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The Quirky Life of P

Humor and satire revolving around Mr P- a fictional mix of an avatar of Mr Bean and the veritable Bertram Wooster of Wodehouse fame.

Archive for the category “Cooking”

Jalfrezie for Thanksgiving…

Never Too Late: Is there a person you should’ve thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude.- Daily Prompt

P on the phone: “Hey Sis? How are things?”

Sis: “I’m all right P. What is it this time? You have to be quick. I am about to go shopping”.

P: “It’s nothing. I just wanted to call you and see how you were and…”

Sis: “P, get to the point, I’m in a hurry.”

P: “Well, I just finished making a vegetable Jalfrezie to go with my rice and ‘Sookha rotis’, like what you made for last Thanksgiving, and I followed your instructions exactly… but it does not taste the same like what you make…”

Sis: “So then, could you tell me what you did exactly?”

P: “I’ll read out what I had written down from your instructions…”

P proceeds to read out the recipe from the piece of paper:

“Recipe for vegetable Jalfrezie

2 tbsp oil , 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 cup onion-chopped fine, 500 gm mixed vegetables-cut chunky, 10 shallots-peeled and halved, 1/4 cup tomato puree,1 tsp ginger paste, 1 tsp garlic paste, 1 tbsp green chillies-chopped fine , 1 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder, a pinch of garam masala, 2 tomatoes-cut into cubes, coriander leaves-to garnish.
Heat oil and add the cumin seeds, Mix in the chopped onions and sauté till light brown,
Mix in the vegetables, shallots, tomato puree, ginger-garlic paste, green chillies, and chilli powder; Cook vegetables for ten minutes, Add tomato cubes, and cook for another 5 minutes, Stir, sprinkle a pinch of garam masala and cook for about 5 minutes and serve garnished with the coriander leaves.”

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Sis: “That sounds all right to me, except that there is no mention of salt…

P: “Oh, should I have added salt? You didn’t tell me that!”

Sis: “I am sure I said salt to taste… Unless you did take it literally and tasted some salt…”

P sheepishly: “Could be… could be… Can I add the salt now? I suppose it is never too late?”

Sis: “You can add the salt now, never too late unless you have finished eating the dish I guess, but the vegetables will not absorb it as well as when it is added while they are being cooked… Anyways, the dish would taste better with some salt even if it is added now.”

P: “OK then. Bye…”

Sis:  “Bye”

The phone was put down at the other end and then P realised he had forgotten something…

He called her up again and she picked up the phone.

Sis: “What is it now P?”

P: “I just wanted to say thank you. I wanted to thank you when I was over there yesterday at Thanksgiving but it slipped off my mind… I guess it is never too late to let you know how much I appreciate all your help and advices and for putting up with me.”

Sis: “P my dear brother, you don’t have to put into words all your feelings… It’s always written all over your face! I love you for all your quirks!”

P: “Thank you sis! I love you too… And before you go for shopping can you come on Skype and take me through how I can make some ‘Sookha rotis’ to go with the Jalfrezie please?..”

It was too late for P as the phone then was switched off on the other end.

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Never Too Late

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From Caterpillar to Butterfly…

Salad Days: Is there a period in your own personal life that you think of as the good old days? Tell us a story about those innocent and/or exciting times (or lack thereof).- Daily Prompt

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P was reminiscing on

His salad days gone by,

And how like a caterpillar

That morphed into a butterfly,

From a carefree and spritely tot,

He had now grown to a man.

 

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Those balmy days he didn’t have to worry

For food on his table, and he voraciously ate

The meat, eggs, potatoes, and anything sweet,

But he fretted about salads on his plate,

As he dreaded the thought to eat or meet

A caterpillar hiding in the greens… he shuddered at the fate!

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The story of noodles

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“So, what story are you going to tell me today, Mr P?” asked the kid. P had his own secret name for the boy and it was Dennis the Menace. There seemed to be a lot in common between the kid and the cartoon character. Usually P gave him a wide berth, but today, however, his parents had asked P’s help to look after him while they took their younger one to the clinic. The baby had been crying all night and the parents had decided to seek the doctor’s help.

P had agreed to look after Dennis because he had some time on his hands and there were plenty of packets of Maggie noodles in the pantry. P had a theory that most kids seemed to like Maggie noodles… The little menace in front of him, also it seemed, was very fond of noodles… If it hadn’t been for the noodles, P would not have agreed to take on the responsibility of looking after the kid and giving him lunch as he had no idea about what to cook to keep the boy happy.

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“Mr P… Didn’t you hear me? What story are you going to tell me today?” asked Dennis. The boy had wanted to play football inside the house and P had dissuaded him from it with the promise of a story. However, nothing was on his noodles other than the thought of how noodles were going to save his day.

“Well, how about a story on how noodles came on earth?” asked P.

