great big black hole of denial.

Now I know not all fat is evil.  Fat – the good kind – is actually really good for you. Good fats help manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, even help you control your weight by providing a better sense of satiety.

Not to mention that fat tastes good.

My friend, fellow food lover and coffee connoisseur, The Closet Gourmand, never fails to tell me how coffee with skim milk is like drinking dirty water. "Switch to soy, if you want," he suggests. "But skim milk?"
I agree.

The highly acclaimed Monmouth Coffee tastes great for a reason beyond just superior quality coffee beans (which I have no doubt they are) - there's none of that skinny, “lite” stuff at Monmouth: only full fat milk and real sugar, thank you very much.

I know all this and yet I find that I can't help myself. I know things are different at 35 than at 15. Life is fuller, calmer, filled with self-awareness and acceptance. Yet, I dread even the thought of going back to that insecure, self-conscious, unhappy person that I was. And so, I find myself putting up with dirty water in my coffee. Where I used to top up my pay-by-weight salad box with the wonderfully tasty (and wonderfully deep fried) General Tso’s Chicken, I won’t do it anymore. I see my husband lather his toast with butter and I think how can you wilfully eat that? How do people eat a whole meal of crackers and cheese? Or cook with lard? Or eat supermarket sandwiches laden with god-only-knows how much mayonnaise every day for lunch? 

I envy them.
I want to.
But I can’t.
And it scares me.


This is not about being “thin” or “skinny” or the “right number” on the weighing scale. This is about being happy with where you are.

That I get.

That doesn’t bother me.
What does bother me is how much being happy with “where I am” is influenced by where others think I need to be?

Am I making myself happy?
Or am I conforming to society’s perception of what is considered desirable?

And most importantly - In this endless quest for conformity, am I spending the rest of my life missing out?

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Kala Chana (The Namesake)

I’m going to start at The End.
Yup.
Because sometimes, The End that is the very best place to start.

The End…

It was a freezing cold December evening in London. To focus my energies away from the travesty that had just – minutes ago – occurred, I was on the internet, contemplating retirement plans in Havana…

“I’ll smoke Cigars,” I think, “spend my life eating rice and beans and banana fritters in my swimsuit…”

(You see, now that my pressure cooker is at death’s door, there’s no real point to life in London anymore. Oh no.)

Meanwhile…
The sound of a key turning in the lock interrupts the icy silence.

(Enter Sid)

“Hello everyone,” he says joyously.
“Papa, papa!!” the child shrieks loudly, his eyes glinting with a wild excitement, that has not once been directed at me in all of 2 years and 2 months.

Abandoning Cuba, I jump up, eyes glinting wild excitement of equal measure. (It’s in the DNA, see?)

I shriek: “You have to go to Sainsburys. I need Vinegar, baking soda and a steel scourer. Now!!”

He winces notably at all the shrieking. “What happened?” He asks.

“The pressure cooker!!” I say desperately. “It’s the pressure cooker. It’s almost dead. We must save it!!! You must help me!! Vinegar, baking soda, scourer!! Go, Go, Go, Go!!!”

“OK, no problem. What the “mm-mm-mm-mm” is that sme…?” he asks before I slam the door shut on his face

Earlier that evening…

I burnt an entire pressure cooker of kala chana.
I burnt the kala chana.
I burnt the pressure cooker.

And that, my friends, is that.

The how, why, where and when…

So, this may be hard to believe – but I am not perfect.
Really, I’m not.
This isn’t me trying to be modest or anything.

Because I have burnt food before.
But I’ve almost always managed to save most of it. Especially the stuff on the top. Which still tastes perfectly normal. Great, even. In these cases, I’ve had to bury (with sadness) the burned stuff at the bottom. Which hasn’t ever been a lot. Definitely not enough to write a blog post on.

On the rare occasion where the incident has been of a more dire nature, the stuff that’s saved has been less than the stuff that I’ve had to bury. These situations have made me sad. Quite sad. But I have moved on. Eventually. After I'd mustered up all the courage in every fibre of being and made myself move on. I'm brave like that. 

But this time, you see, was a first.
For I was confronted with nothing but a 12 inch layer of blackness coating the better part of my pressure cooker.
You’ve gotto be having a laugh, I say to myself.
“Kala Chana??” 
Which translates precisely to “Black Chickpeas”
Oh yeah baby. Black Chickpeas indeed.

But the point is:
For the first time in my life, there was nothing left even to bury.
You follow?
This was no burial, people. This was a cremation.

Sigh.

“How the hell did you not smell it,” you ask.
“I don’t know!!!” I say. Maybe because I was in a room far away.”
“You must live in a very big house,” you conjecture, “with wings and all.”
“Hahaha,” I laugh. (Because that’s just funny).

