A peak season ingredient such as a tomato is a thing of beauty, exquisite to behold and taste. To be sure, it doesn’t hold a candle to the highly travelled shadows of their former selves that you can find in the dead of winter. That, however, matters less if you were going to add it to other ingredients, or make a sauce or a soup. With perhaps a little spice, or some well-placed sauces, even the most out-of-season ingredients become delicious elements of an ensemble dish, creating a sum of parts far more enjoyable than individual ingredients. Either on merit of pure addition, or on how it is cooked, an ingredient can go far in adding flavour to a dish of ingredients.
Indian cooks know this to be true better than most, as can be seen by the many Indian recipes that ask for a combination of ingredients. Can one reduce that list of ingredients and still make a tasty dish? Of course, but when it comes to the traditional ones, it is the combination of those exact ingredients that makes a dish taste the way you remember it. Anything else could leave you yearning for what is in your memory.
Through your visits here, I hope you have gotten to know a few things about me. Things such as how excited I get about the recipes we try. I write about them here because I want to share them with you, but I try not be bossy. I rarely like being unequivocally told what to do and so I assume, neither would you. With most of the recipes, I gently coax you try them, hoping you will enjoy them as we did. I don’t post every meal we eat, but I hope that the recipes we do post are interesting to you. Through either the memory of the meal or its impression off a page, they were interesting to me, and that excites me enough to bring them to you.
For the most part, it is a calm interest, a gentle excitement. Every once in a while though, I come across a recipe that fairly shrieks out to me. Not literally – I know that would be very odd, and probably unsettling – but it captures my attention with just as much alacrity and focus. I cannot rest until I’m cooking it in the kitchen. At times, it turns out that recipe sounded better than it ends up tasting. But this recipe, this is not that kind. This was a time that the dish turned way better than I imagined it.
He came home to a dark flat. He paused at the threshold for a moment, straining to hear sounds of the television, of her laughter at said television, of any signs of life. He could hear the electronic wheeze of the 31-Muni opening its doors at the corner of the street. He could hear the washing machine running in the upstairs apartment. The street lamp cast long shadows through the open windows, silent and animated. There was, however, no other noise inside.
He stepped in, letting the door close behind him as he reached for his phone. He punched play on the voice-mail wondering if he had gotten her message wrong, but there was her voice telling him she’d be going home early. The past two weeks had been filled with busy days and exhausted nights for the both of them. All they had been able to do as they crawled home was stop at the small cafe on the way home. It was open late and made Vietnamese sandwiches, which they would gratefully devour standing in the kitchen at home with paper towels held under to sop up any spills. They were entirely too tired to have dishes to clean. There in that kitchen, the aroma of the smoky vegetables would help blot out some of the tiring day while the layers of avocado provided much needed comfort. At any rate, he was glad that those weeks were now behind them. Any sandwich, no matter how delicious, was tiresome after a third straight night. He preferred home-cooked food anyway, eating out only under duress or because she loved to try new places. He had been looking forward in anticipation to dinner all afternoon.
I love flying in the rain. That may sound like an odd thing to like. Most people have a problem with this, but not me. Sure, these flights can be tedious before take-off but in the rain, there is a slowing down of things. The little window shows you a shiny tarmac in a world washed clean. People in cheery neon raincoats scurry about their jobs working to get your flight going on its way, hardly minding the dull weather. The bright orange cones and yellow leader signs dot the grey landscape, firmly guiding the planes. They lie scattered amidst the large gleaming tubes that lugubriously lumber about like lounging whales. It seems impossible that any of them could get moving with any amount of haste, let alone take off the ground and into the air. I love the unfolding choreographed drama of it all.
The drops of rain steadily trickle down the window reminding me as they always do now of the title sequence of the movie The Matrix. I turn to check my IPad to see if I have a copy of it on there. I don’t, so I continue to watch the rain. It will be time to turn off electronic devices soon anyway.
Despite having been on numerous flights, I still have that breathless moment at take-off when it feels like this tin can I am in is straining every nerve and will likely never manage to pull off the take off. But, slowly, then with growing urgency, it always does. The ground falls away along with all of the roads, buildings and people on it.
Some things are created out of necessity.
I set out to make some form of an egg dish today. Some scrambled eggs with toast would make a nice, light dinner. But then I figured I’d make something more substantial that would also make a good lunch tomorrow. That’s when I thought of egg bhurji, a wonderful masala scrambled egg that is a great way to stretch what eggs you may have.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out the way I wanted.
I started out chopping onions, musing on the fact that most Indian recipes seem to start there. Then I looked for a couple of tomatoes to chop in, but then remembered that I had used the last of them up on Sunday. No matter, I told myself, tomatoes aren’t a requirement, so get on with it. I imagined Tim Gunn in my kitchen telling me to “Make it work”. Sure I could do this. There was nothing to it.
I made short work of the mandatory potatoes for this dish. Mandatory for me, that is. I like the one-skillet egg and potato combination. I proceeded to pull out the carton of eggs from the fridge and found it to be much lighter than I’d hoped. Opening it up, I found it to be as empty as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard was bare. My absent-minded husband had struck again, using up the eggs and sticking the empty box in the refrigerator.
Since I already had the onion base in the pan, I checked for alternatives. I located a block of paneer, some leftover mushrooms, frozen peas and not much else. Since by this point I had my heart set on the one thing I couldn’t have, the eggs, I decided to make the dish I wanted but with paneer instead, turning back to my pantry for help.