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 tag “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

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

Done with resolutions…

P found resolutions easy to make,

A list was just a piece of cake:

Some things to do to save the universe

And some to serve his health and purse

 

The list was long but he culled with clout,

Chiselled and chopped the hard ones out;

He finished with an easy five from the lot

But even with those, he lost the plot……

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Looking at the Daily Prompt, P was reminded of the list of New Year resolutions he made for 2017. There were many he could have listed out but there was one thing that had been ruled out from the beginning because circumstances had already made him form a good habit of NOT placing plastic containers of oil on the top of his electric cooking range. That is another long story, but for now, coming back to the topic of New Year resolutions, P finally had made a list of five which he believed he had to follow to ensure his good health and well-being.

He had resolved  

  • to turn off all the lights and not just the ones in his bedroom, before going to sleep
  • to give up the habit of sleeping in and begin to get up early in the morning everyday
  • to go for a brisk walk or jog  before breakfast everyday
  • to give up the habit of eating sweets and ice creams

and

  • not to spend too much time snacking and slacking before the TV

Having made these very important resolutions, P had gone to the beach to join the celebrations for the New Year’s eve and had a nice time dancing.

P enjoyed the fireworks as the clock struck twelve and then had eaten a big slice of the cake to welcome in the New Year. After another hour or two of crushing people’s toes and jabbing people in their backs and tummies with his elbows (P dancing), he had returned home and  had gone to sleep. 

It was nearly noon when he woke up the next day and remembered his resolutions.  He looked at the clock and realized he had broken one already. He made his way to the bathroom and then to the kitchen, noticing that all the lights had been left on. His excuse to himself was that having arrived home very tired, he had hit the bed straight away. P usually arrived home very tired in the evenings, New Year or otherwise.

While making his cup of tea, P realised that it was too late in the day and probably too hot to go walking or jogging. So he warmed food from the fridge, sat down with his crosswords and ate a large brunch.

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As he was wiping his plate clean, he felt a strong pull from the fridge… He remembered he had eaten a piece of cake after midnight and that was already into the New Year. “What was the point of abstaining now when he had already broken the pact?” he argued with himself. “A resolution once broken is a broken resolution… Like Humpty Dumpty, it couldn’t be put together again.” He walked to the refrigerator, opened the freezer door, saw the French Vanilla and lost the battle.

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Once he had finished his ice cream, he felt pleased with himself. He looked out through the window. It was a beautiful day…. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the flowers were dancing in the garden, butterflies were flitting and all was right with P’s world…He grabbed some Burger Rings to munch and sat down on the sofa with a sigh, stretched his legs comfortably and turned on the TV.

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What a to-do! He was done with resolutions…

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To-do? Done

Pitfalls of cooking…And then there was Indian-French toast

Sunlight was fingering its way through the venetian blinds as P walked softly and noiselessly into the kitchen. The morning was chilly and he did not want to wake up his guest who had arrived from India very early in the morning.  P wanted to have breakfast ready by the time his friend woke up refreshed after the tiring journey from overseas. He had already decided what he was going to make for breakfast and it was …………………… French toast!

P considered himself an expert at making French toast. This morning, he was slowly humming to himself as he broke the eggs into the bowl and beat them up nicely before adding some milk, the tiniest pinch of salt and two tablespoons of sugar. P liked his French toast sweet….and evenly toasted on both sides.

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He was still humming when he dipped the slices of bread in the egg-milk mixture and spread them on the heated and buttered pan on the stove. After a minute or two, just as he turned the slices over to their other side, he suddenly remembered the conversation he had had with his friend on the drive home from the airport… His friend had then said that he was so tired of all the bland food on the plane and was longing to eat something spicy. P was thrown into a panic now; he did not have any batter for dosas or idlis and he had no frozen, spicy sambar either. Moreover, the French toasts were all nearly made and he did not want them to go waste. Being an obliging host as always, P started wracking his brains on how to salvage the situation…

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Breakfast was soon served. P had stuck to plain French toast for himself but had prepared a special breakfast for his friend. Seated at the table, P’s friend took a large, hungry bite. Soon he was choking and turning red. He had to drink a lot of water before he found his voice to ask P  what that was that he had just eaten.

Ever glad to share his recipes, P said, “That’s a long story. Let me start at the very beginning. ……………

It was a chilly morning in Gaul, thousands of years ago. P had come back after a walk in the forest, collecting snails for a special lunch for his guest. He had gone out early in the morning to gather them before the sun came out and sent them scrambling into crevices and hollows to hide. Going out early in the morning meant that he did not have a chance to eat breakfast and now that he was hungry and was back home, he decided to get something to eat. He brought out the bread from a stone container and held it to his nose. Definitely it was past its use by date, stale and had to be thrown out.

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He swore loudly in Gallic. Now, have you heard somebody swear in Gallic? It’s supposed to wrack the strongest nerves. No wonder then that the cat, that was slowly sneaking in to sip the milk, took fright and dashed away, upsetting the container of milk onto the kitchen floor. Looking aghast at the mess, P swore again loudly and stomped. This time he upset the chicken that was nesting in a nook on a ledge on the kitchen wall to lay her egg. She cackled and flew away, dropping the egg on the kitchen floor, splattering all its contents on top of the spilt milk.  Frantically P looked around for something to mop up the mess. His eyes fell on the stale bread………..” The modern-day P paused his narration and took a sip of his tea.

He then cleared his throat and proceeded “They say that stale bread is very absorbent… Back in those days when there were no kitchen towels, they probably used stale bread instead. So P decided to break the bread into pieces to soak up the egg-milk mix.

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When the entire stuff was soaked up by the bread pieces, P was reluctant to throw them away. After all, wasn’t egg and milk supposed to be very nutritious? Moreover, the smell of egg masked the bread’s stale odour. So he toasted the soggy slices on a greased frying pan, evenly on both sides, and the world’s first French toast was born….”

P stopped at this point and looked expectantly at his friend for some form of appreciation or applause for his creative imagination, but all he received was a blank stare.

“Now, what you have just eaten is probably the world’s first Indian-French toast,” P continued. “Quite easy to make: Prepare French toast like normal and just add liberal amounts of turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, fenugreek, asafoetida, pepper, ginger paste, garlic paste and onions. And of course the garam masala… Don’t forget the garam masala…”

 

In the beginning

 

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

 

 

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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