The truth is, people, that I must have a very poor sense of smell. I really can’t think of much else. They say everyone in the world is blessed with 1 excellent sense, of the 4 possible senses of sight, smell, hearing and taste.

Now, I hate to toot my own horn (I do, truly), but I cannot complain insofar as taste is concerned. Taste, I possess in ample quantities. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that my taste buds are a whole separate living entity unto themselves. Which explains perhaps the many midnight conversations I have with them, ending most times with me traipsing down to the fridge in my Snoopy slippers and devouring a large mouthful of chocolate cake from the fridge, simply to appease them.

The things one does for one’s imaginary friends.

Anyhow, the point is: if you allow me to taste any preparation of anything, I’m fairly sure I’d be able to itemize a list of ingredients that went into its preparation.
Right back at you. No jokes.
I am truly blessed.
For this I thank the good Lord.

But then, there is that pesky mathematical concept of mean reversion. Which basically keeps my ego in check. Because you see, with the rest of the 3 senses, I got less lucky.
(Or, in plain language – I got screwed.)

See:

Sight? I am blind as a bat. Or was until a few months ago. Thanks to the excellent Dr. Julian Stevens at Moorfields Eye Hospital, lots of moolahs I don’t really have, and a remarkable procedure called LASIK (which I still don't really fully understand, scarily enough) now I have 20-20 vision. Which means I could fly a plane. Not that I recommend you be my passenger or anything. I wouldn’t really be my own passenger, if you know what I mean.

Hearing? I am as deaf as a doorknob. More so since the birth of my kid. The birth of a kid renders one deaf. This is a fact. Guaranteed. One of God’s gifts to all womankind. I am deaf to anything that sounds like whining, bawling, screaming and shrieking. This is my return-gift for going through all the trouble of pregnancy and labour, you know. What goes around, comes around, law of averages etc.

Smell? Now, this one is most disappointing. Smell is a most wonderful virtue. Smell alerts you to what lies ahead, a harbinger of all things good (well, mostly). Now, I always thought I had a keen sense of smell. But no. Apparently, I don’t.

Because how someone can sit around in a tiny flat and not smell something burn to a crisp (and that’s me being kind) is beyond me. And it can means only one thing.
That the someone in question has no sense of smell. At all.
Zero, nada, naught, zilch, cipher.
Goose Egg.
You get my drift?

And so, here, henceforth and forthwith, I do solemnly swear that I cannot smell squat.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is my defense.
Guilty as charged.

And now my pressure cooker is dying.
All because of my lousy sense of smell.

And so I put my tail between my legs (so as to speak) and left the kitchen defeated. I wandered to my computer and took refuse in Facebook. Which is wonderful solace I must add in such times of deep despair. The stuff some people put on there? Enough to eke a hearty laugh out the dampest squid. Seriously. Check it out sometime.

Anyway, on Facebook, I wandered to the empty box on top that reads “what’s on your mind?”
and I told you all what was on my mind. ARGH!!!" I wrote. "I just burned a whole pressure cooker full of stuff. There goes todays Yummyami post :(“ 

To which, all you excellent people suggested I write a post anyway.
Which made me think.
And thinking is a wonderful thing, truly.
I wish more of us did it more regularly.
And I thinked and I thinked. Till my head hurted.
Because I knew not what to write in a food blog when there is no food to write about.

But since I exist, only to please, here you go.
Please find: Kala Chana (The Namesake)

Here’s what you need:
- 1 cup kala chana (Black Chickpeas or Bengal Gram)
- 3 tbsp oil
- Pinch asafoetida
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 green chili finely chopped
- ¼ inch ginger finely chopped
- 2 tbsp coriander powder
- ½ tbsp turmeric
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- Salt, to taste
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Coriander to garnish
- 3 tbsp dry coconut powder to garnish

Here’s how you do it:

Wash and soak kala chana for a few hours, preferably overnight.

When you are ready to cook, heat some oil in a pressure cooker over medium high heat. Add in the cumin seeds and as they start to crackle, add the asafoetida and stir. Add the ginger, green chili, coriander powder, turmeric, and chili powder, along with some water and stir for another minute.

Add soaked kala chana, and 4 cups of water to the pressure cooker so that the lentils are fully submerged. As the cooker starts steaming, turn down the heat to medium.

Here’s what you DON’T DO:

Turn on the exhaust to full, shut the kitchen door and leave. Decide (for some inexplicable reason), to go to the part of the house farthest from the kitchen. Then basically do nothing. Sprawl out on the bed, make irrelevant chit-chat on the phone, drink some orange juice, and read about Kate Middleton’s pregnancy from page 1 to page 598 on The Times.

