The pleasure of cooking


Now that Chotu’s all grown up (in his words, not mine), cooking’s starting to get a bit more interesting. Gone are the days when he was happy with plain dal, rice, and cold curd right out of the fridge. He’s interested in more complex flavours now. He likes gravies and fries (poriyals!). Spices and flavours. Bhindi not Alu. He loves to try and eat by himself and he loves to watch what I’m cooking. I’ve been looking forward to this time since he was born.

I love good, simple, home cooked food. I love planning meals, being organized, getting into the zone and cooking for people I love. I love reading about nutrition and cooking balanced meals and making sure everyone gets their greens and their purples. I love hunting down fresh vegetables, feeling rice between my fingers, kneading dough to make parathas, and making crisp, golden dosas with just the right amount of oil.

I love the pleasure of watching my little child eat what I’ve cooked for him. I love it when he sits on my hip to watch me pour oil in the pan and put the vegetables in. I love serving him hot, hot food on a plate and watching his little eyes light up with pleasure at a dosa or a bowl of crispy bhindi.

I love packing myself lunch. Lunch is the highlight of my workday. I look forward to eating dal and rice or pulao with raita. I love unpacking my lunch with my lone lunchmate and digging into her box and have her taste my dish of the day. I love swapping recipes with her and saying, “Ah! Cooking! It takes just half an hour to make dal/sambar and subzi.” I’ll admit it, I’m a bit self righteous about my ability to cook well and cook quickly.

As an Indian mom, food is one way I express my love for my son. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Given I’m away from him for most of the day, it leaves me feeling satisfied when I cook him one very good meal each morning. As a modern mom, I look forward to teaching him how to cook. He already knows we do not cover the capsicum and the spinach when they’re cooking. He knows we put more oil in the subzi and very little in the dal. He also knows bhindi’s old if you hear a sound when you’re cutting it. Oh my little one’s growing up to be a foodie.

Food is so important, isn’t it? It’s not just about putting something in the stomach or about nutrition. Food is such an emotional thing. It makes us happy and sad, angry and calm. It soothes us, reassures us, reminds us of home (my theory why so many immigrants don’t let go of their local cuisine). It takes us to new places, opens us up to new ideas. Food fuels us – body, mind and soul. All it asks in return is that you think about it a little. Spend a little time. Put in a little effort. Make it a shared experience. Make it mindful. Make it personal. Make it yours. Don’t be afraid of it! Never be afraid.


All images from

Indispire #ROUNDROTI – Do round rotis taste better than non-round ones?

Here’s a photo of the last parathas I made. Well, the pulav and raita are more in focus but you can probably make out that the alu parathas are quite round-ish and I assure you, they tasted so good that none were left by the end of dinner.

The Goddess’ Diwali Dinner

As you can see, meals are served in the Goddess household (to friends on Diwali no less) with zero emphasis on aesthetics because a) Who cares? and b) Only the person doing the dishes does. In this case, domestic help. My answer to the roundness question therefore is, “Meh! I only care about the eating”. Still, why settle for the opinion of a mere goddess? Check out what other people have to say when asked this pressing question!

The Culinary Guru:
Round rotis taste better because they definitely cook more evenly. The flame is round and symmetrical and if the roti is symmetrical – not necessarily round – you will not overcook some parts of the roti while leaving edges raw. Also, for optimal formation of gluten strands we need to work the dough with warm water, allow it to rest, then knead it a bit more, then evenly divide the dough into the right number of portions, and only then begin to make rotis. The amount of dry flour used to dust the roti is also crucial as is the temperature of the skillet, and… Anyone still there?

The Feminist:
Who cares what shape the rotis are? It’s more important who made them, how happy the person was with the assigned task, how appreciated the cook was, what meaning was assigned to the rotis by those who consumed them, whether any victims were blamed, whether patriarchy was involved… Sorry, what was the question again?

The Perfectionist:
Rotis are supposed to be round. I’m not exactly sure why that is but as long as that’s the established standard I’m going to have to try and try harder until I succeed. It’s ok if people are waiting hungry at the table and I waste massive amounts of flour and dough. It will all be ok once they get hot, round rotis to eat.

The Pragmatist:
Ok, so round rotis cook better. I’ll roll out my dough and cut it using a plate with sharp edges. Problem solved! That’s simpler than dealing with the idiots who want to analyze every last thing.