“Don’t be stupid Mr P. Noodles did not ‘come on earth’. They were made on earth,” the boy pointed out.

“OK then, I’ll reword it. A story of how the world’s first noodles were made… Does that sound alright?”

The kid nodded and sat down on the carpet next to P.

P gathered his wits about and tried to make up a story.  He cleared his throat and began…

“I heard this story from my grandmother and she had heard it from hers… Long, long ago, in the land of the yellow river, people were living happily. The river kept the land fertile and people ate cooked balls of pounded millets and grains. There was a young family of a man, his wife and two children who lived in a small hut by the river. The father used to go hunting and fishing while the mother cooked and took care of the children. In the evenings, when the father returned home with the fish and all the raw materials needed for dinner, all of them sat down together and had their sumptuous meals of millet balls, fish and a special dish that the mother used to make with stuff she gathered while walking along the river banks.”

At this point, P paused and made sure that he had the boy’s full attention. He then continued…

“Now, the eldest boy in that family was a little spoilt kid. It came to a point when he would eat only the special dish and nothing else.”

“Must have been very yum… What was it exactly?” asked Dennis, his eyes alight with vicarious satisfaction.

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“It looked like noodles” P continued. “However, disaster struck in the form of a very cold and severe winter. The father could not go out and catch fish and the mother came back empty-handed for days and days when she went to gather material for the special dish. There was only flour of millets and grains in the house and meals had to be prepared just with that. The boy who would not eat anything other than the special dish was starving. It was then that the parents came out with the idea of tricking him to eat his food. While the boy, hungry and tired was sleeping, they made a paste of millet and grain flour with water. Instead of making small balls with the dough like they used to before, they stretched it out flat on the floor. They then cut thin strips out of it like strings and put them in boiling water and cooked them. The dish came out looking very similar to the special dish the mother used to cook and when the boy woke up, he ate the meal heartily. Thus the world’s first noodles were born!”

P smiled and looked at the little boy’s face, but did not see much of a reaction.

“You must be hungry now. Let me cook lunch for you. Shall I cook some Maggie noodles?” asked P and was happy and relieved to see the eager nod.

P mentally thanked God and Maggie noodles for saving him from cooking something else that would have demanded more time and effort.

As he was about to get up from the chair, the little boy said “Wait!  You didn’t tell me what the mother was collecting when she made the original noodles or the special dish as you called it. What was it?”

“Oh! They were earthworms that were in plenty around the fertile banks of the river” said P and noticed the sudden nauseous look on the boy’s face.

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“Can I please have something other than noodles, Mr P?” he asked squeamishly before he doubled over and was sick on the carpet. There went P’s best laid plans!

Second-Hand Stories

Pitfalls of cooking…..Quail egg for Easter!

 

Easter was here and though Mr P felt edgy all the time, today he was feeling quite eggy. P had eaten all the Easter eggs and bunnies he had bought earlier in the week and this Easter Sunday, he was sadly left without any. So, P decided to boil an egg for breakfast. Now, boiling an egg seems to be one of the very simplest of culinary arts and anyone would think that nothing could go wrong with the task. However with Mr P, anything could go wrong anytime! If you were to prepare a list of things you should not do while boiling an egg or things you should not do with a boiled egg, a mere study of Mr P’s endeavours in this direction would provide you with enough and more to build the lists. Experience had not still given him mastery over the technique of boiling an egg and so Mr P had made a note of what not to do when boiling an egg.

1)      Do not boil an egg all by itself without the accompaniment of water.

2)      Do not boil the water and forget to put the egg in it. Often when Mr P came rushing to eat his breakfast before he left for work there was only boiling water and no gladsome boiled egg waiting for him in the pot!

3)      Do not put the egg and water in the pot on the stove, but forget to turn on the stove.

4)      Do not put the egg and water in the pot on the stove, turn on the stove and blissfully forget about it for a few hours. Many a charred and scarred pot also would vouch for the importance of this point.

5)      Do not crack the shell when you put the egg in the water to boil, unless you do not mind settling for watery egg soup instead of boiled egg.

 

cracked egg

 

But today was Easter Sunday and Mr P did not wish to deal with any complicated lists or notes. Luckily he remembered the boiled egg he had stored in the fridge some time ago. “It may be a month since it’s been in the fridge. Not more than that anyways…” guessed Mr P.

P went to get the egg and despite hunting around in his crammed fridge, he could not track it down. “Maybe… Just may be….” he muttered and opened the freezer door. In the freezer Mr P discovered the container he was hunting for and brought it out. He thawed the egg in the microwave oven and opened the lid. P was taken aback! It looked as though his chicken egg had been transformed into a quail’s egg! Miracles seemed to happen this Easter!

………Happy Easter!

 

 

 

quail egg

 

 

Pitfalls of cooking and Mr P: Things get more slippery!