Then, approximately one hour later, sit up with a start as the unmistakable scent of burn wafts uninvitingly towards you. Open your mouth, scream like a banshee, and make a mad dash for the kitchen, all the while uttering the choicest unutterables…

Alas! Too late.

Here’s what you DO DO (Dudu):

Wait for 4-5 whistles.

Turn off the heat and wait until all the steam has released before opening the pressure cooker.

Add salt and let it cook for 2-3 minutes on low heat. Stir in lemon juice and sprinkle with coriander and dry coconut powder before serving.

Now, I know IMH (in my head) what this is supposed to taste like: Spicy and tangy, wholesome and hearty, full of flavour and aromatic goodness. If you do this right, it will melt in your mouth, filling you with nutty, nutritious wonder.

IRL (in real life): Not a clue.

But while I’m on a mission saving my beloved pressure cooker, I’m sure you folks will make some and let me know.
Please?

Friday, 30 November 2012

When a picture speaks a thousand words...

(please find below: 12,000 words) 














1. Homemade Red Hot Curry Paste
(Serves 2)

Here's what you need:
- 1 large dried red chilli
- 2 dried small red chillies
- 2 fresh red hot chillies
- 1/2 tsp chopped kaffir lime peel or 2 tsp. torn kaffir lime leaves
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh lemon grass
- 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh galangal
- 1/2 tsp. fresh coriander root or 1 tsp. stems and leaves chopped finely
- 1 tsp. chopped garlic
- 2 tsp chopped shallots
- 1 tsp. shrimp paste
- 1/8 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1/8 tsp. anise seeds
- 1/8 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
- 1/4 tsp. salt

Here's how you do it:
Cut the dried large red chilli into tiny strips with scissors, soak in warm water for 15 minutes, and then drain. In a small pan or wok, stir fry the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black pepper and anise seeds until fragrant (about 15 seconds). Put in a stone mortar with salt and grind to a powder. Add the chillies and pound to a smooth paste. Add the kaffir lime peel, lemon grass, galangal, coriander root and pound again. Add the garlic and shallots and pound to a smooth paste. Finally add the shrimp paste and pound again until smooth.

PS - This can be frozen in a plastic bag and used over time!


2. Stir-Fried Red Curry with Pork (I used Chicken)
(Serves 2)

Here's what you need:
- 1 cup chicken breast sliced thinly into even size pieces
- 2 tbsp. red curry paste (from above)
- 2 fresh kaffir lime leaves torn in half
- 1/3 cup sweet basil leaves
- 1/2 large fresh red chilli seeded and cut into thin slices
- 1/2 large fresh green chilli seeded and cut into thin slices
- 1/2 cup long green beans cut into bit-size pieces
- 2 fresh green peppercorns, cut in half
- 1/2 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
-1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1-2 tsp. fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp. white cane sugar
- 1/4 tsp. white or black pepper powder to taste
- 1 tbsp. soy bean oil (or other vegetable oil)

Here's how you do it:
Heat the oil in a large pan or wok. Add the red curry paste and lime leaves and some stock and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the chicken and the stock. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add the green beans, peppercorn, chilli and chicken stock and stir about 1 minute. Now add 1/2 cup coconut cream, fish sauce, pepper and sugar and stir. Add basil and stir again. Serve hot. Garnish with basil.

3. Stir-Fried Mixed Seafood with Holy Basil & Garlic
(Serves 2)

Here's what you need:
- 1 cup seafood (prawns and squid)
- 1/3 cup fresh holy basil (only leaves) or sweet basil
- 1/4 cup red pepper seeded and cut into thick strips
- 1/4 cup green pepper seeded and cut into thick strips
- 1/4 cup yellow pepper seeded and cut into thick strips
- 2 tbsp. fresh green peppercorn cut in half
- 1/3 cup white onion thickly sliced
- 1-2 fresh coriander chopped
- 2-3 fresh red hot chilli sliced finely
- 2-3 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp. white cane sugar
- 1/4 white or black pepper powder
- 1/2 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp. soy bean oil (or any other vegetable oil)
- 1 tbsp. corn starch or corn flour

Here's how you do it:
In a wok or frying pan, heat the soy bean oil on medium heat, Briefly stir fry the seafood and coriander root, red-hot chillies, garlic and 1/4 cup stock for about 30 seconds. Add in the onion, green, red and yellow peppers, peppercorn, and 1/4 cup stock and cook about 1 minute. Next, add the fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, white or black pepper and stir fry for another 30 seconds. Add the holy basil and corn starch and stir another 30 seconds. Garnish with fresh basil, coriander leaves, deep-fried garlic and the rest of the chilli slices.