Senior Management:
Studies have shown that customer delight is directly correlated with the roundness of rotis. Therefore, roti roundness will be used as a measure of performance for all associates. So far, we are not sure how exactly to measure this because if we introduce a measurement step before roti delivery our bottomline will be directly impacted. However, we will continue to monitor the roti situation and reward employees taking proactive measures to improve all roti metrics through synergestic innovation. Incentives this year will be less than market average due to the seriousness of the roti-roundness situation.

The Soap Opera MIL:
Who said it’s about taste? The shape of the roti reveals my DIL’s lack of character and her poor upbringing. My son has to suffer. My family has to suffer. My family’s reputation is lost due to her bad rotis. Too un-round, too round, too thick, too thin, to large, too small, too puffy, too flat, the complaints are endless. Her mother taught her nothing.

The Blogger:
You see, rotis are a reflection of Indian society. When we all like rotis, we must all be enlightened enough to accept change and move forward. Please like this post. Link to it, comment on it, tweet it, share it, and tell the world how awesome I am! And oh, please click on an ad too…

The FB addict:
Aadarsh Grihnee is making chapatti dough. Has made rotis. Family is enjoying round rotis. 200 photo album shared and liked by 134 extended family members. “U r 2 amazing Adarsh Grihnee!”

The Tweeter:
#RoundRotis are #TheBest reflection of #MaaKaPyaar and #IndianCulture

The Instagrammer:
Oopsie! Green filter makes roti look like goo… 🙁

The Whatsapper:
Guys fresh post. Round rotis are d best. Fwd this msg quickly! 😀

Who is right? Who is wrong? Who is to say? In India we can debate anything.

The perfect tiffin

What good is it to go out to breakfast if they run out of upma and can’t make you an MLA peserratu, I say! This happened today. The Hero and I went out to breakfast and I hoped to get myself an MLA pesarattu but alas!

(This might not be the best image of a pesarattu but it will have to do.)

The perfect pesarattu is neither crisp nor soft. You need to blend just the right amount of moong and rice to get a batter that is not too fluffy. So forget about using the large grinder for the job. Add a dash of cumin, a clove of garlic, and a hint of ginger and green chilli to the batter.

Use a low flame. Patience is the key.  Slice the onion really fine. The beauty of MLA pesarattu is in the stuffings. Sprinkle finely chopped ginger and green chillies and maybe some whole cumin. If you cook it slowly enough you won’t have to flip it and the onions will get that perfect pink texture where they are just beginning to lose their raw taste. The chillies likewise, will be subtly milder but not so mild as to lose their punch.

If you cook a peserattu too slowly, it will absorb too much oil and be an unholy mess. If you spread the batter too thick, you will have to flip the damn thing over and will end up with fried onions. If you spread the batter too thin, you will end up with a crunchy attu that doesn’t have much character and makes picking up stuffings and accompaniments a pain. Too much rice in the batter will also lead to this sort of texture. Too little rice, and the thing will not hold together. Tricky, eh?

You can sometimes stuff a pesarattu with upma (also known as upma-pesarattu or MLA pesarattu). This upma is slightly different from what you eat for breakfast by itself (the perfect upma is another story altogether. One to be told if this pesarattu tale is well received) The upma should be slightly crumbly and not runny or soggy. The trick to achieving this is to use the right amount of water. Typically, a 2:1 water-rava ratio. The tempering should not use any of the crunchy ingredients – chana dal and urad dal. A dash of ghee is strongly recommended.

NEVER serve pesarattu with sambar. That’s a cardinal sin. I don’t know where I read that one but anyway, The Goddess saying so makes it so 😛 Instead, serve it with ginger chutney. Add a dash of jaggery to the chutney to complement the fieriness of the pesarattu. The chutney will also serve to highlight the ginger in the pesarattu batter itself. You could also try coconut chutney but The Goddess is not a fan (I’m liking this first person reference to myself. Perhaps because I keep talking the same way to Chotu Singh. You know, “Amma will change your diaper now” kind of statements…)

So, to summarize, here’s what I’m looking for. A pesarattu that’s neither too crisp nor too soft. Stuffed with finely chopped onion and maybe a dash of grated carrot. Maybe some ginger, chillies, and a dollop of upma. Served hot and accompanied by ginger chutney. Now that’s a perfect tiffin. Perfection in pesarattu making is as elusive as singing the perfect Yaman/Kalyani. The Hero tries to achieve the former and I the latter…

ps: I will make up for yesterday’s missing post tomorrow. A visit from The Hero and a chance to catch up on sleep should be excuse enough to earn me forgiveness, no?