You may recall from the earlier post that Mr P had wanted to cook some Dahl for his guest ( http://avatarofmrbean.com/2012/03/28/pitfalls-of-cooking-and-mr-p-the-saga-continues/ ). The way Mr P prepares Dahl is quite easy. You just have to pressure cook lentils (either green gram which is also known as moong dal or red gram or Pigeon pea which is also known as tur dal) in water with a pinch of turmeric powder until they form a nice soup. Then you heat two tablespoons of oil in a pot and add half a teaspoonful of mustard seeds, cumin seeds and a couple of red chillies. You add the cooked lentils into the pot when the mustard starts popping. Into the liquid you can now add salt to taste, a bit of garlic paste and a very tiny pinch of ground cumin and optionally a pinch of garam masala. Green chillies, onion and one or two tomatoes may also be added. The Dahl is ready when the soup boils for a few minutes. moong Ki dal, Moong Ki Daal

Just as Mr P was about to start preparing lunch he realized that he had run out of dish washing liquid and cooking oil. So he brought out the bottles of Canola oil and Sunlight dish wash he had bought earlier in the week and placed one by the stove and the other by the sink. Mr P then cooked some lentils in the pressure cooker and nodded off in the kitchen chair reading the day’s newspaper. The cooker’s whistle woke him up when the lentils were thoroughly cooked into a soup. Mr P poured two generous tablespoons of oil into a pot heating up on the stove. He was in a hurry because he had spent time reading the newspaper (he definitely would not admit to napping) when he should have been doing other things to get lunch ready for his guest G who was soon to return from shopping. He did not wait for the oil to get really hot before he added the mustard seeds, the cumin seeds and the pieces of red chili peppers. He was in so much of a hurry that he did not wait for the mustard seeds to pop before he dumped the cooked lentils into the pot with some water and added the garlic paste, cumin and the garam masala powder. He left the pot to boil on the stove and scurried to the kitchen sink to do the breakfast dishes. He opened the tap, stoppered the sink and poured a generous amount of the new dish washing liquid into the basin.

“This is one funny dish washing liquid”, thought Mr P. “Looks like someone has invented a non sudsy detergent!”.

He put the dishes in to wash. As he tried to rinse the plates, he noticed something strange. The dishes had turned very slick and greasy and no amount of rinsing with fresh water could make them clean. They had tiny globules of something like oil all over them.

His hands also felt very oily. He smelled his hands and the plate he was trying hard to clean. Instead of the lemony smell of the dish wash, he smelled something very different.

“If it feels like oil, smells like oil and looks like oil, it must be oil,” he decided and checked the bottle that he had put by the side of the sink.  It said “Pure  Canola Oil”.

Mr P groaned. He was in for a big job now to get the dishes oil free. However, he had not yet realized that he was in Double trouble with Bubble trouble. Have you, now?

A lemony smell was wafting from the pot on the stove. Mr P rushed to check his Dahl. Something strange was happening to it. It was all frothy, sudsy and lathering up!!!

Pitfalls of cooking and Mr P…the saga continues…

After the breakfast debacle (The Intricacies and Pitfalls of Indian Cooking and Mr P! , http://avatarofmrbean.com/2012/03/26/the-intricacies-and-pitfalls-of-indian-cooking-and-mr-p/), do you think that G would have stayed for lunch if invited? Guess what? He did! He understood that Mr P was feeling a bit downhearted and so he agreed to give him another chance to prove his culinary skills. There are some people who would take any amount of beating and would still turn the other cheek because of a soft heart. G belongs to this rare, endangered species of ‘softies’ that is on a path of accelerated extinction. G is also a vegetarian.

Mr P decided to cook rice and make daal, pappad and Aviyal to go with it. Aviyal  is made from finger sized pieces  of all the vegetables such as cucumber, snake gourd, eggplant, green chillies, long beans, carrots, yams, green bananas and drum sticks (of course not drumsticks that are chicken legs, but long fruits of Moringa plants). Variety of fresh vegetables being sold on a st...

These vegetable pieces are washed well and cooked in a little volume of water with tamarind and salt to taste.  Turmeric and red chilli powder or pastes are also added. Ground coconut and cumin and curry leaves are added towards the end.

For Mr P, the most difficult part in this whole recipe was cutting the vegetables to size. “The vegetables are to be finger sized. “They cannot be cubes or any other shapes because that is one thing that distinguishes Aviyal from other dishes,” Mr P had learned. While cutting them into finger shaped pieces, he was worried he would cut his fingers as well.  However, since he started wearing finger gloves on all his fingers while slicing vegetables, he had become more confident.

So while G left to do a little shopping, Mr P stayed home and cooked the meal. Something happened to the daal which is matter for my next post. “Let’s forget the daal. Yoghurt would serve equally well and I’ll also serve a little bit of mango pickle”, decided Mr P. When G came back and they sat down for lunch, he had the meal neatly served on the dining table minus the daal.