4. Coconut Milk Soup with Fish & Turmeric
(Serves 2)

Here's what you need:
-1 cup fresh white fish fillet cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 cup fresh oyster or straw mushrooms torn bite-sized
- 2-3 cherry tomatoes cut into half
- 1 tbsp. fresh turmeric, grated or 1 tsp. turmeric powder
- 2 fresh kaffir lime leaves torn
- 1/3 cup fresh galangal thinly sliced
- 1/2 fresh lemon grass cut by angle thickly
- 3 shallots thickly sliced
- 3-5 fresh red hot chillies cut in half or finely sliced
- 2 coriander root or 2 stems and leaves chopped
- 1/4 cup spring onion cut i inch long
- 1/4 cup coriander leaves cut 1 inch long
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1/2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp. tamarind juice
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. white cane sugar
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 1-2 tbsp. chilli oil for garnish
- Coriander leaves for garnish

Here's how you do it:
Heat a dry wok or pan. Add the turmeric, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, hot chillies, shallots and coriander root. Stir-fry until fragrant about 1 minute. Pour the coconut milk and bring to medium heat until it boils, then add the mushroom and tomato and boil for about 1 minute. Add all the fish without stirring (very important) for about 3 minutes. Add the fish sauce, tamarind juice, salt, and sugar and boil for 20 seconds. Now add the spring onion and coriander leaves for another 20 seconds. Boil briefly and remove from heat. Add the lime juice. Serve hot!


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Tani's Very Green Parathas

So...by the double virtue (!?) of being half Bengali and having spent the better part of my life in Southern India, you'd think - and quite justifiably at that - that I must love my rice.
And I do! Very much indeed.

But - here's an unexpected secret:
I love my Roti more!

And not just a little more. A lot, lot more. And have, ever since ever.

Which is pretty darn bizarre when you think about it because I belong to as staunch a family of rice eaters as they come. And which, in turn, leads the romantic in me  to believe that marrying my Punjabi, Roti devouring Sid was written. There's really no other explanation; it was simply meant to be.

That little passionate declaration of love out of the way, let's
take a(nother) moment to digress. Because digression as you know is one of my most favourite activities. So in the spirit of digression, I'd like you to take a moment to ponder the notion of hierarchy.

Now, hierarchy, according to Wikipedia, "is an arrangement of items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another." So hierarchy provides structure to things, a pecking order of desirability, if you like. And  whether one wishes to admit it or not, there is always some sort of hierarchy to most aspects of life, whether in government, organizations, militia or countries.
And - before you laugh - so it is with Roti.
 
Now, the hierarchy in the Roti family (unlike Japan) is entirely subjective. My number 1 may not be your number 1 and your number 1 may not be my number 1 and we can all agree to disagree and live happily ever after. In fact, on yet another random aside, I'd love nothing more than to hear your personal Roti hierarchy - knowing whether you place the Roomali over the Kulcha (and so on) would make for some very interesting bedtime reading, so do drop me a line if you can. (Yes, I think I have just allowed you unfettered access into the mind of a deranged foodophile...)


But, getting (finally) to the point of it all, I have to admit that my number 1 in the Roti clan is without contest, the Paratha - that beautiful
unleavened flat-bread made by pan frying whole-wheat dough on a tava or griddle, layer upon flaky layer of delicious buttery goodness -  what's there not to love?  

I could not tire of the Paratha you know. Even if I tried. And I mean that sincerely. 

I love it. 
Truly, madly, deeply. 
Do.
In fact I went through a bizarre two-week phase in my life where all I did was eat Parathas ordered from various Sub Continental restaurants across New York City for dinner every night. I consumed many quantities of parathas of all types - plain paratha, methi paratha, lachha paratha, aloo paratha, gobi paratha, unda paratha, keema paratha, mooli paratha, even (a rather awful) "ponir" paratha from the chaps down on Brick Lane. 

It was a veritable "Woman vs. Paratha" fest, it was.

Needless to say, I'm quite the authority on NYC Parathas, so if you're ever in the market for such valuable info, please be aware that I shall be glad to dispense it for free. 
I'm nice like that.

Restaurants aside, (and I promise) getting to the core of this note - the best Paratha in the world comes from the kitchens of my friend Tani, who makes Parathas which are most distinctive. Yes, I do mean in taste. But - more importantly - I mean, in appearance. Tani's Parathas, you see, are a curious shade of green.


