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.
My assigned childhood role was that of the good kid. The quiet one. The one who didn’t wreck tables and could be counted on to not torture the dog. Who worshiped books and didn’t need to be told that one doesn’t make paper airplanes and boats with sheets torn out of their history notebook. But even good kids aren’t perfect, because mom and I had our share of disagreements. Perhaps because I steadfastly refused to learn how to de-vein those prawns (ick!) properly. Or because I didn’t wipe the dishes completely dry. But mostly because my mother was convinced that you needed to take pride in whatever you do, be it writing an essay, drying a dish or folding a shirt. I subscribed to a much looser interpretation of this: that there were some things you took pride in doing, and that others were just work that you finished to get to the things you want to do. For me, folding laundry squarely fell in this category, but it was my chore. So when the day’s wash was off the clothesline, I would drag my feet over, rush through the sorting and folding and hurry back to my books and to intriguing statistics such as how much rice was grown in China versus India. I would remain thus engrossed until I heard the inevitable yell which signalled that mom had spotted my handiwork.
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.