Two spoons of food later, G suddenly choked and turned red. He was staring at his bowl of Aviyal.

“ You do know that I am strictly vegetarian, don’t  you Mr P?” he asked.

“Sure, I do,” said Mr P.

“And this Aviyal….. Are you sure it is vegetarian?” asked G slowly moving the vegetables around in the bowl.

Mr P looked at G’s bowl of Aviyal. There, partly covered by the gravy and vegetables was something that looked like a finger! Mr P surreptitiously checked whether all his fingers were intact. Assured, that the strange THING in the Aviyal was certainly not one of HIS body parts, Mr P investigated further. It was bent at an angle that reminded Mr P of the celebrity actress’s leg at the last Oscars that had jutted out through the dress slit, sending the whole world a-Twittering and starting an account-Angelina Jolie’s Leg @AngiesRightLeg.

Mr P probed further. Amidst the vegetables, it looked like an alien finger.  “Probably from Mars” thought Mr P. “But then, the THING was not red coloured and isn’t Mars supposed to be the red planet?”

Mustering all his courage Mr P pulled the THING out.

 It lay in full surrender on top of the dining table.

Lo and behold! It was the one finger glove that was missing when he had put them away after washing the vegetables!

The Intricacies and Pitfalls of Indian Cooking and Mr P!

Mr P was in a flurry. He had a guest G, from overseas, coming for breakfast and he wanted to make an impression. Initially he thought he would make Dosa. Dosas in their simple form are nice, thin, pancakes made from ground rice and black gram made into a paste and fermented overnight.

Mr P’s cook could make somewhat well-shaped and tasty Dosas but unfortunately it was her day off. Mr P could never cook well-shaped, circular Dosas. He would have been happy even if they were not perfectly round but turned out at least in the shape of Sri Lanka or even Australia. Sadly however, Mr P’s Dosas were often the shape of India, America and some other countries of the world including New Zealand, Singapore and Japan! So when Mr P thought about it further he was not that sure about serving Dosa to his guest. Moreover, the last time when Mr P had tried to cook a Dosa all by himself, it had developed an attitude and a mind of its own and had refused to come off the pan.

Finally he had to scrape out bits of sticky mess from the pan which in no way looked anywhere related to a Dosa. In fact it had resembled the humble Upma. With this thought, Mr P’s mind that had been flitting like a butterfly in the garden of Indian breakfast gastronomy, suddenly settled on Upma.  

The Upma had become world famous when it had helped Floyd Cardoz in New York, to walk home with the award for Top Chef Master Season 3, of 2011. Mr P in all his humbleness was confident of beating any Top Chef Master in Upma preparation. After all wasn’t it a South Indian preparation and who else could claim to cook it better than Mr P? He also decided to make tea the Indian way to serve with the Upma.

Before continuing with this anecdote, let me impart this knowledge for those who are not aware of the intricacies of Indian cooking. Upma is prepared by adding roasted semolina into the correct quantity of water while it is boiling. The name Upma is derived from two words. The first word, Up for Uppu, means salt or salty. The second word is Ma and you have definitely got it wrong if you think Upma means Salty Mother!!!  

The term Ma stands for Mavu which means dough. So together Upma means salty dough and it is easy to guess that salt is a major ingredient. The required amount of salt is to be added into the boiling water before the semolina. Ginger, green chillies, curry leaves and sometimes onions are added to give flavor. In Kerala, plenty of grated coconut is also added.

The traditional Indian way of preparing tea or “chai” is by boiling water on the stove and adding tea leaves/powder directly into that water. Sugar is also added into that boiling water and the liquid is then strained and mixed with boiled milk.

“Easy meal to prepare” thought Mr P and roasted a cup of semolina for the Upma first. He then put a pot of water for tea on one burner and a pot of water on the other burner for the Upma. The cooking went off incident free and the Upma appeared to be alright albeit a little bit sticky.

Guest G arrived on time and Mr P served the Upma and the tea to his guest. We can imagine how lyrical Mr P would have been praising the Upma as a wholesome food and what a winner it was at the Top Chef Master competition.

G put a spoonful of Upma in his mouth. Mr P waited eagerly for a comment and the guest cleared his throat. “Interesting”, he said. G was in a cover-up mode and with a face devoid of any expression, hastily took the cup of tea in his hand. 

Mr P tasted the Upma then. It was slightly sweet. But was there any salt in it? No, not a teeny-weeny bit! Nil! None! Nada! The “Salty dough” was totally salt free, unsavory and unpalatable! 

“Where did all the salt that I put in the water go?” Mr P wondered. He glanced at G furtively. G had taken a big sip of the tea to wash down the bad taste of the Upma from his mouth…. 

A tortured look came over G’s face and he gagged…. in an involuntary retching reflex!

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