Now what's remarkable about this whole thing is that the Green Parathas or "Paronthi" as she calls them in Punjabi, were not even meant for me. Oh no!
I stumbled upon them by pure accident. Or sheer luck. Whichever you prefer. But, whatever you'd like to call it, my dear friends, the truth was that I chanced upon this delightful creation in a monumental act of serendipity.

The events unfolded as follows:


I was over for dinner at Tani's house, hanging out with her in the kitchen, chatting about this and that, while she fiddled with an excellent looking chicken curry...when suddenly I noticed, tucked into the far corner of the polished granite worktop, a most wondrous sight. For wrapped most neatly in a sheet of cling film, was a mound of very green dough.


Now as you would rightly expect from a passionate and obsessive food freak such as myself, on seeing such a delightful thing as very green dough, my senses were immediately piqued.

"What's that," I asked.

"Green paronthi" she replied, "for the kids. Aunty makes them."

Noting the perplexed look on my face, she kindly proffered an explanation:


"They won't eat their vegetables any other way, ya.
So we have to mix spinach and broccoli and stuff into the flour."

(Aunty by the way, is the lovely lady who quadruples as cook, nanny, babysitter and general matriarchal protector of the Singh family, encapsulated quite lovingly by anyone who knows her as "aunty")


Anyway, back to the very green dough. Now: given that I had not that long ago spent a good two weeks of my life eating the Paratha varietals of every establishment from 9th street to 96th street, there really wasn't that much in parathaland that I hadn't tasted.

But this - even for me - was remarkably novel.


"Ohhhhhh" I remarked
in deep contemplation.
 

Then: (contemplation duly complete)
"Can I try?", I asked - adventurous (as ever)
"Yes, of course" she replied - gracious (as ever), reaching for the very green dough, taking some in her fingers, shaping it into a ball, and rolling it out with the expert dexterity that only a Sardarni from The Punjab can ever hope to achieve.

And so she rolled and she folded and she rolled again. And she folded and she rolled and she folded again. And I tried not to look at the butter that she so lovingly added
each time she rolled and she folded and she folded and she rolled.

But when that baby sizzled on the griddle, my friends - time, for a few but precious moments - came to a breathtaking halt.


For Green History had just been created.

 
Hot, crispy, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth goodness...this was the one of the most gorgeous things my lips have ever touched.



A landslide victory for the Botanists, I tell you!

So here is Tani's recipe - or technically, Auntie's recipe. And for precisely that reason, you'll have to use some approximation with the exact quantities...but then it's small price to pay for something this authentic. Make it please! This is one of those things that everyone has simply got to taste at least once in their lives!

Here's what you need (verbatim from Aunty, duly translated by Tani):


- Vegetables: Broccoli, Spinach, carrots (for sweetness), beans, zucchini, peas - any or all of these can be combined with spinach as the main ingredient - washed and roughly chopped (they'll be boiled later so don't worry about fine chopping)
- Lentils - moong daal, binds them together - a 1/4 katori (bowl) washed and soaked for 10 mins.

- Adrak (Ginger) - one finger phalange size (for making the food easier to digest)
- Salt to taste
 

Here's how you do it (verbatim from Aunty, although I am inclined to believe that Tani is the rightful owner of the truly terrible spinach joke):

"In a pressure cooker, put all the ingredients and put enough water so they are all covered with water. Not too much water (spinach also leaves some of its own - no pun intended!). Bring it all to a boil - 2 whistles. When it cools - put it in a blender and make a puree. Now use this thickish puree to 'goondo your aata'...don't use any water...so whatever quantity of aata you choose - it should not be so much that you need to use water.

And that's it - use that for your yummy, healthy parathas."


Right, so that's how you get your very green dough. Now, here's where I come in to tell you how to go from dough to Parathas. So here are the steps, numbered because it involves several folds and rolls and I know it's all pretty darn confusing...but what the hey, here goes!


1) Roll the dough into a circular disc of roughly 3/4 inch diameter. 
2) Spread some butter uniformly on this disc. 
3) Next, fold it in half so its a semi-circle. 
4) Now again spread some butter on the surface. 
5) Fold it once more, so its quarter shaped, like a quesadilla triangle. 
6) Now sprinkle some wheat flour over it and roll out the double folded dough into a circle.So you're really back to square one, but not really - because in all the folding (not to mention the buttering) you've created some truly beautiful layers which will be crisp, flaky and delicious when done. 
7) Final step - Fry the Parathas on a tava or griddle with a tad more butter (but of course). 

And there you have it!

So to my gorgeous friend Tani, who by some magical combination of great looking genes, a radiant personality and a wonderful temperament, is a fountain of beauty and youth - here is my wish for you:

May you always remain as evergreen as your parathas!


All my love now and always 

YA x